London’s first purpose built concert hall in nearly a decade has opened in Nine Elms, for a music education charity that supports young people who would otherwise be unable to have access to instruments and recording spaces.
The chairity, World Heart Beat was founded in Southfields in 2012, and has been able to expand into a new venue in Nine Elms, next to the US Embassy, and here they’ve opened both a new concert hall and also a series of rooms that can be used for rehearsals and lessons.
The concert hall isn’t a grand space, having capacity for 200 people, but it’s the first in the UK to install a 360-degree d&b immersive Soundscape EnScene system (as used on tours by Bjork and Brian Eno), which picks up the sound and relays it through speakers to adjust the acoustic effects of the hall.
In effect, it can look intimate but can sound large.
The charity was able to open the new venue, as it was provided by the property developer for the residential blocks of flats as a condition of the planning application. An open application took place, and World Heart Beat was chosen out of 42 applicants. They now have a 50-year lease on the site at a peppercorn rent of £1 per year.
Being in a residential area, the team that turned a concrete box into a concert hall had to be very careful about soundproofing, and their tests found that flats directly above can’t hear a thing, even when the music is played at full volume. The acoustic cladding is very obvious in the hall, with the blocks of sound-absorbing panels creating a blockwork pattern around the room.
Away from the concert hall space, there’s a whole series of rooms that can be used for rehearsals and lessons, and the main room can be split into two spaces, or used as a large single room. There’s also a green room, that’s been given a very literal interpretation with its richly decorative green wallpaper, which is where artists prepare before heading to the stage. A recording studio sits next to the hall, with a deep soundproof window into the hall on one side, and windows into two music rooms on the other.
Fundraising had to raise £3.2 million for the project, which was supported by £800,000 from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund, but they were also supported by many of the suppliers who apart from offering generous terms are also committing to at least three years worth of educational support. That’ll help students learn how to use mixing decks, sound and light systems, even a lawyer skilled in music royalties is offering lessons in how to avoid being sued. And two grand pianos from Steinway, including the one in their new concert hall which was retired recently from being used for the BBC Proms.
The interior fit out was designed by Rory Aitkenhead ARB, director of ra-l architects, who recently worked on Soho’s Boulevard theatre.
As a concert hall space, it’s a short walk from Nine Elms tube station, and it will open to the public in January starting with a fundraising piano concert by Yevgeny Sudbin, and then a Jazz season, and an ambition to host around 150 public concerts a year. The income from the concerts then supports the education side of the operation to bring music education to people who might otherwise be unable to afford it.