FIRST LOOK: MUSIC PLAYS INSIDE SYMPHONY HALL’S TRANSFORMED PUBLIC SPACES FOR THE FIRST TIME

Rise Up At Symphony Hall Photography By Eugene Hilton

As construction concludes on Birmingham Symphony Hall’s £13.2 million transformation, five talented Birmingham-based musicians became the first to rehearse in the new state-of-the-art performance facilities ahead of opening to the public later this year. Current government guidelines allow for the group of musicians to rehearse and perform for broadcast or recording purposes. 

Upon re-opening the new performance space, redeveloped with funds raised prior to the global pandemic, will offer local artists even more opportunities to perform as part of a daily programme of free and affordable events and activities.  

The musicians rehearsing are part of a brand-new, free to access, all-female jazz ensemble created by the music charity responsible for Town Hall and Symphony Hall to improve the gender divide in the jazz sector. Later this month, Sarah Lopez (vocals), Jasmine Belle (alto saxophone), Scarlett Churchill (drums), Eliza Dunhill (trumpet) and Amy Coates (bass) led by jazz pianist and educator Rebecca Nash will be filming a showcase of their musical and compositional talent in the main auditorium. 

Nick Reed, Chief Executive for the music charity responsible for Town Hall and Symphony Hall said:

I am thrilled to share this first glimpse inside Symphony Hall following the completion of the Making an Entrance project. Over the past 18 months we have transformed the public spaces of our iconic concert hall to create new spaces for performance and learning, giving new opportunities for local musicians, and supporting our local community in musical discoveries. A new City Café greets visitors from Centenary Square, and expanded bars and relaxed seating ensure a warm welcome throughout the day.

Despite the challenges of the last year we have maintained a vibrant digital programme throughout the pandemic, supporting local musicians and connecting over a quarter of a million people through our regular watch parties. It is fitting therefore that the very first activity in our new space was a rehearsal from our Women in Jazz ensemble who will feature as part of that ongoing programme.

Music will play a powerful role in reuniting communities after the isolation and hardship of the past year. We hope that Symphony Hall will be a beacon for that reconnection and we are excited to welcome audiences back to our new spaces just as soon as we can.

We are immensely grateful to all the funding partners who have supported the project, and the thousands of individual donors who have put their faith in the power of music.” 

Music will play a powerful role in reuniting communities after the isolation and hardship of the past year.

Nick Reed, Chief Executive for the music charity responsible for Town Hall and Symphony Hall

Anita Bhalla OBE, Chair of the Board for the music charity responsible for Town Hall and Symphony Hall said: “It’s important to recognise and thank all of the incredible donors, big and small, that have seen the value and importance of this project, which will make the music charity responsible for Symphony Hall more sustainable. This transformation will truly reflect our diverse, open and creative city and will be a proud contributor to the economic growth of the region as soon as it is able to do so. I’ll be so thrilled to see audiences come together and enjoy live music in these brand-new spaces later this year – after this last year of frequent isolation, it will make the perfect place to reunite and reconnect.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and former vice-chair of the music charity responsible for both Symphony Hall and the Town Hall, said: “Symphony Hall is one of the West Midlands’ best landmarks and a real jewel in Birmingham’s crown, and so it is brilliant to see the venue swing open its doors to musicians again after undergoing a stunning transformation.” 

“As a born-and-bred Brummie and former vice-chair of Performances Birmingham, I know first-hand just how truly special Symphony Hall is. I am pleased that the West Midlands Combined Authority continues to play its part in helping the £13.2 million transformation happen, and I cannot wait until the public can start taking their seats again.”

Symphony Hall is one of the West Midlands’ best landmarks and a real jewel in Birmingham’s crown

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands

The transformation of Symphony Hall’s foyers has been supported by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP).

Ed Watson, Interim Chief Executive of GBSLEP said: “I am delighted to hear musicians will be returning to the newly transformed Symphony Hall. GBSLEP’s investment of £6million from the Local Growth Fund is an example of how we are committed to growing the creative industries, improving experiences for people living here and visitors who come to the region. Access to the arts works as a leveller in society and by creating new public performance spaces, opportunities will grow for performers as well as those who come to visit the prestigious, world-renowned Symphony Hall. 

Creative industries, culture, tourism are all crucial catalysts of inclusive economic growth and account for £19.5 billion of GVA  and 15% of jobs across the region which is why the creative and cultural sector is a key part of our growth plans at GBSLEP and the West Midlands Industrial Strategy.  We will continue to work with our partners in the public, private and academic sectors to identify opportunities to create jobs and better places for all of us to enjoy.”

Arts Council England invested £4.5million of National Lottery money in support of the great artistic and cultural opportunities for artists that the redevelopment will enable.  

Pete Knott, Area Director for Arts Council England, said: “It’s fantastic to hear that the Symphony Hall will open as a rehearsal space following its redevelopment – as a key part of Birmingham’s cultural scene, we’re really proud to have invested in the building work through our National Lottery funded Capital programme.

“In what has been a challenging time for our sector, it’s great to see that Birmingham’s Symphony Hall is planning to offer local artists opportunities to rehearse, and we look forward to the new performance space fully reopening soon.”

For the first time, Birmingham’s world-renowned concert hall now boasts a dedicated entrance from Centenary Square – which is itself is undergoing major redevelopment to provide a high-quality public realm within the second city.

Page \ Park Architects lead a design team on behalf of the music charity responsible for Town Hall and Symphony Hall to extend the foyers and create new spaces at Symphony Hall.

Nicola Walls, Project Director, Page\Park Architects: “As a cultural pulse of the city, we are delighted to have helped transform the experience of visiting the Symphony Hall. The design sought to re-energise the front door, retaining and recycling the existing building while extending and adapting it to better serve the needs of the artistic community and audience. At the heart of this approach was bringing music to life in the foyers, with improvements that better support informal performance, hospitality and education.

Imagined as an internalised extension to the newly transformed Centenary Square, the vertical stacking of different foyer settings provides a dynamic façade to Symphony Hall.  We are looking forward with anticipation to seeing the new spaces animated by people and music.”

Simon Courtney, Managing Director for Galliford Try Building West Midlands, commented: “I can only congratulate all the stakeholders involved and our team for their part in delivering this fantastic renovation project despite the challenging circumstances of the pandemic.”

Rise Up is an initiative from the music charity responsible for Town Hall and Symphony Hall which offers talented female musicians from the region mentorship from world renowned jazz musicians, access to rehearsal spaces in the iconic Symphony Hall and a platform to showcase their musical and compositional talent through concerts and access to recording studios. The ensemble were selected by a panel of experts including jazz artists Trish ClowesAlica Gardener-Trejo and Yazz Ahmed and is supported by Ian Reaves and the PRS Foundation.

Ian Reaves, supported of Rise Up, said: “What excites me is live music and, in particular, jazz. I’m so proud to be able to support these young musicians in the music friendly and inclusive environment Symphony Hall have created. I so look forward to hearing them perform in person in the near future.”