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Scotland’s oldest concert hall comes alive

Guest blog post by Laura Beattie

Would you like to hear Scotland’s oldest purpose-built concert hall come alive with the joyful sounds of community music-making? Then come and join St Cecilia’s Big Celebration Day on Saturday, 19th November 2022, to enjoy an afternoon full of an eclectic range of musical performances, with something to suit everyone.

Since its opening in 1763, the concert room at St Cecilia’s Hall has had a varied and colourful history. When the Edinburgh Music Society conceived the idea, a dedicated space to hold concerts was an important innovation. Most music concerts at the time were held in people’s homes or churches. The Edinburgh Music Society hired the architect Robert Mylne to build the hall, who gave the concert room its distinctive elliptical shape and named it after the patron saint of music, St Cecilia. In the decades following its opening, the concert room hosted many well-known visitors, including Russia’s Princess Dashkova and Scotland’s own Robert Burns.

Despite becoming known for some of the best concerts in Scotland, the hey-day of the concert room was sadly short-lived. In 1798, the Edinburgh Music Society succumbed to mounting debts and other problems, such as increased competition from the new Assembly Rooms in the New Town and closed up shop. Over the next two centuries, the hall was used as a Baptist Church, a Freemason’s Hall, the Edinburgh School of Arts (which would become Heriot Watt University), a Bookbinders, a bar called The Bridge Bar, and the Excelsior Ballroom. The University of Edinburgh bought the building in 1959, with the intention to restore the building to its original use as a concert room and as a place to display its collection of harpsichords and keyboard instruments, newly acquired from the English antiquarian and collector, Raymond Russell.

Thanks to generous funding from the Heritage Lottery fund, St Cecilia’s Hall opened its doors as a public museum and concert room in May 2017. A key part of their mission has always been to support local musicians and music-making at all levels and to give a wide variety of musicians the opportunity to perform on this stage. Hence St Cecilia’s Big Celebration Day was born in November 2017. The event is always held on the closest Saturday to St Cecilia’s Day and free for everyone to attend. What better way to celebrate the patron saint St Cecilia’s love for music than to come together and enjoy the wonderful talent that our local community has to offer?

The aim is to include as many different styles and genres of music as possible so that there is something for everyone. This year features: a Saxophone Quartet, a Renaissance choir, Scottish folk music and much more! For the full programme and to secure your ticket, head to the Eventbrite page:

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