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Return to Royal Albert Hall

By: - Columnist
/ 12:15 AM August 04, 2022
The author (right) with Gerard Salonga

The author (right) with Gerard Salonga

June 28, 2022. A day that we won’t soon forget. This was the day I would hold my solo concert at the Royal Albert Hall, with my brother Gerard at the podium waving his baton.

With our usual band (but instead of Gerard at the piano, it was Ellie Verkerk, who’s the musical director of the West End production of “Six”) and back-up singers, plus a gang of amazing string players, the stage was set for us to get up on that storied stage and do our thing.

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This wouldn’t be my first time in this amazing venue; that distinction remains with playing Eponine in the 10th anniversary concert of “Les Misérables.” It’s been 27 years in between these two Albert Hall performances, so it’s fair to say that it all felt very new.

Gerard had a head start with rehearsing the new musicians early in the afternoon. When I arrived much later, I headed right to the stage and looked out into the house. This was a view I enjoyed so many years ago, but it still filled me with quiet awe. In a few hours, the house would be full, and we would get up onstage and have ourselves a good time.

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Since this performance was deep into the tour, it didn’t feel super nerve-wracking (unlike the first show in Leicester, which was straight after a stressful travel day). No, I don’t remember feeling those kinds of jitters at all. It was more that feeling of giddy reverence since this was a place that saw quite a lot in its 150 years, including its iconic glass dome being used to reorient enemy pilots during World War I and World War II … the dome was itself struck a few times.

The hall has hosted many legendary performers, such as The Who, Abba, Led Zeppelin, the BBC Proms, Dame Shirley Bassey, Black Sabbath, Adele and Eric Clapton, been the venue for boxing matches (Muhammad Ali fought at the hall three times), as well as for speeches by Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein.

And now, it was our turn.

During the sound check, it seemed like there was a huge echo, the music just bouncing off the walls. This is to be expected in a venue this size. It was a challenge, but not something we’ve never had to deal with before.

Lea performs to a full house at the Royal Albert Hall.

Lea performs to a full house at the Royal Albert Hall.

Magic

And, as is the case with a lot of massive rooms, something changes when there’s an audience. And sure enough, once the crowd had settled in, it sounded beautiful, as if by magic.

Kusie Ho, my makeup artist, understood the importance of this moment, so he took his time when he painted my face, adding another layer of false eyelashes due to the size of the house.

My daughter Nicole, who rode to the venue with one of my best friends, Victor Lirio, and his husband Bryce Goodwin, took a peek from backstage as the overture was playing, and started tearing up a little bit, then gave me a hug and said, “I’m proud of you, Mom.” She was then escorted to one of the boxes to join Victor’s little group.

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Speaking of the boxes, this is quite a wonder with this venue: a box seat is quite far from the stage, and in a normal concert hall, that isn’t always a great place to sit.

Lea Salonga

Lea Salonga

Strangely intimate

However, at the Royal Albert Hall, there isn’t such a thing as a bad seat. Despite its size, the house feels strangely intimate and comforting, and everyone who stands on that stage feels enveloped and safe.

As for the show, it went really well, and the crowd was nothing short of fantastic. However, I made a mental note to really give myself as many chances to just watch Gerard conduct as this was his hall debut, and it was a big deal for us and our family. During instrumentals of songs, I’d just sit or stand and bear witness, and let my chest puff up with pride.

Following the performance, we headed back to our hotel for a late-night meal. No fancy parties, no bottles of champagne. Just a little corner for sandwiches, soup and quiet conversation.

To everyone at the Royal Albert Hall, thanks for having us! To Cuffe & Taylor and LiveNation, thanks for making this dream come true. To my manager Josh Pultz, you are magic in a hella handsome package. To Kusie, I felt beautiful in your hands. To Gerard, you already know how I love you and am so proud of you.

To our audience, THANK YOU for spending the evening with us in this iconic venue! It’s an experience we’ll never ever forget.

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TAGS: concert, Lea Salonga, Royal Albert Hall
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