Cincinnati Music Hall Modernizes With ETC While Preserving History

Cincinnati Music Hall installs new lighting system
(Matthew Zory) Photo credit: Matthew Zory

Built in 1878, Cincinnati Music Hall has long housed performances by the Cincinnati Ballet, Symphony Orchestra, Opera and more. Its ornate architectural features earned the building its status as a National Historic Landmark. Nearing 40 years since its most recent renovation, the venue needed a major remodeling to improve its infrastructure and audience experience.

“The renovation was driven by a desire to improve acoustics and enhance production opportunities,” said Michael Burgoyne, a theatre consultant of Schuler Shook who worked on the project.

Glenn Plott, director of production for the Cincinnati Opera, noted, “We wanted to update our electrical infrastructure, while preserving the original aesthetic of our central chandelier and proscenium.”

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The Opera in particular was sensitive to dimming, color temperature and light quality of the venue’s iconic chandelier and proscenium lights. ETC was able to meet their high quality demands with ArcLamp. The LED fixture marries the energy-saving aspects of LEDs with ultra-smooth dimming. The theatre can still go to absolute zero without any steps in dimming.


ETC and the project’s architect and consultant took additional steps to preserve the lighting aesthetic that had framed the stage for years. The LEDs matched the color, but individual emitters were causing hotspots. To achieve the right dispersion effect with reflected light, ETC custom painted the fixtures with a gold crown to replicate the look of the original silver bowl incandescent bulbs.

ETC’s power solutions made even more changes possible. “To have a building that wasn’t even built for electricity to now be converted to the latest LED technology—that’s an impressive path to chart,” added Plott.

The circuit count doubled during the renovation, driven both by constant and dimmed power needs. The electrical overhaul added new lighting positions at the balcony rail and ceiling as well as wiring that met modern code. The addition of dimmed circuits provided permanent power to “temporary” positions that had been in use for years. And the 15 new Echo Relay Panels from ETC supply 120 volt and 208 volt constant power to new lighting positions to power moving lights and LED show lights.

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“The ArcLamp system could utilize the existing wiring and still meet code. This allowed the venue to keep those historic elements, while saving time and money,” said Matt Klasmeier, lead field service technician at Vincent Lighting Systems, the systems integrator for the project.

Stage management also benefited from the renovation with an entirely new CueSystem. The stage manager can now trigger commands on individual cue light channels, or control multiple channels at once. Cue lights are now installed in many more locations, giving the production team increased flexibility.

The renovation extended to front of house staff as well. A new Paradigm system controls the chandelier, proscenium and house lights, with five Touchscreen stations positioned around the theatre giving staff easy access to presets and more.

Plott concluded, “With this project, were able to deliver a space that still looked and felt like Music Hall, but accepted all the modernizing in a gracious way.”

Manufacturer: ETC
Theatre consultant: Schuler Shook
Systems integrator: Vincent Lighting Systems
Electrical contractor: ESI

Balcony Rail:
440 - 2700K E26 Clear Globe ArcLamps

120 - Custom 2700K E26 Globe ArcLamps with Gold Top

99 - 2700K E12 Clear Candle ArcLamps

Corbett Tower Chandeliers:
113 - 2700K E12 Clear Candle ArcLamps
13 - 2700K E26 Clear Candle ArcLamps

24 - CueSystem Spiders
1 - CueSystem 12way Desktop
1 - CueSystem Rackmount Playback Unit
9 - Bluebeam 20deg fixtures
1 - 6-Zone BluesSystem Power Supply

Additional Items:
20 - Echo Relay Panels
Paradigm architectural lighting control system
6 - 700W ArcLamp Drivers
3 - 350W ArcLamp Drivers

Photo credit for first image: Matthew Zory

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