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Planning begins for new Adelaide concert hall

Arts & Culture

A long-awaited concert hall for Adelaide looks increasingly likely, as the State Government begins investigating overseas venues and consulting SA arts organisations as part of a strategy to be finalised by the end of this year.

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A new concert hall build was flagged in the State Government’s 2019-2024 Arts and Culture Plan, released in September, which recommended a new acoustic venue to serve as a home for the Adelaide Symphony and Youth orchestras, and act as a hub for music education in the state.

At the plan’s launch Premier and Arts Minister Steven Marshall said the Government supported the call “in-principle” and would consider developing a business case for a new venue.

An update published on the Department for Premier and Cabinet (DPC) website this month suggests that business case is going ahead, with the Government currently “in the early stages of scoping the strategic case for a concert hall (and) capturing learnings from interstate and overseas”.

A DPC spokesperson told InDaily this morning that the Government was “committed to undertaking a comprehensive analysis of the case for a new venue”. 

The spokesperson said the cost for the scoping exercise was yet to be determined, but it aimed to finalise a “strategic assessment” before the end of this year, pending any delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of the Premier and Cabinet is leading efforts to coordinate analysis of the case for a new venue,” the spokesperson said.

“Government will draw on appropriate external expertise and leverage the knowledge and skills of interested parties as work progresses.”

Adelaide Symphony Orchestra managing director Vince Ciccarello has long called for the State Government to invest in a concert hall, telling InDaily previously that the orchestra’s most regular performance venue, the Adelaide Town Hall, placed the ASO at a disadvantage as it had inadequate capacity and facilities.

Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor has also expressed interest in building a concert hall in the city, citing the Casa da Música music house in Porto, Portugal – a modern polygon-shaped building built in 2006 to house the Porto National Orchestra, the Baroque Orchestra and the Remix Ensemble – as inspiration.

An underground, three-level concert hall was once included in early plans for Lot Fourteen at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site, but it has since been removed.

Other potential sites for a concert hall that have been flagged by local architects include Elder Park and Botanic Park.

The DPC spokesperson said the Government was yet to determine potential sites for a concert hall.

Asked which interstate and overseas venues were being investigated by the Department, the spokesperson said: “initial efforts looked broadly across the globe at typical usage and seating capacity of existing venues”.

“A short-list of venues is being developed for more detailed considerations but has not been finalised,” they said.

The Government has had “initial discussions” with the ASO, universities, the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust and the Music Development Office about the proposal.

“The aim is to engage as broadly as possible with parties who have interest in a new venue,” the DPC spokesperson said.

Ciccarello told InDaily this morning that he had “preliminary discussions” with the Government late last year to “articulate the basic dynamics that the ASO currently operates in, and the economic, artistic and logistical restraints that apply because of the lack of a concert hall”.

“I don’t think the official and formal work on the business case has commenced yet, but I do think that they’re doing a bit of fact-finding and gathering information as a way of preparing for that,” he said.

“I see it as a positive sign… but I’m very, very aware that there’s such a lot of work to still do and quite granular number crunching that needs to be done.

“It’s a first step on a long journey.”

Ciccarello said the ASO was “agnostic” and “flexible” about where it would like a concert hall to be built.

“We would not like the location of it to be a barrier to it, or the chances of it succeeding being totally dependent on the site,” he said.

“But it does make sense to me to try to create some sort of critical mass in and around the existing cultural assets – certainly the North Terrace cultural boulevard and more specifically the Adelaide Festival Centre and Riverbank does seem to be the most common-sense place for it to be.

“It would just create synergy with the other institutions that are around there.”

The ASO is also calling for the concert hall to be “much more than just a high-quality auditorium for classical and orchestral music”.

According to the update on the DPC website: “insights to date highlight that it’s (the proposed concert hall) not just about a new venue; it’s about the model and what it can support and bring for the community”.

Ciccarello said he would like the proposed venue to deliver music education and community services “to become a home of music in South Australia”.

“It should bring people from right across the community together in the spirit of music,” he said.

It comes after former State Theatre executive director Jodi Glass wrote to Infrastructure SA last year asking it to consider “a new home” for State Theatre and other performing arts companies “away from the Adelaide Festival Centre”.

Recently-appointed chair Joe Thorp has since distanced State Theatre’s new administration from the proposal, saying it was for “long-term planning” purposes and there were “currently no firm plans nor any budget bid”.

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