Michael Kerschner / Artistic Director

Guest Post: Designing The Visual for Songs Sacred

This guest post comes to us from Jason Fuges, the designer behind our recent website relaunch, and a YNYC Board Member, who brings a strong creative voice to the table. In our recent concert Songs Sacred, Jason designed an innovative multi-media landscape to compliment our music.

Visual notes on “Songs Sacred”

Michael Kerschner and I have discussed for over a year our desire to produce a concert that added visual elements beyond our regular setup. We both knew this would require a lot of time, energy and fundraising. After reaching out to a number of potential sponsors, I was able to secure funding to produce a complete production experience through video projection and enhanced lighting. It was quite a task to manage this project on our first time out, but we learned a lot of extremely valuable lessons for the next time we have a go at it.

In any kind of theatrical event, lighting can define the frame or context for an audience’s experience. Many times it determines the atmosphere instantaneously. You see this at rock concerts all the time. A ballad might be displayed on stage with minimal lighting–narrow spotlights on the singers/performers with a backdrop of deep, cobalt blue. A big anthem might have the stage blindingly bright, while colors pour off in every direction. I knew that it was going to be hard to pull off creating an atmosphere (context) to experience this music given our budget, but I thought if we positioned the lighting creatively, and made smart decisions with color and texture, we would be able to create something rather beautiful with the little we had. Between the 11 lighting instruments and the video projections, I think we pulled it off.

Two main lighting “looks” were created, one for each half of the concert. The warm orange/yellow “look” was created for the first half, and the layered, icy-blue “look” was created for the second half. The success of these “looks” was enhanced greatly by the use of a haze-making machine that we rented. Putting theatrical haze in the church allowed the light to cut through the haze in the air, showing you not only the final resting place of the where the light traveled, but more importantly, the path that the light took on its way there. This was designed to create moments where it looked like there was a canopy of light coming up from behind the choir.

The projections were both designed to keep narrative at bay, and allow the mind to find its own path along with the music. The first projection, “Our Shells”, was adjusted to black and white from a color version, and edited to have a slower speed than the original. This projection was paired with the warm orange/yellow “look” in the first half. The projection in the second half was a live-mix video created specifically for the second Arvo Part piece by EyeBodega, a video artist team that had been working to create something atmospheric for the evening. This live-mixed projection was paired with the icy-blue lighting “look”.

All together, we were happy with the way it turned out. It was quite an effort for a singular performance. We look forward to being able to work on another concert in the future where we can match what happens on stage musically with a beautiful visual atmosphere.

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