One of the nation’s favourite orchestras, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, are celebrating their 70th birthday in 2016.
To celebrate 70 years since they were established by Sir Thomas Beecham, the RPO are having a special birthday concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 19 September – a venue they’ve been performing at since their inception.
As part of these celebrations, the RPO are also asking the public to share their best memories of the orchestra on Twitter via #RPO70. With over 1,300 performances at the Hall we couldn’t pick just one, so here are eight stand-out memories from the past seven decades:
2 November 1946: First Hall performance
RPO founder Sir Thomas Beecham took the baton for the orchestra’s first of many appearances at the Royal Albert Hall, with influential violinist Alfredo Campoli appearing as a soloist.
The concert saw the orchestra perform three compositions by Johannes Brahms.
24 September 1969: with Deep Purple
History was made at this special concert, which was released as a live album and paved the way for countless subsequent rock/orchestral productions.
The rock titans invited the RPO to join them in a performance of Concerto for Group and Orchestra, composed by Deep Purple pianist Jon Lord.
The legacy of this groundbreaking concert lives on today, with numerous rock and pop acts now incorporating orchestras into their live performances.
8 February 1971: Frank Zappa [Cancelled]
The RPO can boast of having been involved in one of the most controversial events in the venue’s history – a concert which was cancelled at late notice due to the content being considered too obscene by venue management.
Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention were set to perform work from a Zappa composition from the 200 Motels film, which contained an explicit assessment of the life of pop stars – so explicit in fact that at least two musicians walked out during rehearsals.
Trumpeter John Wilbraham said: ‘The whole thing has revolted me… I don’t see how I can be playing a trumpet concerto one night and taking part in this sort of production the next.’
An RPO spokesman denied the rumours that the orchestra had been requested to stand up and shout a four-letter word as part of the performance, and even compared some of the music to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
13 April 1982: with Luciano Pavarotti
When a young Luciano Pavarotti first performed at the Hall during the 1964 Proms season, few could have imagined that he would go on to become one of opera’s best-known stars.
Some 18 years later, Pavarotti made his long-awaited return to the venue for a special concert in front of HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother in aid of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra National Appeal.
The Orchestra have since gone on to accompany the likes of opera superstars Montserrat Caballe and José Carreras in special concerts at the venue.
8 April 1984: A Symphony on Ice
Olympic skating champion John Curry brought his company of skaters to the Hall in the venue’s first ever dedicated ice skating production – a sold-out run of performances featuring live accompaniment by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Charles Baker.
At the end of the run the ice was chopped up and put in skips before being dumped in the Thames!
20 June 2011: John Barry Memorial
The RPO, under the baton of Nicholas Dodd, provided the music for an emotional night in memorial of Oscar-winning composer John Barry.
Appearances on the night came from the likes of Sir Michael Caine, Sir George Martin, Alfie Boe, Rumer and Dame Shirley Bassey.
10 October 2014: Friendship Matinee
Since 2013, the Orchestra have performed in the Hall’s annual Friendship Matinee, providing people who are part of a charity or community group, and those who may not usually be able to attend live events, the opportunity to experience the Hall.
These performances allow the RPO to perform to some people who have never experienced the magic of a live orchestra before and are a much-loved part of the calendar for countless community groups across the region.
5 July 2015: Pete Townshend’s Classic Quadrophenia
Billy Idol, Alfie Boe and Phil Daniels joined Who guitarist Pete Townshend and the RPO in a newly ‘symphonised’ version of The Who’s classic rock opera Quadrophenia.
Conducted by Robert Ziegler, the Orchestra provided the musical backdrop to the iconic story of Jimmy, the disillusioned Mod whose life spirals out of control following a huge Mods v Rockers brawl in Brighton.
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra host a number of concerts at the Hall each year. Browse their forthcoming events here.