Respecting our Elder
Elder Hall came close to being demolished in 1978. The historic University of Adelaide building survived the wrecking ball then but today it is in very real danger of rotting away.
One of Australia's finest concert halls and home to the oldest tertiary music school in the country, Elder Hall requires urgent conservation to fully restore and transform it to its former glory.
The University has already committed $1.7 million to commence this process and has launched an appeal that hopes to raise a total of $12 million to conserve the 112-year-old building's exterior and upgrade the interior.
The Appeal was launched officially at a gala concert in April featuring jazz legend, James Morrison, his brother John and Elder Conservatorium staff who entertained packed houses with two nights of music from the great names in Jazz. Opening the events, MC Keith Conlon OAM, spoke of the special history of the Hall and the critical need for its conservation.
"It looks very beautiful at night, but during the day you can see the building is rotting and seeping away," Keith said.
"We have a very big task to bring it into another century; it needs our help."
In March 1900, the South Australian Register described Elder Hall as "a building that will undoubtedly prove equal to all the demands likely to be made upon it for many years to come."
While staff were reported to be "gratified with the conveniences" of the new building in 1900, the school has in many ways outgrown the Elder, and inside the deteriorating stonework fašade, the Hall's technology and facilities are not up to the demands of the 21st century.
In use 364 days a year, often more than once each day, the Hall is also very much a community facility. Over and above the Elder Conservatorium's teaching, rehearsal and performance schedule, it is used at least 180 days a year by the community, not just as a concert venue but a hub of intellectual and cultural activities such as the Festival of Ideas, Writers Week and Fringe events.
While the Hall has undeniably excellent acoustics, the lighting and sound systems are in dire need of upgrading so that it can continue to cater for such wide appeal and respond to the growing use of multimedia in performance art.
Elder Hall is not only the public face of music at the centre of Adelaide's cultural boulevard of North Terrace, it resides in the hearts of the thousands of students and staff who have studied, worked and performed there. ■
The University is committed to preserving its priceless heritage. Find out how you can support this important project and ensure the future of Elder Hall as an outstanding performance space and one of the State's iconic buildings at www.alumni.adelaide.edu.au/elderhall or call +61 8 8313 5800
Story by Genevieve Sanchez