Creation of concert venues in rival Royal High vision

NEW public venues for world-class concerts would be created in one of Edinburgh’s most celebrated buildings if a music school is allowed to take it over, its backers have announced.

Willie Gray Muir. Picture: Neil Hanna

The debating chamber created in the former Royal High School for a potential Scottish Parliament would instead become one of three performance spaces under a £15m revamp planned for the building.

Revealing their vision for the A-listed landmark for the first time, the charitable trust pursuing a new home for St Mary’s Music School said it would be available for 12 months of the year for public events.

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However trustees admit their plans, which they insist are already “fully-funded”, will only be realised if the city council rejects controversial plans for a luxury hotel on the site.

Willie Gray Muir, chair of the Royal High School Preservation Trust, said the acoustics of the main assembly hall in the building were “extraordinarily good,” but would still need a significant refurbishment to make it suitable for high-quality concerts and “bring back its dignity.” Two side rooms will be fitted out with facilities for live performances, rehearsals, workshops and masterclasses.

Mr Gray Muir said the pupils of the music school would “effectively retreat” into the eastern portion of the site – including accommodation blocks for around 50 pupils – in the evening, freeing up the proposed concert spaces.

He added: “This produces some very exciting opportunities for both the public and the school which could have a profound benefit.

“There will be a chance – even during term time – to not only have concerts, recitals and masterclasses in these spaces, but for the children to meet up with world-class performers, and for the people of Edinburgh to come into the building for the first time. There is wonderful potential here.”

The local authority struck a deal with a developer five years ago to lease out the celebrated building for 125 years after plans to create a national photography museum collapsed due to funding problems.

However it was not until December of last year that the firms behind a £55 million scheme – Duddingston House Properties and the Urbanist Group – revealed they were in negotiations with “three of the world’s top hotel operators” to take the project forward.