Visiting the New-Old Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall

So the past 2 weeks have been really slow on the writing front, mostly because real life has just been way too overwhelming – I  moved house and am still in the midst of unpacking, had to deal with some devious salespeople, as well as had a crazy intense work week with events happening every other day.

Now that I have a little bit of time to spare, I thought I’d talk about one of the places I was in for most of the week, which is a great new place for Singaporeans and visitors to Singapore to check out.

vtvch - atrium
Looking down on the atrium between the theatre and concert hall. The buildings didn’t used to be connected, now they are joined through a covered glass roof and airconditioned to boot!

I spent a lot of time this past week at the newly refurbished Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, only just reopened to the public after 4 long years of renovation works. It’s got long history behind it, established way back in 1862 (and wow for Singapore that’s a pretty long time ago) and many people have watched a performance in either the theatre or concert hall, or even performed on stage back in the day. Arts was never a big part of mine nor my family’s activities, so I don’t actually remember having been there before, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to check it out now.

It’s quite a beautiful building, and they’ve done (and spent) a lot to preserve its old structure as much as possible.

vtvch - atrium shot
The money shot of the clock tower. the weather on Sunday was really quite clear and sweltering and while I did tweak the lighting a bit in this shot, it is reflective of how it actually looked in person!
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Another surprise – an unexpected rainbow despite there not being any rain!

They held an open house over the weekend where there were guided tours, and visitors could check out the building and the halls, as well as watch performances by some of Singapore’s local arts groups for free. I took the opportunity to go check out some more of the performances for myself, and I will be back again when the Singapore International Festival of the Arts comes around in August.

Take a look at the halls – you might not have a chance to see them during the day unless you’re there to catch a performance! The rest of the building will be open to the public to check out though – it’s a nice respite from the heat outside…

vtvch - old chairs
They re-purposed some of the seats and other furnishings from the old building into art installations scattered around the building. This one which looks either like chocolate or coffins (depending on your perspective) is outside the Theatre on the 2nd level. And for the record, it looks like Chocolate to me!
vtvch - concert hall
Inside the concert hall pretending to conduct my orchestra. Singapore’s Symphony Orchestra will now call this hall home!
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I caught Sri Warisan, a Malay performing arts group in the theatre. It was just a short showcase of what a traditional Malay folk drama called Bangsawan consists of – it’s a little like an opera with singing, acting and dancing, and in this case, turning a princess into a fruit. For real. Happy endings though ;)

Another treat was that I had the privilege of climbing up to the iconic clock tower! It’s one of the most distinctive features of the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, so getting to see it from the inside was quite cool! General public unfortunately will not have access to this area as it’s really quite a tight fit, but you do get a chance to see the clock’s mechanics up close and it does have a great view of the surrounding area – it made us all jump when the chimes suddenly went on – it chimes every 15 minutes, but does a longer chime on the hour.

vtvch - clock tower
Up in the clock tower! Great view, but a long hard climb with no lift and no aircon! Also, rather precarious narrow ladders. They kept the old mechanics and even sent it back to the UK to get fixed!

Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall is located at 11 Empress Place in the Civic District (smack between City Hall and Raffles Place MRT stations), along the Singapore River right next to The Arts House which was once Singapore’s Parliament House and shares some similar architectural features, so you could check out both these buildings.

Do go check it out if you’re keen to see one of Singapore’s oldest architecture – there’s a sense of history in this building that sets it apart from another of our popular performing arts venues, The Esplanade aka the Durian.

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