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Western Australians have been reflecting on half a century of world-class performances at Perth Concert Hall as the much-loved venue turns 50.

The St Georges Terrace building, designed by architects Jeffrey Howlett and Don Bailey, was the first concert hall built in Australia after World War II. It was constructed by Sabemo (WA) and opened by Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, on 26 January 1973.

The gala opening ball was attended by then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. The West Australian and South Australian Symphony Orchestras joined forces for that first performance, in front of 1700 invited guests. Other famous visits include Queen Elizabeth II in October 1981 as part of her Jubilee; and fun fact, a pastel pink toilet was installed for Her Majesty to use.

Perth Concert Hall has over the last 50 years become renowned by artists and audiences for having some of the finest acoustics in the world. Great classical ensembles the London, Chicago and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras have performed at the hall as well as globally known artists including Billy Joel, Ray Charles, PJ Harvey, Nina Simone, Sting, Tim Minchin, KD Lang and many more.

In 2011 Perth Concert Hall was voted by artists as the best venue of its kind in the country, according to a survey of the acoustic excellence of Australia’s 20 major concert halls. In 2016 the hall, which seats 1,891 people and houses a 3,000-pipe organ, won the Australian Institute of Architects National Awards ‘Enduring Architecture Award’.

The venue – with its winding staircase and bold red carpet – is a focal point for culture and arts. There are too many highlights to mention but the Peony Pavilion took place inside the hall as part of Perth International Arts Festival in 2000, and Perth Festival’s contemporary music hub set up in the hall in 2020.

In recent years improvements have been made to the building including upgrades to lighting and the auditorium. Further work is scheduled for 2024 – the Perth Concert Hall redevelopment is set to improve disability access, the forecourts and preserve key heritage features, especially the acoustics. The project is jointly funded by the State, the Commonwealth and the City of Perth as part of the $1.5 billion Perth City Deal.

As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, Perth Concert Hall is running guided tours, a special exhibition of historical items and memorabilia, and a Golden Ticket Giveaway.

Festivities will continue through to March on the mainstage with rock, pop and classical concerts, talks, comedy and more. Featured artists and guests include Chef Yotam Ottolenghi, Kronos Quartet, Musica Viva and WASO for Perth Festival, and The Proclaimers.


Page reviewed 27 February 2023