Arts Commons uses downtime to upgrade lighting

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Ayrton lighting fixtures and Robert Juliat followspots have been procured from Sapphire Sound by Arts Commons in downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The multivenue arts centre, formerly EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts, is one of the three largest arts centres in Canada. It has five theatres and a concert hall, is home to six resident companies and hosts a wide array of guest performers annually. While Arts Commons is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the centre has been busy upgrading and expanding its lighting inventory in anticipation of reopening.

For the Jack Singer Concert Hall, 16 Ayrton Huracan-X and four Ayrton Diablo-S fixtures were purchased. This is the largest venue in the centre, with capacity to seat 1,800 people. It is the permanent home of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and features the 6,040-pipe Carthy Organ.

Three Ayrton Mistral-TCs have been installed in the Engineered Air Theatre, a 185-seat space used for concerts, films, plays, weddings, receptions and galas. In addition, a pair of Robert Juliat 800W LED Arthur followspots have been added to the 750-seat Max Bell Theatre, home to Theatre Calgary.

The Jack Singer Concert Hall at Arts Commons

The Jack Singer Concert Hall at Arts Commons

During the upgrade process, Brian Cloutier, in sales and design for lighting at Sapphire Sound, worked with Kris Ladd, head of lighting at Arts Commons, providing equipment for demos and shootouts and furnishing the fixtures selected for the three venues. “Kris knows what he wants, which makes it very easy for me,” said Cloutier. “I’ve also had a long relationship with ACT Lighting, and they give us amazing support for everything we purchase.”

Ayrton’s Huracan-X fixtures have become the main profiles for the Jack Singer Concert Hall. “Our current fixtures, bought when LED moving lights were a new thing, are RGBW lights that produce excellent colours but not very bright white,” said Ladd. “White sources, on the other hand, tend to lose intensity on colours, and most can’t make red. I wanted something that was a lot brighter in the white and enabled me to mix a red. A lot of our orchestra shows call for us to fade colours, so I need to be able to mix to that colour. With Huracan-X I can get a nice red and very bright white. I can even use a whole bunch of colour flags, multiple layers of gobos and animation wheels and still get good intensity that really punches through.”

The new Huracans allow Ladd to get full stage washes of gobos, too. All 16 fixtures are mounted on several trusses on dollies so they are ready to go for concerts.

“ACT Lighting’s support of Ayrton made these fixtures a viable option for us,” said Ladd. “I had looked at Ayrton products before ACT began distributing them but knowing that ACT was behind them made me feel comfortable that this would be a good purchase for us.”

Ladd also added Diablo-S fixtures to the concert hall. “They are the smallest, full-featured LED profiles I could find,” he explained. “I will tuck them into the canopy for specials, especially with the orchestra.”

A large, laminated spruce-wood acoustical canopy is suspended over the stage; it can be raised or lowered to tune the hall according to the specific needs of each performer.

“Before, if the orchestra did a pop show with lead singers there was no way to highlight the singers, to make them separate out from the orchestra without adding ugly truss,” said Ladd. “Now, with Diablos in the canopy, we can give them a full wash.”

Both the Huracan-X and Diablo-S fixtures are “extremely quiet in silent mode, which is very important for the orchestra”, added Ladd.

The Engineered Air Theatre at Arts Commons

The Engineered Air Theatre at Arts Commons

In the Engineered Air Theatre, which has no permanent company and hosts a variety of shows year-round, Ayrton Mistral-TCs are hung from the grid above the stage. “We needed a fixture to add more interest and jazz up a show,” said Ladd. “Given the small size of the theatre these lights are as big as I could go, but they are still a full-featured LED in a small and lightweight package. Three Mistrals will easily fill the whole stage. I looked at cheaper options; everything else that size typically did not have enough features, but the Mistrals had everything.”

The Arthur LED long-throw followspots from Robert Juliat replace followspots installed in the front-of-house cove in the Max Bell Theatre for its opening in 1985.

Prior to the closing of Arts Commons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ladd tried out Robert Juliat’s 600W Oz followspot in search of a medium- or long-throw spot for greater intensity. “Oz was tempting; it was brighter than what we had, but we felt we needed a little more intensity and wanted an LED instead of an arc source,” said Ladd. “We were fortunate that Arthur, an 800W LED, came out soon after and was everything we needed!”

A long-time ACT Lighting customer, Arts Commons is eager to reopen and put its new fixtures to work. “ACT gives us quick and efficient service,” said Ladd. “They are always ready to respond right away when we need them.”

Ryan Hindinger, director of sales logistics at ACT Lighting, facilitated the Arts Commons sale. ACT Lighting is the exclusive distributor of Ayrton and Robert Juliat in North America.

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Izzy became editor of Auditoria magazine in 2018, having previously served as assistant editor on the title earlier in her career. She is also the editor of Business Jet Interiors International, Railway Interiors International and new launch Cruise Liner Interiors International. Over the course of a decade as a business-to-business magazine editor, Izzy has covered everything from airline catering to car safety technologies, autonomous vehicles and business aviation airports. Outside of work, Izzy loves watercolour painting, live music and travel.

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