History

Aberdeen Performing Arts


Aberdeen Performing Arts is a charitable trust founded in 2004 to take over the running and management of His Majesty's Theatre and Music Hall. In 2008, the company's portfolio grew with the acquisition of The Lemon Tree, which perfectly complemented the size and style of the venues already being managed.

APA has packed a lot into its brief history and strives to grow and develop to bring the people of the North East of Scotland and beyond the best live entertainment.

In 2008, APA spread its wings and produced its first major solo production in Sunset Song, which was received with critical acclaim. Sunset Song was performed at His Majesty's Theatre before being taken on tour to Inverness, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Perth and was seen by an audience of over 25,500 people in total. This success was continued with the staging of the The Silver Darlings in 2009 and our Creative Learning department producing several shows each year, offering many opportunties to children and adults alike.

APA's vision is to reach for the stars in everything we do. Through staging and producing a wide and diverse range of work we aim to touch emotions, lift the spirits and expand the minds of both residents and visitors to the North East of Scotland.


His Majesty's Theatre


His Majesty’s Theatre is a distinguished venue boasting one of the most beautiful and spectacular auditoriums in the UK.  Designed by eminent theatre architect Frank Matcham and opened in 1906, the venue quickly became a staple on the UK theatre circuit as well as a prominent part of the Aberdeen skyline.  Steeped in history, HMT has a fascinating background:

  • The venue was originally built as a replacement for the city’s Her Majesty’s Theatre (now known as the Tivoli Theatre) in response to the need for a larger venue, improved refreshments areas, better comfort for patrons and more appropriate staging facilities.
  • The initial cost of building the theatre was £35,000 and the opening night was greeted with great excitement.  All the reserved seats were sold out well in advance and the queue for the unreserved seats was so large extra police were called in to manage the crowd.
  • The venue was largely built using local tradesmen.  The masonry, joinery, electrics, upholstery, sculptures, painting and plumbing were all done using the skills of the Aberdeen population.
  • At the time of opening, the foyer entrance leading directly to the Dress Circle was unique to British theatre design.
  • The first performance at HMT was the panto Little Red Riding Hood.  The show ran for four hours on its opening night, which the local press declared “pretty and refined” and received three curtain calls from the appreciative audience.
  • In 1933 the venue was bought by James F Donald, a local businessman, who refurbished the venue and introduced features such as external neon lighting, a cinema projector and a revolving stage – the only one in Scotland.
  • Upon his death, James F Donald’s sons took over the management of HMT thus continuing the “Donald dynasty” until it was bought by Aberdeen City Council in 1975.
  • Upon purchasing the venue the Council allocated £3.5 million to ensure the buildings survival.  After 23 months of closure the theatre was reopened in 1982 by Prince Charles with the subsequent period proving hugely successful resulting in the theatre becoming one of the most successful in the country.
  • In 2005, the theatre received a modern aspect to the Edwardian building with an £8 million glass extension, which was officially opened by Prince Edward.
  • During the refurbishment, HMT took up residence at the University of Aberdeen campus at Hilton to ensure performances could continue to be staged.
  • As part of the 2006 centenary year, His Majesty’s Theatre was twinned with a theatre of the same name in Perth, Australia.
  • The 1906 restaurant was opened in 2011 and received near perfect reviews from the local newspapers.  For further details on the restaurant, click here.
  • In its existence, HMT has gone through three major refurbishments to keep up with the ever changing demands of the entertainments industry and continues to be a leading light in the Scottish and UK.

A great deal of history can still be seen at His Majesty’s Theatre so a visit gives you more than you can imagine.  His Majesty’s Theatre is an experience like no other in Aberdeen so why not take a look at our upcoming shows?  We’ll guarantee you’ll find something you like.

For the full story of the theatre, Edi Swan’s book “His Majesty’s Theatre – One hundred years of Glorious Damnation” is available to buy at the Box Office and Waterstone's.


Music Hall


Since 1822, the Music Hall has been the heart of the concert and community life in the North-east of Scotland. A celebrated landmark in the city's main thoroughfare of Union Street, the Music Hall is a proud reminder of Aberdeen's most famous architect, Archibald Simpson.

  • Originally the City's Assembly Rooms, the venue cost £11,500 to build and was opened in 1822.
  • The design of the Assembly Rooms was held via a competition for architects.  Despite being a prominent figure in Aberdeen, Archibald Simpson entered under an assumed name.
  • While the Music Hall currently has one main auditorium, it was built with another large ballroom where the public toilets now stand.
  • The original building also had a card room (now the café) and two upstairs billiard rooms (now offices)
  • After its opening the venue enjoyed many packed out performances including readings from Charles Dickens.
  • In 1858, the rooms were sold by the trustees to the newly formed Aberdeen Music Hall Company, which swiftly produced plans to extend the building to accommodate a grand Music Hall.
  • These murals are the work of Aberdeen Artist Robert Douglas Strachan and were carried out from 1899 over a period of 8-10 years.
  • In 1928 the Music Hall was bought over by Aberdeen City Council following Aberdeen Music Hall Company being placed into liquidation.
  • In the 1960’s an Edinburgh based real estate company offered to buy the Music Hall to demolish it and rebuild as part of a redevelopment of Union Street.  A public outcry ensued and the plans didn’t go forward.
  • The Music Hall was extensively restored and refurbished by the City of Aberdeen District Council in the mid 1980s and now symbolises the perfect union between classical design and comfortable modern facilities.
  • Almost all of the Freedom of the City ceremonies have taken place at the Music Hall.  Among those receiving the accolade have been the Queen, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Winston Churchill and Alex Ferguson.

Nowadays the Music Hall plays host to an ever-widening range of events. Programmes of comedy and classical, folk, rock, pop and jazz music are equally at home in the Hall while exhibitions, seminars, conferences, graduations, tea dances and craft fairs all find a professional welcome.

Click here to see our upcoming Music Hall shows.


The Lemon Tree


The Lemon Tree began life as St Katherine's Club, built in the 1930s by the Young Woman's Christian Organisation as an activity centre to keep women off the streets of Aberdeen. The venue and has always been a cornerstone for the local community.

  • Originally it hosted regular, strictly alcohol-free dances, and many a local resident met their future spouse at such occasions.
  • The venue remained a popular local fixture, and during the 1980s, changing its name to St. K's.
  • In this time the dances continued while also housing various community arts groups and a vegetarian restaurant.
  • The decision was taken by Aberdeen City Council at the start of the 1990s to create a permanent home for the burgeoning audience attending the city's rock, theatre and comedy Alternative Festival held annually.
  • In 1992 The Lemon Tree was born, named after the pub which had existed on the site before the building of St. Katherine's.
  • In April 2008, Aberdeen Performing Arts took over the lease of the listed building and The Lemon Tree entered a new and exciting chapter in its history.
  • Supporting the local arts scene is still a priority and exhibitions from artists from the region can often be seen displayed on the walls while local bands get the opportunity to take to the stage as part of showcase nights and in support of touring acts.

Aware of what The Lemon Tree has come to mean not only in the city but nationwide, we strive to continue the tradition of showcasing the very best musicians and comedians in the downstairs 500-capacity Lounge, and cutting-edge drama and dance in the upstairs 150-seat Studio.

Click here to see the show we have coming up at The Lemon Tree.