Thursday, 25 June 2015

Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall.

After being closed throughout my time here in Singapore, when this monolith of Victorian grandeur finally opened in July 2014, following its S$180 million restoration, I really couldn't give up the chance of having a look around at this building in the civic district here in Singapore. After a couple of failed visits, when it was closed for private events, last month finally saw me get inside.

From the outside this majestic grey and white building is in fact 2 buildings joined together by a magnificent 54 metre tall clock tower. Home to a 4 metre tall clock, weighing in at 1 tonne, which cost S$6000 when it was built at the turn of the last century. Up until a couple of months ago, following restoration, the exterior was a photographers delight, freshly painted, pristine and set in majestic surroundings, next to the Asian Civilisation museum, the Padang, and the National Gallery, however sadly at the moment and until August 2016, no such photos can be taken without a degree in Photoshop, as the exterior is currently a building site, a mass on heavy machinery, cranes, metal work and of course noise. Fortunately step inside the doors and all is forgiven.

Over its life these buildings have changed and morphed into what we see today.

1862 The Town Hall, as it was then was built, designed by architect John Bennett and built in the typical Victorian style. It was then home to the Town Hall offices as well as a theatre, but in 1863 the offices moved from the building.

Built in 1901 and officially opened in 1905, next door to the Theatre was built the Victoria Memorial Hall to commemorate Queen Victoria. This was designed by Major Alexander Murray. At the time the Memorial Hall was built the Theatre underwent a renovation to give it a similar look. 

During World War II the Memorial Hall was used as a hospital and following the end of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore it was used as the venue to hold the Japanese War crime trials. 

1954 saw it reopened following another renovation and renamed, from the Victoria Memorial Hall to the Victoria Theatre. This year on the 21 November saw the founding of the People's Action Party (PAP) following its inaugural meeting in the building... and the rest is history.

1979 saw yet another renovation where a gallery was added and again a renaming, this time it was to become the Victoria Concert Hall. Throughout the 1980s it was extended and finally on 14th February 1992 the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall was granted National Monument status. It remained until June 2010 until it closed, as mentioned, for its latest multimillion dollar refurbishment until July 2014. I wonder when the next shall be?

It is now home to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, do look out for their concerts. As I walked around the exterior I wasn't able to enter the theatre but was treated to an impromptu concert as a choir warmed up just inside the main entrance. Inside is just as stunning and magnificent as the exterior but thankfully without the construction!

The renovation now blends the old with the new very well. They haven't tried to keep everything in the old style but have the new glass walls and structures sitting right next to the old, not trying to hide their differences. 

Level 3 sees a small exhibition showcasing some of the buildings history, concerts performed and important visitors and the such.

A feeling of timelessness and solidity

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