The National Concert Hall (NCH) (Irish: An Ceoláras Náisiúnta) is a concert hall located on Earlsfort Terrace in Dublin, close to St. Stephen's Green, and is the principal national venue for classical music concerts in Ireland.
Originally built for the Dublin International Exhibition of 1865, the structure was converted into the central building of University College Dublin (UCD) at the foundation of the National University of Ireland in 1908. When UCD began to relocate to a new campus at Belfield in the 1960s, part of the building was converted, and reopened as the NCH in 1981. Since then, the structure has been shared with UCD. In 2005 it was announced that UCD is to relocate all of its faculties to Belfield in the near term, allowing the NCH to develop a major expansion plan on the entire site, bringing it in line with international peers.
Today the NCH is one of Ireland's National Cultural Institutions, under the aegis of the Irish Government's Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and, as such, is grant-aided by the Irish Government. The NCH is a statutory corporate body, with a management team, and a Government-appointed Board.
In 2006 the Concert Hall celebrated its 25th anniversary with a number of gala concerts and events.
Although its facade is quite impressive, the venue's acoustics have been criticized. It is also unsuitable for large-scale opera stagings, lacking full stage facilities. Consequently, calls for a purpose-built venue are made from time to time. Plans have been developed in the early 2000s which involve revamping the existing Auditorium, building a larger newer one plus another small auditorium. This comes after the UCD section was bought from the college to enlarge the Concert Hall.
The NCH generally makes a small surplus, unlike most of Ireland's National Cultural Institutions. This is despite the fact that although it has a high level of attendance, it has only a small public funding element, especially compared to the Abbey Theatre. It is also in strong contrast to Dublin's other major public sector concert facility, The Helix.
Performances, repertoire and performing groups:
Due to its central location, lunchtime concerts and recitals are common and attended by many workers from nearby office buildings. In summer, outdoor recitals are given in the adjacent Iveagh Gardens.
The resident orchestra is the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. Other regular performances are made from the rest of the RTÉ Performing Groups. Presently, the NCH has three performance areas.
Lyric Opera and Festival Productions:
Lyric Opera Productions' home is the NCH and they have been in operation for over ten years. The society presents highly successful operatic and concert performances of the highest standard. Its Artistic Director is Vivian Coates, who is assisted by Tony Finnegan. Its sister company is Festival Productions, which stages musicals and operettas. Recently, Lyric Opera produced Carmen and Madame Butterfly, while Festival Productions, over the years, has staged Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Oliver!, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma!, The Pirates of Penzance, The Wizard of Oz, Hello, Dolly!, The Mikado, Annie and The Gondoliers. Their productions of the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas all won the award for Best International Show at the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, Buxton three years in a row. For Christmas 2010, Festival will present Disney's Beauty and the Beast.
The Main Auditorium, seating 1,200, is used for large scale concerts and some operas.
The Hall was converted from use as an examination hall when the building was the headquarters of UCD.
There is a magnificent concert organ set as a background to the stage, which was designed to complement the surrounding :architecture of the Hall and installed in 1991 in time for the 10th anniversary of the NCH's opening.
The stage area is considered small, making large opera performances impossible at the NCH. (Therefore, they usually have to be accommodated in one of the city's other venues like The Point Theatre or "the theatre" in The Helix, which by contrast has one of the largest stages in Ireland).
The John Field Room, seating 250, is used for small scale recitals and as an exhibition space.
The Carolan Room, seating 100, is used for pre-event talks, receptions and corporate functions.
Other facilities: There is a box office in the foyer, a small bistro, a bar on the first floor, and temporary cloakroom and bar facilities are operated on the ground floor in the inner lobby for performances.