Usher Hall faces renewed criticism over noise intrusion from outdoor gig
EDINBURGH’s flagship concert hall is under renewed criticism after concert-goers at an Edinburgh International Festival show complained of noise intrusion from an outdoor gig at Festival Square.
Festival organisers and venue managers faced a barrage of criticism after the London Symphony Orchestra’s performance was disturbed by a blues and funk band that was playing outside the venue, in Festival Square.
Edinburgh City Council, which runs the Usher Hall, also helped organise the charity concert, which was raising funds for the BBC’s “Children in Need” appeal.
The festival faced huge embarrassment last week after a concert had to be cancelled at the last minute due to a power cut at the Usher Hall. The council has admitted it has yet to get to the root of the problem with the power supply to the venue, with ScottishPower insisting it was not to blame for the botch-up.
Now the festival, which says it is “frustrated” by the level of disruption to Saturday’s concert, has held fresh talks with the council in a bid to avoid a repeat.
The council is paying around £35,000 a year to help run the BBC’s giant screen in Festival Square, on the other side of Lothian Road, with a host of events laid on over the summer by the authority to try to bring in the crowds.
The official application for the free charity event - which was approved by council officials in May, three months after the festival published its programme - was said to have been organised “in conjunction with the BBC, the Usher Hall and the council.”
The audience had paid up to £42-a-head for the performance of Szymanowski’s Third Symphony.
However concert-goers were left furious at the noise intrusion and vented their anger on social media site Twitter afterwards.
One ticket-holder, Hannah Ross, said: “Usher Hall about to emit 2000 disgruntled customers who’ve had some beautiful music ruined by ridiculously loud stuff from Festival Square.”
Finn Pollard posted: “Any explanation yet from the Edinburgh International Festival or the Usher Hall re disruption from concert outside and who okayed said gig?”
Another, @m-mckean, tweeted: “Packed Usher Hall tonight for London Symphony Orchestra. But what numpty allowed a pop concert outside? Heard by audience AND on stage.”
A spokeswoman for the festival said: “The concert in Festival Square did cause disruption to the performance of the London Symphony Orchestra’s Concert at the Usher Hall on Saturday evening.
“Previous events in Festival Square have been kept at a sound level which meant they were not audible inside the auditorium.
“The Edinburgh International Festival is frustrated that this was allowed to happen and has raised its concerns with the city council.”
A spokesman for the council said: “We have assured the Edinburgh International Festival that there no further concerts or similar events planned in the square for the duration of the festival.”
The London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Edinburgh International Festival performance was axed around 10 minutes after it was due to get underway after a power failure at the Usher Hall. The festival later insisted it was “confident” all other shows booked into the venue would go ahead as planned.
The final phase of a £30 million revamp of the Usher Hall was only completed in February 2010.
The council’s spokesman added: “The charity concert held in Festival Square was raising money for BBC’s Children in Need Appeal.
“The council takes care to ensure that noise levels are managed appropriately but unfortunately, on this occasion, it has impacted on the performance in the Usher Hall.”
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