Return of the angelic chorus creates magical moments

The Angels' Chorus is a space above the large glass panelled dome which is attached to the ceiling of the Irwin Mitchell Oval Hall.
The Angels' Chorus is a space above the large glass panelled dome which is attached to the ceiling of the Irwin Mitchell Oval Hall.

The Angels’ Chorus was heard for the first time in many years at Sheffield City Hall.

Heavenly voices drifted from beyond the large glass panelled dome in the ceiling of the main hall to an unsuspecting audience.

Twelve members of the Sheffield Philharmonic Chorus were singing in a little-known room high in the City Hall that the builders had created for special effect 81 years ago. It holds up to 50 people.

The Angels’ Chorus has not been used to the staff’s knowledge for over 35 years due to logistical reasons.

However, Sheffield Philharmonic conductor and music director Daruis Battiwalla, who was one of the conductors for this year’s Christmas concerts, wanted to try out the concept to an unsuspecting audience.

He said: “Although I’ve been doing concerts at Sheffield City Hall for over 20 years, I had no idea the Angels’ Chorus space even existed until management showed it to me earlier this year.

“It’s amazing that the original builders of the hall had the idea to create a specific space for off-stage singing, and the way there are special tubes to connect the room to the ceiling of the Irwin Mitchell Oval Hall is unique in my experience.

“It certainly added to the atmosphere of the opening of our Christmas Concerts, and I’ll certainly be thinking of a way we can use it again in the future - even though it involves a lot of stairs for those involved!”

Visitors to the City Hall may think the glass dome is simply a pretty addition to its interior.

In reality, the Angels’ Chorus was designed as part of the acoustics, particularly for classical or choral music which was more popular at the time of construction in 1932.

The magic works due to the clever construction of gaps, or vents, in the area around the glass dome which, when opened up, lets sound filter down below into the main hall.

But choristers must climb the narrow, dark staircase hidden away in the depths of the building to the highest and most derelict point directly above the auditorium.

Then they stand next to the glass and sing their hearts out for an angelic sound which penetrates the space below.

A City Hall spokeswoman said it was “a beautiful, yet slightly eerie effect, which could be heard but not seen. It was a truly magical moment for the last classical concert of 2013.”

Staff are asking anybody who can remember a concert at the City Hall when the Angels’ Chorus was used to contact them at or to tweet @sheffcityhall.

*Tea dances will be held in the art deco ballroom on Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 28 and New Year’s Eve.

The dances are a staple part of the City Hall programme. Alf Evans plays live music on Tuesdays, Barbara and Barry Davies play recorded music on Saturdays and Aubrey Robinson plays the organ on Thursdays.

*American-based musical troupe The Magic of Motown are celebrating 50 years of the label with a tour that include the City Hall on June 28.