About Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall
After 4 years of refurbishment, the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall opens its doors to the public once again. More than a century old, this national monument once played host to many international and local arts groups - many of which would be happy to utilise its grand stage once again.
Despite several changes, the building has retained its Victorian architectural style and still stands in its full glory along Empress Place. Some of these changes include the redevelopment of the Theatre and Concert Hall, the restoration of the Clock Tower and the modernising of facilities.
In light of its re-opening, the National Arts Council held a media tour and I went down to find out more about their new features.
The Clock Tower
To start, we were given an exclusive tour of the Clock Tower. Yes, if you've been in the vicinity, this is the clock that has been responsible for the melodious chiming every 15 minutes. More than a century old, it was surprising to find out that the original manufacturer of the clock in 1906, Gillett & Johnston, was still in business. The clock was sent back to London for refurbishing and most of its parts remain authentic.
Climbing all the way up to the bells was a thrilling experience - we stood amongst the five bells and waited for it to chime. With not much space at the top of the tower, we were all situated right next to a bell. Despite knowing when it was about to go off, I visibly jumped when the bell sounded its loud sonorous chime.
We were then led to the Theatre. Its acoustic timber walls are horizontally banded with cast-iron components recycled from the original classic red seats of the Victoria Theatre. This was a move to preserve some historical value. It also had a functional purpose, which was to improve the harmonization of acoustics.
The backing of the original seats has also been recycled and used as an exterior surface for the "floating Rubik's Cube" located at the Theatre's foyer space. This cube is a cantilevered box and is used to support the front-of-house programs. Set to contrast against the classical design, the cube is very modernised despite being made up of recycled material. Interestingly, these seat backings still sport their original seat numbers!
The Concert Hall
Next on our tour was the Concert Hall, which had a very classical feel to it. No surprises there, since the interior decor has remained relatively untouched. One of the biggest difference made to the Concert Hall building, is the replacement of the balcony, swapped out for one that is smaller and lighter.
The replacement was essential in removing the significantly large pillars that used to stand in the middle of the stairways leading up to the hall. In order to support the previously large and heavy balcony, these pillars extended beyond the concert hall itself. With the replacement balcony, not only have these awkward structures been removed, but the sound quality under the balcony has been improved.
Much of the redevelopment has improved the overall acoustics in both the Theatre and Concert Hall. However, this resulted in a slight reduction of their seating capacity. Still, it should be noted that this is a worthy compromise made to improve one's holistic concert experience.
You will also be pleased to know that the Central Atrium is now fully sheltered with a glass roof and yes - providing relief from our island's sunny weather - it is now air-conditioned too. Being the common area between the two buildings, it acts as an additional space for arts activities and also allows for easy access between buildings.
I was very impressed with the overall refurbishment of both the Theatre and Concert Hall. I particularly appreciate their ability to create a good amalgamation of the classical and the modern without diluting the original grandeur of the building. What we have now is a national monument that has been aesthetically and functionally improved, with all its historical value intact.
Getting to the Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall
Address: 11 Empress Place, Singapore 179558
Website: Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall
Phone: 6908 8810
This post was made possible thanks to the National Arts Council.