25 February 2015

ALBERT HALL Performing Arts Programs

The ACT Heritage Library has a collection of almost 500 items of ephemera documenting the performances of local and touring companies from its opening year of 1928 to 2013.  We have recently published a list of our holdings. To find out exactly what programs we have, please view our list

Program for The Theatre Players production of The Women, 1963.
ACT Heritage Library Collection
Ephemera shows fashions in clothing, plays, musicals, words and feelings with subtleties we might miss by reading official documents. It is material which is produced for a one time use, and not considered of much value by its producer, but often has considerable historical significance when we look back at it from a distance.

These items accurately and unconsciously reflect the times and what was socially acceptable.   They also demonstrate changes in taste and design over time.

And most importantly, the programs reflect the talents and progress of a growing city – here we find the names of local amateur performers resident in Canberra, as well as big name travelling stars.

Cast list in the program for The Theatre Players production of The Women, 1963.
ACT Heritage Library Collection
Ephemera is highly collectible by individuals as well as collecting institutions.  There are collecting societies, conferences and fairs.
David Limburg was the original designer of the much requested Assembly Hall, and he also designed the Sydney & Melbourne buildings in Civic.

The Albert Hall officially opened 10 March 1928, the weekend of Canberra’s  15th anniversary. A daytime bazaar and an evening concert were held to celebrate.  It's first use, however was for the Institution of Australian Engineers Annual Conference on 6 February 1928.

"Representative Gathering From Four States."The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) 7 Feb 1928: 1. Web. 25 Feb 2015 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article122233
The Albert Hall was a community meeting space and the focus of the performing arts in the growing city.

Canberra’s small population and the difficultly of travel by rail or road meant that Canberra had to negotiate hard for artists to visit. The Albert Hall was a drawcard for performers.

However it had the nickname “the biggest refrigerator in the Southern Hemisphere” – a topical local ‘in joke’ which was printed as advertisements in the programs for domestic refrigerators.

Program, 1951, ACT Heritage Library collection

One artist appeared on stage in full length furs, another had the piano keys warmed with a radiator, one other said to have refused to leave the dressing room without his hot water bottle. The audience also resorted to furs, coats and hot bricks wrapped in scarves.  Finally a heating system was installed 1960.

A celebrated German pianist toured with his own Bechstein, and 8 movers. The Florence Austral concert in 1934 was made aware of the inadequacies of the current piano by her accompanist Raymond Lambert.

Snakes were not unknown visitors, and one which left the rehearsal of a new work, was considered by one Canberra Times correspondent to have good taste.

After-parties were held at the Hotel Canberra next door, after a bracing winter walk across from the Albert Hall, in concert formal dress, due to the inadequacies of food preparation areas at the venue.

Renovations completed in 2013 show us a beautiful building with as special place in the history of Canberra and the hearts of its residents.


Elevation of Albert Hall, 1983 by Streko Bebek for the Marion Mahoney Griffin Measured Drawing Competition. 
ACT Heritage Library Image number 03700

FURTHER INFORMATION:
Coltheart, Lenore (2014), Albert Hall: the Heart of Canberra, H 994.71 COLT .

Edgeworth, Anne (1995), The Cost of jazz garters : a history of Canberra Repertory Society, 1932 to 1982, H 792.099471 GODF