When the three-day grand opening celebration began on Jan. 11 at the new Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University, the 842-seat hall resonated with performances by the San Francisco Symphony, mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Stanford Chamber Chorale, and members of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and Stanford Philharmonia.
This diverse selection of performers and ensembles demonstrated the versatile acoustical capabilities of the new hall, showcasing solo performances and small ensembles as well as the full orchestra. World-renowned acoustic designer Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics determined the optimal sound design for this hall—and to execute this design, Stanford called upon the rigging experts at J. R. Clancy, Inc.
The complex job required Clancy and an installation team from Western Theatrical to work around a massive network of sail-like acoustical wall and ceiling panels. Between the gracefully curving panels, Clancy provided a total of 22 motorized acoustical curtains, hanging from rigging on a three-tiered catwalk system, as well as a series of acoustical panels. “Behind the slot walls surrounding the stage, as per the consultant’s drawings, we designed and built pop-up acoustical panels,” said Brett Cooper, J. R. Clancy’s on-site project manager for the Bing Concert Hall. “These panels will allow technicians to adjust sound reflectivity and reverberation, depending on the needs of the specific performance. The pop-up panels and the acoustical curtains give the on-site sound technicians the ability to tune the hall to the performers—whether it’s a soloist, a rock band, or a full orchestra.”
For the large speaker cluster in the center of the acoustical ceiling, Clancy provided a custom hoist with a load capacity of 2,000 pounds and a fixed speed of 20 fpm, with an overspeed brake assembly. “The custom speaker cluster drops down through bomb bay doors in the ceiling, which are rigged and operated by two custom line shaft hoists, that disappear when they’re not in use,” said Cooper. “We also provided the speaker cluster door hoist assembly: two hoists with a load capacity of 1,000 pounds each.”
J.R. Clancy provided four motor control cabinets (MCCs), three of which were located in the tech attic off of the catwalk system. The MCC on stage right runs the acoustic curtain locally on house right, while the stage left cabinet runs the house left acoustical curtains. The house MCC runs all the overhead equipment: the projection screen, light pipes, speaker cluster and bomb bay doors. The fourth cabinet and the rigging control console are located in the back of the house, where it runs the variable acoustic pop-up panels and the console that runs all of the rigging. “Also, we provided a SceneControl pendant receptacle off of stage right, with a 15M cable to allow the hall to run all the equipment from the stage,” said Cooper.
Lighting around the cloud
“Five of the hoists above the acoustical ceiling—what the architects call the ‘cloud ceiling’—were for lighting battens,” said Cooper. “The acoustical ceiling comes out like a U-shape, and five pipes drop down for lighting.”
Two of these hoists—one on each side of the cloud—have capacities of 2,500 pounds, while the other three have 1,500-pound capacities. “These high capacity hoists are ready to take on the variable loads created by adding and removing lighting instruments,” said Cooper. “We worked with the theatre designers to make these battens as accessible as possible for technicians working around the ceiling panels.”
To maintain the stability of the rigging in the concert hall without having to rely on the building structure, the Clancy team installed supplementary steel specifically for the rigging. “There were intricate patterns for how all the cables had to work,” Cooper explained. “To get the signal and the electrical power down the cables to the light pipes, for example, we had 19 cable reels involved. We had large, specialized hoists that were custom-built for this project, to handle a great deal of weight. So we needed to install 80 sections of extra steel to get everything into the right place.”
Clancy’s last contributions to the concert hall were the primary and secondary hoist assemblies to run two projection screens. The primary projection screen has a viewing size of 34’ 10” wide and 17’ 9” in height, and the screen is lowered and stored under the stage when not in use. A smaller, secondary projection screen lives in a permanent installation upstage. The two hoists, at 1,500-pound and 500-pound capacities respectively, allow technicians to bring in the screen automatically for projected scenery and other video elements, and store it above the stage when not in use.
In addition to the concert hall, Clancy provided a versatile rigging solution for the adjacent rehearsal hall. The Clancy team built and hung a room-sized pipe grid, measuring 52’ x 35’, to allow technicians to hang drapes to partition the rehearsal space for events and other uses. The pipe grid can hold lighting instruments as well, to turn the room into an intimate performance space.
All of these elements required significant amounts of coordination between suppliers and services, noted project leader Brian Drake at Western Theatrical. “We had to hold or attend dozens of meetings with various contractors and subcontractors to explain how the equipment works, and what it takes to install and make it operate in and around the architectural elements and other building systems.”
The January 11 and 12 opening generated rave reviews for the new hall. “There are no right angles anywhere inside the hall,” wrote Gary Singh at MetroActive, the website of Metro Newspapers in Silicon Valley. “Every component of the architecture flows like a stream, in wavelike fashion, throughout the space. The acoustics took priority, and everything else was built around the acoustics. In the bigger picture, the idea is to ensure that every Stanford student has access to and appreciates the arts.”
For more information about J. R. Clancy, Inc., visit www.jrclancy.com, or call (800) 836-1885.