Revisiting Five Extraordinary Evenings at the Royal Albert Hall

Ghost Echoes revisits the strange and marvelous moments at the London institution

Ghost Echoes at the Royal Albert Hall
Ghost Echoes at the Royal Albert Hall

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    On May 28, 1974, the worst orchestra in the world performed at the Royal Albert Hall. That’s not so unusual. The Albert Hall isn’t Carnegie Hall. It’s not an exclusive, prestigious venue where only the greatest may perform. It is simply London’s most historic gathering place. Many strange and marvelous things have happened there, including militant political rallies, beat poetry, and appearances by celebrity ghosts. In this episode of Ghost Echoes, we present you five extraordinary evenings at the Albert Hall.

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    Music and Sound Notes:

    — The episode opens with the Portsmouth Sinfonia’s performance of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. The section on the opening concert of the RAH features the final chorus from Arthur Sullivan’s cantata On Shore and Sea, performed by the soloists, chorus and orchestra of the Imperial Opera, conducted by Michael Withers. The final section on the RAH in the 60s contains snippets from Cream’s performance of “Spoonful” in the hall, and Pink Floyd rehearsing “A Saucerful of Secrets” with Rick Wright on the grand organ, just before the show that got them “banned for life.”

    Further reading, listening:

    — A great deal of basic information came from the official Royal Albert Hall website.

    — Information on the suffragette movement’s meetings in the RAH came from this piece by Susanne Keyte in the Telegraph, and History is a Weapon, where you can read Emmaline Pankhurst’s full speech.


    This contemporaneous account in Time Magazine helped flesh out Arthur Conan Doyle’s seance. The audio of Conan Doyle speaking about spiritualism–as well as the audio of “Conan Doyle” speaking at a seance four years after his death–are from the collection of the British Library.

    — John Bennett’s Krayology was enormously useful for the section on the Kray twins. More detail came from Steve Bunce in the Independent.

    — The International Poetry Incarnation is discussed at some length in the documentary A Technicolour Dream. It is also the subject of the documentary Wholly Communion, which is where the clips of Ginsberg and company come from.

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