Royce Hall, The Home of the Performing Arts
Famous for its acoustics,
built in Romanesque style (the building's exterior is modeled after Milan's
Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio) accompanied by unusual asymmetrical features
Royce Hall is one of the four original buildings on UCLA's Westwood campus
and has come to be the defining image of the university, being the largest
monument on UCLA’s site at the same time. Named after Josiah Royce, a
California-born philosopher who received his bachelor's degree from UC
Berkeley in 1875 and designed by the Los Angeles firm of Allison & Allison
and completed in 1929 it is one of the most prominent sites and venues
in the area, the pride of California and the home of music and performing
arts with cutting edge programming.
In the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, it was severely damaged and underwent a $70.5 million restoration that was completed in December 1997. The hall, post renovation, covered 191,547 square feet. Its unique Romanesque architecture prompted the State Historic Preservation Office to select it for restoration to its original design. In 1936, University of California President Robert Gordon Sproul appointed a committee to oversee programming and in 1937, Royce Hall's first performing arts season was on. The first subscription series included the great contralto Marian Anderson, the Budapest String Quartet, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Due to its acclaimed acoustics and 6,600-pipe Skinner pipe organ (first built in 1930 and reconstructed in 1999, after an earthquake of 1994), the building's 1,833-seat concert hall has often been used for recording sessions of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It serves as one of the home venues for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. The Hall is one of the very few places in South California where one can enjoy the organ concertos with the orchestra. George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Ella Fitzgerald, Albert Einstein and John F. Kennedy were only the few amongst many of finest guests of Royce Hall’s stage.
Royce Hall host many events amongst which UCLA Live is one of the most cherished by LA’s public. The event’s history is rooted in the late 1930s, when George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Arnold Schoenberg and Jimmy Dorsey’s Band all performed in Royce Hall. Since then, the list of world renown artists who have graced Royce Hall’s stage reads like a Who’s Who of performing arts in the 20th and 21st centuries, including Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, Twyla Tharp, Frank Zappa, Mikhail Baryshnikov, The Philip Glass Ensemble and Meredith Monk to name a few.
As the programming grew, Royce Hall began to fill the role of second cultural center in Los Angeles, serving especially the western part of the city. But rather than merely duplicating downtown programming on a smaller scale, Royce Hall’s program began to distinguish itself and develop its own identity. From the beginning, dance constituted an important element of this new identity. Trudi Schoop and her company appeared on the artists series as early as 1939, and subsequently nearly every important dance troupe, from the American Ballet Theatre and Martha Graham to the Ballet Russe, Bejart Ballet, Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal, Robert Joffrey and Bella Lewitzky has performed on its stage.
On schedule this season (08/09) is DV8 Physical Theater with their “To Be Straight With You” and Goran Bregovic (composer, author of the soundtracks to most of Emir Kusturica’s movies) with his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra and many, many other US and foreign, world renown musicians and performing artists.
Like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Royce Hall is one of America’s great concert halls, distinguished, not only for its impeccable beauty and refined acoustics, but also for the ghosts of performances that haunt it. As the main performance venue for UCLA Live, the most important aspect of Royce Hall’s legacy has been its role in providing something other than just the standard cultural menu. Under Director David Sefton, UCLA Live has made it a priority to present, not only artists at the apex of their gifts, but also avant-garde forms of expression as part of the regular program. Today, Royce Hall is not only regarded as the symbol of UCLA, but also as ground zero for the most exciting, innovative and far-reaching performing arts programming on the West Coast.