Elizabeth McGovern's Sadie and the Hotheads sound checking at Birmingham Symphony Hall

Pulling in to Birmingham I notice how much it has changed since I my college days of the early ’70’s. Once described by folk singer Mike Harding as needing a chain around it with a sign saying ‘Danger. Hole In The World’, the area surrounding the Symphony Hall has been tastefully regenerated. Bars, restaurants, shops - including an Art Gallery selling limited edition Bob Dylan prints from the Drawn Blank series - and coffeehouses line the streets and bridges of the old canal side.

If The Sage was stunning, Birmingham Symphony Hall, though different, is equally so. Considered one of the finest in the world, this 2,262 seat concert venue is home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and hosts around 270 events a year. Modelled upon the Musikverein in Vienna and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam the venue presents a programme of jazz, world, folk, rock, pop and classical concerts, organ recitals, spoken word, dance, educational and community performances.

A particularly innovative feature is the hall's acoustic flexibility. It has a reverberation chamber behind the stage and extending high along the sides, adding 50% to the hall's volume, the doors to which can be remotely opened or closed. There is an acoustic canopy which can be raised or lowered above the stage. Dampening panels can be extended or retracted to ensure that the 'sound' of the space is perfectly matched to the scale and style of the music to be performed. There are also reverse fan walls at the rear of the hall which provide further reflections of sound. All the walls and the ceiling are made of concrete.

The hall is built only 30 metres from a covered railway line. As a result, the hall is mounted on rubber cushions, as is the railway track (could do with some of that at my house!). The hall is also shielded from heavy traffic on Broad Street by double skins of concrete.

After soundcheck we slip out to Wagamama’s for a bite to eat… then it’s ‘Superficial’ time… the half hour set slipping quickly by, before the drive back down the M1 to London. After dropping everyone off at home, Ron returns the Splitter to Wembley and gets in his own van, only to find he’s been locked in to the compound! 1.30 in the morning and no-one around… 

Steve

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