Concert Hall Images

Concert and Music Venues in Ayrshire ~ 1800 - 2013

1.  Balcony

2.   Organ

3.   Chamber 

4.  Stage

5.   South side

6. 1848

7.   Review


Ayr Town Hall

1. Interior view, with main auditorium and balcony. 

Date: September, 2010. 
Photographer: ©Mike Bailey.

2. Interior view, with stage and Lewis pipe organ. 

Date: September, 2010. 
Photographer: ©Mike Bailey.

3. Interior view, showing Council Chamber (formerly the Assembly Room)  prepared for meeting. 

Date: September, 2010. 
Photographer: ©Mike Bailey.

4.   Interior view, with hall seating, stage and Lewis pipe organ. 

Date: September, 2010. 
Photographer: ©Mike Bailey.

5.   Town Hall.  South face of the concert hall, above the District Court and the Police Cells. 

Date: September 2010.
Photographer: ©Mike Bailey.

6.   Newspaper notice for concert in the Assembly Rooms, 1848. 

Date: 1848.
Photographer: Reproduced from the Ayr Advertiser.

7.   Newspaper Review of the concert, 1848. 

Date: 1848.
Photographer: Reproduced from the Ayr Advertiser

Opening of the Concert Hall

Ayr Choral Union has played a prominent part in the fabric of Ayr musical society for over 130 years. Established on 16th October 1878, it is one of the oldest choral societies in Scotland.

At the end of 1881 the Ayr Town Hall was opened with a performance by the Ayr Choral Union of Handel’s Messiah.

The availability of a Town Hall solved the problems of a venue for concerts, but the desire of the choir to produce splendid musical results eventually led to financial disaster. However, the choir persevered and gradually things turned in its favour. Having entered an era of steady prosperity, the burning down of the Ayr Town Hall in 1897 caused serious problems, but the choir resolved to go on, little realising that it would be almost seven years before the Town Hall would be rebuilt.

On 31st March 1904, the choir was once again accorded the honour of formally opening the new Town Hall with another performance of Handel’s Messiah. In September 2006, the Town Hall was closed for much needed refurbishment including the rebuilding of the three manual organ. Once again, Ayr Choral Union had the pleasure of performing Handel’s Messiah at the formal re-opening of the Town Hall on 7th October.

(Text based on material in the Ayr Choral Union Archive.)

Ayr New Town Hall, 1881 - The Messiah

Compared with its poetical history the purely musical records of Ayr are, we fear, of second-rate importance.  In days gone by, however, the ancient burgh of Ayr held its own as regards musical enterprise. It had its common minstrels, of course, who, with 'the pyper and drummer, gang dayly ilk day through the town, evening and morning, and gif they failzie, they to ressay na malt that day they gang not; sua being that they be not starved be the intemperance of the weeder.' The 'Sang School' also took an important position in the educational development of the 16th and 17th centuries; one Robert Paterson being in 1535 appointed 'to play on the organs, sing in the quier, and to teach and sang scuie.' The 'organs' here referred to was that of the church of St. John the baptist and presumably the only instrument of the kind then to be found in the burgh.

Further on (1563) the conductor of the 'sang scule' was required to be 'ane accomplished sanger' and competent to teiche his schollars to play upon the pynattre' (spinnet). '   Again the 'Aire records of 1627' include an 'item to the Mr of musick scule for teaching of the music scule and tacking up the Psalmes in the Kirk, X bolls, victuals and XIII of silver.'

These excerpts tell an interesting tale of the musical doings of the Ayrshire folks in less fortunate times than our own. As Lord Stair truly enough remarked the other day, 'music has made great strides in Scotland during the last few years.' Much, however, remains yet to be accomplished, and the encouraging sign of the times reveals itself in the large number of choral societies which have of late sprung into existence throughout the country. The Ayr Choral Union may fairly rank itself among the most successful of these institutions. It has already done surprisingly good work, and last night's appearance gave promise of better things in the future.

Fittingly enough, Handel's imperishable oratorio was selected for the New Hall 'Inaugural Concert.' The fine building, a description of which was given in a recent issue of the Herald - was filled by an audience which included several of the elite of the district.

It would be wrong to say that last night's performance of the 'Messiah' was a perfect one in every respect.  The choir (numbering some 230 voices), if lacking steadiness at times, and particularly in the trying choruses - 'His yoke is easy', 'He shall purify,' and 'Let us break their bonds asunder,' yet presented many points of excellence in their interpretation of the work in hand. As on former occasions, the sopranos, for power, freshness of voice and good musical tone, carried off the honours of the evening. The Ayrshire ladies can give out a huge A with no uncertain sound, while their attack is vigorous, spirited and hearty. The contralto part appears to be the weakest section of the 'Union' in point of vocal power, albeit the executants gave, almost invariably, a correct reading of their music. The choir,generally appeared, perhaps, to most advantage in the opening chorus - the numbers 'For unto us,' All we like sheep, ' and the noble 'Hallelujah,' the latter of which was declaimed with great force and vigour.

Unfortunately Mr Edward Lloyd, whose services had been specially retained, was unable, through indisposition, to appear. His place was filled by Mr Guy, who gave, as he always does, a careful interpretation of the tenor solos. Miss Clements appeared somewhat overweighted with soprano airs, and her intonation was not all times correct. The contralto solos were in charge of Miss Fyfe, a young lady who sings with much intelligence, and whose rich contralto voice was heard to great advantage in 'He shall feed his flock.'  We need not say with what ability Mr Robert Kaddell delivered the various bass numbers. The gentleman was in excellent bass voice. specially distinguished himself in 'Why do the nations,' the orchestral accompaniment to which was given with telling effect.

Mr Cole led the band, and his forces included some excellent individual talent, particularly amongst the cellos, and first violins, the tone of the latter being crisp and powerful. The organ, built by Messrs T. C. Lewis and Co., to the specification of Mr Lambeth, and last night so charmingly played by our city organist, proved an exceedingly fine instrument. The softer reeds with their most musical tones were especially pleasing.

Altogether the Ayr Choral Union may be congratulated on a successful appearance, and, as we have said, last night's performance augurs well for the future.

During the religious wars of the seventeenth century the inhabitants of Ayr were commanded 'to be kept together until further orders.' A similar command might aptly enough be issued with regard to Mr Hugh M'Nabb and his spirited body of choiralists, Mr M'Nabb has thoroughly identified himself with the best interests of his society, and he conducted last night with much tact and judgment. The quartetts 'Since by man came death,' and 'For as in Adam,' were sung with an unrehearsed accompaniment - that of the town bell which tolled forth the usual ten o clock warning with a somewhat distressing effect.

In concluding our notice, we must congratulate the Ayr folks on the possession of their new hall. The acoustic properties are evidently all that could be desired.

Glasgow Herald, 20th September, 1881.