Milton Court, Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s new multi-million pound facility, boasts state-of-the-art AV and lighting
Stage Electrics has delivered the lighting, audio and video systems to Milton Court, Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s multi-million pound, state-of-the-art facility near its premises in Silk Street.
To ensure that it continued to offer students incomparable training in exceptional, modern facilities, the School’s aim was to update and expand its site, ‘future-proofing’ it for the next 25 years. The result is a venue which houses three rehearsal rooms, a television studio, a studio theatre, a 227-seat theatre and a 608-seat, world-class concert hall.
Stage Electrics supplied, installed and commissioned the lighting, audio and video infrastructure venue-wide which includes dimmer racks, data distribution, paging and show relay, plus custom-manufactured stage management desks, facility panels, lighting bars, ‘raceways’ and loose equipment.
The physical challenge of cramming so much into a tight space was a major consideration and it fell to Stage Electrics to create a number of bespoke solutions to meet the challenges as they arose.
These bespoke solutions include custom-designed facilities panels for sound, communications, production lighting and AV, along with company switches and power distribution units which carry single-phase and three-phase power. These have been generously placed throughout the building to increase flexibility. “This allows us to choose wherever we want to plug in chain hoists, floating variable speed winches, dimmers and our AU:Tour rack and to move them easily between venues,” says head of theatre technology, Steve Huttly. “It also gives us the vital opportunity to teach students about three-phase electricity.”
Unique magnetic cable hooks in the ceiling, which flip up out the way when not in use, and purpose-built cable passes which pierce the walls between auditoria and front-of-house areas were designed by Stage Electrics to handle the cable management in the public areas.
Stage Electrics equipped both the studio and theatre with a GDS blues system backstage, a house- and working-light system (controlled by an ETC Unison Paradigm), and ETC Sensor3 dimmers incorporating 3 kW and 5 kW dim and non-dim modules and ETC’s new ThruPower modules for production lighting. The latter can be switched remotely between dimmable and non-dim functions and were installed in anticipation of a greater use of LED fixtures.
Rehearsal, performance and house lighting can all be controlled directly from each venue’s lighting console or from a Stage Electrics customised panel with ETC touch screen interface which can be configured and programmed for all levels of technical ability.
Stage Electrics also fabricated IWBs and custom-built lighting ladders for the theatre, in addition to manufacturing portable dimming and power distribution solutions.
The specifications on loose equipment were kept deliberately open to allow Stage Electrics to supply the latest and best technology on the market as the building works reached completion. The top quality lighting inventory includes fixtures from leading manufacturers including ETC, Robert Juliat, Martin Professional, ADB, Philips Selecon and James Thomas Engineering. Sound equipment includes Yamaha mixing desks and processors in all venues, loudspeakers and amps from d&B and Martin in the studio and theatre, and self-powered Meyer speakers in the concert hall.
Precedence has been given to the quality of the acoustics in the concert hall which will be used regularly by the Guildhall School, The Barbican Centre and the BBC for recording purposes. Stage Electrics has fitted ETC Matrix MKII dimmers to eliminate filament noise and carried out acoustic testing on all lighting equipment. Purpose-built control racks and facilities panels incorporate connectors for BBC cameras which lead to a designated OB-truck parking position outside with data and camera links, all installed by Stage Electrics.
Stage Electrics also installed Sennheiser IR assisted hearing systems in all venues, which are more reliable and flexible than an induction loop, a ClearCom intercom system, and a show relay system with corridor speakers which have independent volume control and can switch between venues.
Stage Electrics’ bespoke concert manager and stage manager desks, designed in consultation with stage management tutors, have been tailored specifically for each venue, in dimensions as well as functions, with features that include dimmable white and blue lights, tactile, user-friendly buttons and AMX control of lighting and cameras.
“We have been able to react quickly to changing requirements and advancing technology to ensure the School received the most recent, highest specified equipment available,” says Stage Electrics project manager, Nick Broad. “It has been a highly technical project and we have enjoyed the challenges and creativity it brought us.”
“The high specifications of Milton Court enable us to reflect best practice, inject flexibility and longevity, and offer students the best facilities and equipment available,” says Huttly. “Stage Electrics did precisely what Theatre Projects requested and did it well.”
Photos: Morley von Sternberg