Boston, MA- For more than 130 years, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and its well-known alter-ego, the Boston Pops, have entertained generations of music lovers in locations all around the world.
Inside their Boston home though, the historic Symphony Hall, is where the Pops spend their Holiday and Spring seasons. Tasked with lighting this space and its world-class musicians are Lighting Designer Pam Smith and Technical Supervisor Jake Moerschel. The virtues of the venue itself are plentiful.
“Symphony Hall is to me, one of the most beautiful venues to be able to work in and light,” said Smith. “The stage is an amazing backdrop with the organ pipes, and the hall has architectural designs that look even more stunning when softly lit.”
Bringing modern technology into a space that will soon celebrate its 115th birthday is not without its challenges though- the biggest being equipment noise.
Smith said of the need for quiet, “The hall has some of the best acoustics in the world, and the slightest fan noise from a few movers can seem quite loud.”
Moerschel agreed on the noise issues, and also cited weight restrictions for hanging lights as a difficulty. Dealing with these inherent issues has caused the team to constantly innovate in terms of fixture selection.
“Pam and I work together to allocate fixtures to account for the weight limitations, and we are especially always looking for quieter lights,” said Moerschel.
For the past few years, the team’s search for the correct units for each season begins and ends at 4Wall New York. For the 2014 Holiday Pops season, they chose 4Wall’s new Vari-Lite VL4000s for front light, pairing them with quiet VL1100 TSD fixtures.
“The VL4000s are a great fixture,” said Smith. “The front wash has been a challenge because of brightness and intensity. I felt like I never had enough to balance out the stage, yet with the VL4000 I feel I have finally found a fixture that will do the job.”
Chroma-Q Color Force 72 battens were used to gently light the coffered ceiling and add ambient light, while pulling the audience and the stage together. Color Kinetics ColorBlasts were used as uplights to add color and dimension to the lower stage walls.
Meanwhile, VL3000 Q Spots were used for patterns on the flat walls, as well as the organ pipes. Lighting the beautiful accent features of the hall is essential according to Moerschel.
“I’ve always thought that was the most important thing we can do lighting wise, starting with the gold-trimmed proscenium and the organ pipes. The balconies also have ornate cast-iron railings and there are 16 Greek and Roman statues in niches over the second balcony that can be beautifully lit,” he said.
To light the musicians themselves, Martin MAC Auras were put in place as the overhead orchestra down light. “The musicians don’t seem to mind the saturated colors, and we can get some nice color washes with them,” said Smith.
The team also experimented this year with ETC Source 4 LED Lustr2s in anticipation of possibly replacing traditional Lekos for the Spring 2015 season. This would allow the color of the architectural elements to be easily changed.
One thing that won’t be changing during the Spring Pops season is the team’s equipment provider.
“We’ve had a great experience with 4Wall over the past several years,” said Moerschel. “Aside from Holiday and Spring Pops, we rent a package throughout the year to serve as a basic lighting package for Symphony Hall and The Shed at Tanglewood.”
“Their gear is always in great condition,” said Smith. “If something does malfunction, the shop either overnights the offending parts or an entire replacement. The service is amazing from the moment the list is confirmed, and the shop does a fantastic job prepping the order if we cannot send a representative. 4Wall is a company that we can trust and that cares about us. They treat us with the respect and appreciation that every client deserves from a rental house.”
For more information on Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops, visit www.bso.org