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Alexandra Palace

Amongst the many famous London landmarks I should have visited well before now is Alexandra Palace. It's not exactly hidden away. But at last, thanks to a summons from the BBC Concert Orchestra, I boarded an overground train, starting out deep within Moorgate tube station, and soon found myself on a bracing hill walk, way above north London.


Outdoing our south London equivalent, Crystal Palace, "Ally Pally" burned down twice in its 150-year history, but in recent years has been well-used for its frequent pop spectaculars and year-round ice rink. Breathtakingly, its Theatre has been beautifully restored in a way that doesn't disguise its Victorian origins or more recent history as a ruin.


The acoustic in this very big space seemed to me ideal for a medium size symphony orchestra, and it was a thrill to hear the BBCCO under chief conductor Anna-Maria Helsing in a wide-ranging rehearsal which included my own piece Brighter Visions Shine Afar. This amazingly flexible band are surely a perfect fit for such a bravely restored edifice, where, as a GLC blue plaque reminds us, "The world's first regular high definition television service was inaugurated here by the BBC (on) 2 November 1936".

I left the Palace full of admiration for those who had preserved and restored this huge historical building; and as ever, for the BBC's technical ingenuity, then and now.






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