Wednesday, 29 July 2015

World's most uncomfortable concert hall?

Last night I went to a concert in Cambridge. Great music, great musicians (two string quartets, joining forces to play the Mendelssohn Octet as the main piece), but what a venue! The concert took place in Trinity College Chapel - my candidate for the world's most uncomfortable and inconvenient concert hall.

I bought tickets for £20, unreserved, which seemed fine. When you arrive you realise all the £20 seats are in the choir stalls along the sides of the chapel. You get a great view of the people sitting the other side of the chapel, who are facing you. You can only see the musicians by turning your head 90 degrees. The chapel side seats I am describing formed the majority of seats in the building. There were some reserved seats at £25, that were are least facing the right direction.

Even that wouldn't be too bad, not even the wooden benches (no cushions), No, what made it a real challenge was that the musicians were on the same level as most of the audience. Without any kind of raised platform, it meant I could see half the face of one of the four performers. This must have been a problem even for the highest-priced seats.

I have the greatest respect for Trinity College and the chapel architecture (although it has to be said the chapel, dating from the 16th century, is no great architectural achievement - it's just a long box). But if the College chooses to use it as a concert venue, they should be obliged, you would think, to follow some elementary rules: that the audience  don't have to get a crick in the neck to see the performers, that there is adequate lighting from the chapel to the College exit, that there are adequate facilities (lengthy queues during the interval),

As I was leaving, I noticed that behind the Chapel screen, and without any view of the performers at all, were some more seats. These tickets cost £8 and provide no view whatever of the performance. Perhaps in the circumstances, they might have been better option: better to have no view than to feel the performers are somewhere nearby but not really to be seen properly. As we left, one of the staff was repeatedly calling to the audience "three steps down", because the lighting was so poor at the exit to the Chapel there was a real risk of breaking your neck.