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'The design of Symphony Hall is among the best in the world because of the effect of lateral sound which reaches the audiences after bouncing off the walls.' Symphony Hall is situated within the International Convention Centre (ICC), in the very heart of Birmingham. It was opened in 1991, and its wonderful acoustics gained it a reputation as one of the finest concert halls in the world. It is home to the equally world-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Choruses, who perform there frequently under the baton of Musical Director Sakari Oramo. Although mostly presenting classical music, Symphony Hall is often used for Jazz, Rock, Country and Folk concerts, and sometimes even stand-up comedy. The Bootleg Beatles, Fairport Convention, and Bjorn Again have all played there recently, and scheduled for 2001 are Van Morrison, Lenny Henry, Jimmy Nail and Deacon Blue. I have experienced the acoustics of Symphony Hall many times, both as a concert-goer and a performer. As a listener, sitting anywhere from the front of the stalls to the very top of the gods, or anywhere in between, I am always stunned by the sheer clarity of the sound. Whether it's Beethoven or Stravinsky, a huge orchestral work or a solo piano recital, every note, every nuance is heard perfectly. The hall is designed in such a way that it can cope with any style of music, due to the huge panels at strategic points that can be opened or closed at varying degrees, depending on the acoustic required. I don't know how they work, but have noted the difference in sound at various concerts I have been to. As a performer, I am very aware of the way sound carries. I sing with the CBSO chorus, and know that every cough and every page-turn can be heard from the audience. The chorus is trained to be as quiet as possible when on stage, unless we are singing of course! Then the sound is carried all around the hall, and the fantastic acoustics s
ave us working too hard on our diction. Compared to other concert halls I have sung and attended concerts in, such as the Albert Hall (London), the Festival Hall (Manchester) or St David's Hall (Cardiff), I would personally say that Symphony Hall offers the greatest experience in sound. It has a quality that the others lack, which I have described as 'clarity', that gives it the edge over its competitors. No wonder almost every established figure in classical music - such as Alfred Brendel, Kiri te Kanawa, The Tallis Scholars, Barbara Bonney, Welsh National Opera, Russian Symphony Orchestra, Tasmin Little, and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, to name but a few - has performed or will perform in Symphony Hall. Attending a concert/gig/or show at Symphony Hall is an experience you will never forget. The staff are very pleasant and knowledgeable, there are plenty of bars and toilets to cater for large audiences, and the access for the disabled seems to be adequate. The Hall itself is contained within the ICC, and along with the conference halls you will find an Art Gallery (very expensive but worth a look), a Music Shop, two restaurants, and a couple of other shops selling flowers, cards, ties and magazines. The official website of the NEC group is www.necgroup.co.uk, and the official website of the CBSO is www.cbso.co.uk On either of these sites you can find listings of future events at Symphony Hall, and details of how to book, ticket prices etc. If you love hearing great music played live, and live close enough to Birmingham, why not see what's on at Symphony Hall. You won't be disappointed.