Performing twice at the Royal Albert Hall
Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16
When the Royal Albert Hall was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1871, his address was difficult to hear due to an echo which “repeated the words with a mocking emphasis which at another time would have been amusing”. A number of methods for reducing the poor acoustics were attempted without success. The echo was so pronounced that musicians joked that the Royal Albert Hall was the only venue where a performer was guaranteed that their work would be heard twice.
The phenomenon was substantially rectified in 1968 when the BBC’s Ken Shearer developed the idea of ‘mushrooms’, large discs that hang from the base of the dome, to prevent reflection from the curved ceiling.
R. A. Metkemeijer, & B. V. Associés. The acoustics of the auditorium of the Royal Albert Hall before and after redevelopment. Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics vol. 19, 2002, pp. 57-66, p. 57.
I. MacDonald, Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties, London, Vintage Books, p. 229.
T. Cox, The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World, New York, NY, W. W. Norton & Company, 2014, p. 153.