Scotland’s national orchestra’s new centre unveiled following successful first performances
The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) has relocated to its new, purpose-built facility in Glasgow’s City Centre.
The construction of a new purpose-built rehearsal and recording facility for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) and a new 600 seat music venue for Glasgow was completed in October. Designed by Glasgow City Council’s in-house team of architects and led by Kerr Robertson, who was responsible for city projects such as the refurbishment of much lauded Glasgow’s City Halls, and world-renowned acoustic specialists ARUP, the new home for Scotland’s national symphony orchestra now provides a “world class” venue for the Orchestra, increased scope and flexibility for the organisation’s education and learning programmes, and a new mid-sized auditorium for the city’s music programme.
The new auditorium at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, adjacent to the RSNO Centre, exhibits a number of design features implemented to optimise the acoustic qualities of the venue, for both rehearsal and performance situations. Fixed sound absorption is distributed throughout the hall, controlling excessive loudness but also reduces reverberance. The large scale (e.g. risers, ceiling and upper wall elements) and small scale (e.g. lower side walls) articulation throughout the hall scatters sound at different frequencies, providing an even sound and avoiding harsh reflections.
In rehearsal mode and full orchestral performance mode the side balconies fold up against the walls, realising the maximum available hall volume and floor space for the Orchestra. For recitals the balconies are deployed, narrowing the room, providing desirable lateral sound reflections to listeners, increasing acoustical intimacy and clarity. They also increase theatricality and visual intimacy, with the audience wrapped around the performers, and can be used artistically for camera positions, video screens and surround sound loudspeakers.
Adjustable acoustic banners vary the sound absorption in the space, depending on the use and repertoire. Fully retracting the banners results in maximum reverberance (and loudness), ideal for chamber recitals. Partially deployed banners controls the loudness, for instance in orchestral rehearsal situations, while retaining suitable reverberance. For amplified music a well-controlled acoustic is necessary, free from echoes, which is achieved by exposing the maximum banner area.
Overhead reflectors, also adjustable, provide useful reflections to support self and mutual hearing for musicians. Reflections from the ceiling – which needs to be high to provide the volume necessary for reverberance without excessive loudness - arrive too late and too weak for early support and timing. In addition to their benefit to the Orchestra, the reflectors also provide useful reflections to the audience in performance mode. Their heights can be adjusted to suit the use/repertoire.
The construction has been supported with funding from Scottish Government and Creative Scotland, corporate sponsors, trusts and foundations, individual donors, and Glasgow City Council, as the new auditorium will be a shared, joint use facility managed by Glasgow Life.
Plans for the new wing include the instillation of dedicated state-of-the-art learning and education facilities, with flexible sensory areas, and integrated digital technologies for recording, composing, broadcasting music, and connecting with communities across Scotland and further afield.
The Orchestra’s new home is also equipped with enhanced foyer spaces for audiences and visitors, a music library for the Orchestra’s extensive archive that will ensure access to scores for research, practice and performance, private practice and small ensemble rehearsal rooms, and administrative and technical offices for the Orchestra including stores for its equipment.
High on the list of priorities during the planning and construction of the new building were defining the best possible ecological credentials. From opting for a brownfield site to selecting state-of-the-art lighting system (supplied by AC Lighting) which runs off a fraction of the power of current used by concert lighting configurations, the new centre can boast one of the best green ratings of any rehearsal concert venue in the UK.
RSNO Chief Executive Dr Krishna Thiagarajan:
“The new home is truly a world class facility for Scotland's National Orchestra, to efficiently and effectively build its reputation and increase its capacity to connect with communities across Scotland and the entire music loving world. To accomplish this, we ran an extremely successful campaign and we are grateful to our RSNO patrons, our corporate and foundation supporters as well as Creative Scotland, Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government to make this project a reality. Together we have delivered a bespoke rehearsal and recording space, exceptional education and learning facilities and a valuable recital venue, providing a key addition to the country’s cultural venues.”
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop:
"Five years ago, when I visited the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s rehearsal space in Henry Wood Hall, I made a commitment to the orchestra musicians that I would do what I could as Cabinet Secretary to help ensure they could move to a building fit for their talent and needs. With support from the Scottish Government, and from partners and donors, that commitment has been realised.
“The RSNO must be commended for its outstanding work in producing engaging learning programmes which have drawn in more than 270, 000 people locally, nationally and internationally. This new state-of-the-art operational base will allow the RSNO to go even further thanks to a world class rehearsal space and new digital connectivity. The building also provides Glasgow with a purpose-built music venue to enhance the city’s reputation as UNESCO City of Music.”
Councillor Archie Graham, Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council and Chair of Glasgow Life:
“Glasgow is a fantastic city for music lovers, for residents and visitors. In the 25th anniversary year of Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, the New Auditorium marks a new chapter in the history of this much loved venue and will help us continue to build on our cultural heritage.
“Working with partners we are creating opportunities for even more people to enjoy and play a integral part in the cultural life of the city – a commitment we are passionate about.
“Audiences are now enjoying a range of outstanding performances in the New Auditorium. With fun children’s shows this December and Celtic Connection concerts in January among those to come, we can all look forwards to many great creative opportunities in the future.”
Iain Munro, Deputy Chief Executive at Creative Scotland:
“This is an incredibly exciting move for the RSNO that will further enhance their reputation as a world renowned orchestra. The outstanding rehearsal space will help to attract and retain high quality musicians, conductors and soloists; the intimate concert space will engage and inspire audiences and the state-of-the-art education and learning spaces will help to foster future generations of talented musicians. Creative Scotland is proud to be supporting this world class music facility and I’m very much looking forward to enjoying and engaging with the orchestra in their new home.”