Shanghai Concert Hall 上海音乐厅

The Shanghai Concert Hall was opened in 1930 as a movie theater. This was in the days when movie theaters were considered major venues of culture. The first movie shown was a 1929 release "Broadway" starring Glenn Tryon, Evelyn Brent, Merna Kennedy, and Thomas E. Jackson. It was a combination of a musical and crime film. It must have seemed wonderful at the time.

Originally called the Nanking Theater, it was designed by two Shanghai architects, Fan Wenzhao and Zhao Shen. The acoustics are superb, with a seating capacity of 1,539 when it opened, even the balcony would have had good sound.

In 1950 it was renamed the Beijing Cinema and in 1959 it was taken over by the Shanghai Symphony. The seating capacity was reduced to 1,122 during the adaptation for live performances, but the acoustics were maintained.

It is such a gem of a building that when a new expressway threatened to shake it apart and the noise levels interfered with performances it was decided to move it. They moved it 66.42 meters or 217 feet or 2/3 of a football field. The building weighed 5,800 tons and needed bracing before the move. After a slow start, the move reached a high speed of 2 meters per hour and the record for a day was 16.5 meters. It took 6 days to lift it and 12 to move it. When the building was placed on its new foundation, it was raised several meters, increasing its below-ground space. It took 2 years to accomplish the complete renovation. The hall opened again in 2004.

Was it worth it? Today, the hall sits well back from the street, surrounded by a large square and landscaping. The ceiling above was well worth the effort, but it is the acoustics that make it one of the fine concert halls in the world.

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Last update: February 2007
© Marilyn Shea 1996, 1999, 2002, 2007