The grandMA family of consoles demonstrated their versatility when lighting designer Tom Halpain selected them for multi-Grammy Award-winning Harry Connick, Jr.'s current US tour which included a sold out 15-performance Broadway concert engagement, his first in 20 years. A.C.T Lighting is the exclusive distributor of the grandMA in North America.
The "Your Songs" tour is crossing the world in support of Connick's eponymous album released last fall. He brought the tour to Broadway's Neil Simon Theatre in July where the last two performances were recorded live for television.
Halpain, who has worked with Connick on tour since 2003 and has an extensive credit roster of tours with other artists plus TV shows and special events, began the tour with a grandMA then migrated to the full-size grandMA2 when vendor MAS Lighting acquired the new model. "The grandMA was a great console, but we fell in love with the grandMA2 when we had to reprogram the show for Broadway," Halpain explains. "And now we've taken the grandMA2 light out for the rest of the tour."
Halpain, who also serves as lighting director and programmer for the tour, notes that Connick has no set list for his concerts. "He hates being confined. We know the first song, then he calls them out as he goes along. We need a desk that's flexible so we can easily jump from song to song."
To accommodate Connick's on-the-fly approach Halpain treats each of the artist's songs as its own page. "He calls them out, I hit the page and away we go. We can have eighty active songs on a tour, and I need to be able to access any of them at a moment's notice. Sometimes it's just Harry and a trio or quartet with improv, which means I may have to busk completely. I have to be able to take a trio look and build on it quickly. Flexibility is key."
Halpain points out that Connick likes to keep up with the latest technology for every aspect of his show. "The band members have computers using the proprietary Connick Viewer(tm) for their sheet music - they're in the same boat we're in where the ability to move around quickly is of the utmost importance. We're not using any conventional fixtures for Harry - only moving lights and LEDs. It's a smaller rig but very well laid out and utilized."
The complement of fixtures used for Connick's Broadway performances included 10 Martin Mac 2000 Profiles, 15 Mac 700 Profiles, 17 Mac 700 Washes, 16 Mac 2000 Washes and 25 Mac 301 Washes plus four VARI*LITE 3500s, 30 Pixel Line 1044s, eight Pixel Line 110ECs, eight Pixel Line Pixel PAR 90Ls and 23 Elation Elar 108 PARs. All were supplied by MAS Lighting.
Although Halpain had no training on the grandMAs, he downloaded the PC version of the software and figured them out for himself. "The learning curve is very fast," he reports. "If you can read a manual, you can run this console. The grandMA2, especially, seems to be very user friendly; you need very little hand movement to access what you need - everything is right there. The patching is great, too."
His grandMA experience has been so positive that he says, "I don't see myself using anything else in the near future. I definitely believe the grandMA2 will become the industry standard."
Lighting designer Ted Wells was brought it to help design the lighting for the multi-camera recording of the Broadway concert for TV. George "Chip" Davis was head electrician and John Robison the tech for the "Your Songs" tour and Broadway run.
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