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Music Hall, 174-194 Union Street, Aberdeen

A Category A Listed Building in Aberdeen, Aberdeen

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Latitude: 57.1454 / 57°8'43"N

Longitude: -2.105 / 2°6'17"W

OS Eastings: 393745

OS Northings: 806064

OS Grid: NJ937060

Mapcode National: GBR SBG.XX

Mapcode Global: WH9QQ.MNTL

Plus Code: 9C9V4VWW+52

Entry Name: Music Hall, 174-194 Union Street, Aberdeen

Listing Name: Union Street, South Silver Street and Golden Square, Music Hall

Listing Date: 28 February 1962

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 354434

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB19991

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Aberdeen

County: Aberdeen

Town: Aberdeen

Electoral Ward: Midstocket/Rosemount

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

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Archibald Simpson, 1820; large hall added by James Matthews 1858-9, murals by Robert Douglas Strachan 1899 to circa 1909; restored 1986. Centrally sited, notable monumental tall single storey and single-storey with attic, 5-bay, neo-Greek Aberdeen civic building with hexastyle Ionic portico and fine interiors. Grey granite, polished and dressed. Raised base course and cill course, plain entablature rising into blocking course. Plain angle pilasters, lugged architraves, shallow aprons. Square- and segmental-arched windows.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: principal SE elevation to Union Street has steps up to portico with plain tympanum, large 2-leaf panelled timber door and decoratively-astragalled fanlight at centre and tall windows in flanking bays. Long return elevation to NE with regular 7-bay fenestration, flanked by blind niche at outer left and taller bays at outer right incorporating consoled doorpiece. Taller elevation to NW with long, stepped flat-roof single storey entrance bays projecting at ground, and largely regular segmental-arched fenestration to 2-storeys at set-back face.

Multi-pane glazing patterns in timber sash and case windows throughout.

INTERIOR: spacious well preserved classically-detailed interior, handsomely treated throughout with fine plasterwork, timberwork and fireplaces. Steps up from vestibule lead to ionic-columned saloon with elliptical dome and pilastered T-projection promenade with coffered ceiling. To left of promenade Corinthian-columned Round Room (café) with centre oculus, and Square Room (Concert Bar) with anta order and dome; service rooms in former ballroom space with segmentally-arched ceiling to right. Promenade leads to rectangular-plan Music Hall, also with vestibule at North Silver Street, with stage and full-organ at W end, gallery on cast iron columns with decorative bowed ironwork front and raked seats to E, elaborate coomb ceiling with elliptic and circular decoration; murals include 'Apollo and the Muses' above organ, Orpheus theme and pre-Raphaelite 'Muses'? by Hugh Adam Crawford, 1949. Staircases with decorative ironwork balusters flank saloon.

Statement of Interest

Archibald Simpson's competition winning design for the Aberdeen Assembly Rooms was awarded a prize of 50 guineas, and with the high quality Music Hall addition by James Matthews, it is now recognised as "One of the most celebrated buildings of monumental Aberdeen" (MacInnes). Occupying a prominent city centre site linking Union Street to Golden Square, the "model for the Assembly Rooms was based on the aristocratic idea of a country-house party brought into the genteel public realm ... Entry was by subscription" (MacInnes, p66). Simpson's architecture was rivalled only by John Smith at a time when Aberdeen was embracing classicism, particularly neo-Greek, as a style particularly suited to the clean lines of granite.

At the Annual Race Meeting held at Aberdeen Links in 1818, the proposal to build Public Assembly Rooms was successful and subscriptions soon amounted to some £7000. Boasting some prestigious names, including the Duke of Gordon and George Skene of Skene, the committee offered three prizes for competition designs and the foundation stone was laid by the Right Honourable James, Earl of Fife, in April 1820. The building was complete by 1822 and cost £11,500. By 1858, after some financial difficulties, it was sold to the newly formed Aberdeen Music Hall Company. The new Music Hall was soon added, and was visited on 14 September 1859 by the Prince Consort. In September 1896 Aberdeen's first 'kinematograph' screening took place at the Music Hall, but by 1928 the Company had failed and the buildings were sold to the Town of Aberdeen for £34,000. By the mid 1960s the Music Hall was in danger of being demolished, but its quality was recognised by eminent conductor Sir John Barbirolli who said "This hall is the best from the acoustic point of view in which I have ever conducted". A Public Enquiry in 1973 ruled that no major changes could be made to the Round and Square Rooms or the Concert Hall, and in August 1983 the District Council recommended complete restoration and refurbishment. More than £2.5 million was spent on refurbishments from 1984-86, at which time the murals were uncovered, and the building re-opened on 12 May 1986. Since 2004 the Music Hall has been successfully run by Aberdeen Performing Arts, and celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2009.

List description updated as part of the Theatres Thematic Study 2010.

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