IT was the social event of the season, and Glasgow's Grand Old Lady was looking resplendent.

The doors of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum were thrown open to the public last night for the first time since the completion of the GBP30m refurbishment.

Five hundred people lucky enough to obtain tickets for the opening concert, which was staged in association with the Refurbishment Appeal and The Herald, were left openmouthed at the extent and quality of the restoration work.

The 105-year-old building, considered the jewel in Glasgow's civic crown, has been completely reborn after three years of painstaking work.

It fully opens to the public next Tuesday, but last night Liz Cameron, Lord Provost of Glasgow, hosted an evening of music and celebration for the lucky few.

Kelvingrove occupies a special place in the hearts of most Glaswegians, and has always been considered the property of the people.

It was returned to the people of Glasgow on Friday evening, when Sir Robert Smith, chairman of the National Museums of Scotland, officially returned the keys of Kelvingrove.

Last night, the guests drank champagne and marvelled at the exhibits before sitting down to a concert by the Bearsden Choir, Sinfonia Alba and the Kirkintilloch Band in the breathtaking main hall.

The choir, one of the leading in Scotland, was augmented by singers from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus, the City of Glasgow Chorus and the Glasgow Philharmonic Choir.

The musical programme reflected the exhibits housed within Kelvingrove: The Elephant from Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals, a homage to the much-loved Sir Roger; the RAF March Past by Sir Walfred Davies, a tribute to the Spitfire pilots of the 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron; and Verdi's Triumphal Scene from Aida, a nod to the Egyptology section of the museum.

Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden, chairman of the Kelvingrove Refurbishment Appeal, said: "We are delighted the restoration of Kelvingrove is now complete and the building is already enthralling visitors with its splendid new look.

"Kelvingrove is hugely important and remains the epitome of Victorian enterprise and initiative. It is a magnificent building; it has brought the worlds of art and history to life for generations of visitors over the past 100 years."

Dr James Hunter, the musical director of the concert, said: "On behalf of the artists . . . I would like to say how honoured we are to be part of the first musical performance in the magnificently restored Kelvingrove. Having performed the final concert here three short years ago, it is quite amazing to see the transformation that has occurred."

Most of the members of the public who attended the concert had associations with the museum dating back to their childhoods.

Alma Wolfson, the Scottish landscape painter, first visited Kelvingrove when she was three or four years old in the 1940s. She was inspired by the gallery to become a painter, and is a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art.

She said: "It is pretty stunning. Every inch of space has been used and all the vistas carefully planned. It's amazing. The exhibits integrate with the building in a very pleasing way. I remember shivering through concerts - they appear to have sorted out the heating now."

Pat Wilsden, from the west end of Glasgow, knows more than most about the city's history, as she works as a guide for the firm City Sightseeing.

She said: "I missed her while she was closed, and it's great she's looking so fine now.

"I have enjoyed looking for all the things I remember, and already have found a few new things that are really thrilling."

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