Syracuse, NY—When The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in Louisville needed to renovate its multi-purpose hall's acoustical system, Director of Production Services Peter Bell had to solve a wide range of rigging challenges.
The heart of the arts center, the 2,400-seat Whitney Hall presents a year-round range of performances including touring Broadway shows, productions by the Kentucky Opera and the Louisville Ballet, and Louisville Orchestra concerts. To meet the acoustical requirements of so many different groups, Whitney Hall uses custom Wenger Diva shell ceilings, which can be adjusted to improve the sound quality.
In 2009, the Center's technical staff determined that it was time to stop using the hydraulic hoists that controlled these ceilings. “You get hydraulics over an audience and you get nervous,” said Bell. “The mechanics were nearly 30 years old. When they were installed, the system was cutting-edge, the wave of the future. But the cutting edge eventually went a different way.”
J.R. Clancy was part of a team headed up by the general contractor, Sullivan & Cozart. “When we came in, everything was dead-hung,” said Brett Cooper, Clancy project manager. “We installed 17 line shafts onstage, both for the shell ceilings and for some working line sets for shows.” The 17 onstage line shafts include six that can travel at 40 feet per minute (fpm), seven at 120 fpm, and four at 200 fpm.
“We installed eight additional line shafts on the front of house side: six to run the acoustical reflector panels (ARPs), and two to run a moving light bridge up and down,” Cooper said. “One of the ARPs actually split the proscenium opening, so it had two line shaft connections—one front of house, and one on stage—and they had a system on this panel so that if the fire curtain came down, it would release the ARP. But if they had to use the fire curtain in an emergency, you can see the problems they might have. We pictured this panel swinging from one line.”
Cooper worked with Clancy engineer Greg Dale and Wenger Corporation to replace the single panel with two: one over the stage, and one in front of house, each with its own line shaft mechanism. “This absolutely works wonderfully,” said Cooper.
To increase the maneuverability and effectiveness of two more front-of-house panels, Clancy developed a spring encoder that allows the acoustician to tilt the ARPs to whatever position works best for the performance. “The panels were either always flat or always tipped in one position,” said Cooper. “Now they can go up and down on our new line shafts to get the reflectivity they desire.”
Bell brought yet another issue to Clancy's attention: One of the ARPs shared rigging with the light bridge, so moving the ARP into position required that the light bridge be raised or lowered. This situation limited the bridge's usefulness as a lighting position. Clancy placed two line shaft hoists to raise and lower the bridge, and provided a separate line shaft for the ARP. “Now when they lower the ARPs down where they want them to be, they can fly out the light bridge,” said Cooper. “They can have stage lights and do spots up there when they have rock and roll shows.”
With the acoustical rigging issues solved, the Clancy team could address some other problems Bell brought to their attention. In an effort to undo some original design issues, Bell required motorized rigging for the house lights that had been dead-hung on the house grid, where they were very difficult to access for simple maintenance.
“The house lights here involved me harnessing up and walking out on floating beams to go change a light bulb,” said Bell. “Now we've put in Clancy's PowerLifts, and we can lower these lights down to the floor. What was a three-man job—me, a guy on the grid, and one on the catwalk passing things to me—can now be done easily by one guy.”
A flawless installation of acoustic banners by Pook Diemont & Ohl, Inc. of Bronx, NY, completed the job.
Deluxe controls make changeovers simple
To handle the rigging complexities of many acoustical panels, Clancy supplied its SceneControl 500 rigging control system to run all 32 hoists. This intuitive touch-screen system allows operators to set simple or elaborate cues, and group hoists to move together.
“All the hoists are in the SceneControl, and we've grouped the positions of the acoustical panels for orchestra, and for rock and roll,” said Bell. “Now it takes about 90 seconds for me to change the acoustics from the rock and roll setting to the orchestral setting. The center speaker cluster appears and disappears, the banners go in and out, and the panels flip. It's a heck of a thing.”
At Bell's specific request, Clancy designed a joystick system for backstage use, to match the controls of the hydraulic system. “They had joysticks on the locking rail with the old system, and they wanted to keep what they were used to,” Cooper said. “So they can operate the new line shafts with joysticks—there's a joystick where the set number would be for that line shaft on the locking rail. We had not done that before, so we created that for them.”
“The service from Clancy was just great,” said Bell. “When a company has been around 126 years, it doesn't leave people unhappy. I can't say enough about Brett and about Derek Moon, who came in to install the SceneControl—they have always been there to say, â€˜We'll fix it.' Derek did stuff that was way outside of the norm, and he just kept saying, â€˜Oh, this is different? Okay, we'll change it.' Whatever issue we had, they flew right down from Syracuse and took care of it.”
J. R. Clancy is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wenger Corporation. More information about Clancy is available at www.jrclancy.com, or at (800) 836-1885.