8 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 1 - September 2014

  • Text
  • September
  • October
  • Toronto
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Theatre
  • Festival
  • Concerts
  • Symphony
  • Arts

Ready, Set...Houselights

Ready, Set...Houselights DownSARA CONSTANTOpening night of a concert season is something of a landmark moment, and one likely to havepresenters and concertgoers alike on the edge of their seats. The first show of the year acts asa beginning of sorts, setting the tone for the season ahead. And yet, a season opener is also inmany ways a culmination of the great work of preparation – the not-always-visible efforts ofthe myriad people who shape a musical project into its final, public form.We spoke with some of those behind-the-scenes music professionals whose work is just that – toensure that each concert of the season, for both audience and performers, happens just the way it should.Opening night, when the houselights go down and the curtain rises, is in fact a very different sort oflandmark for each individual involved – and for some, just another day on the job.What follows are conversations with a cluster of industry experts: the acoustician working on the TheIsabel, the hall in the new Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts at Queen’s University; the principalToronto Symphony Orchestra librarian backstage at Roy Thomson Hall; and two individuals whosesets and surtitles respectively, help give opera in Toronto its visual presence. As each prepares in his ownway for the onset of another season, they divulge the secrets of the job and reveal just how crucial thatbehind-the-scenes clockwork can be.So, as you enjoy your musical firsts of the upcoming concert season, be sure to keep an eye (or an ear)out for the handiwork of some of these industry experts. While you may not see them onstage underthe spotlights, you’ll know just what, at that moment, they might be up to.MEREDITH DAULTMatt Mahon, of Arup, runningacoustic tests at the Isabel.JOE SOLWAY, Arup Acoustician. As an acousticianfor engineering and design firm Arup,Joe Solway has taken on the role of acousticconsultant for the new addition to Queen’sUniversity in Kingston – the 566-seat performancehall at the Isabel Bader Centre for Performing Arts.When is the building’s big reveal?The big gala opening [an invitation-only event]is on September 20, and Queen’s has a studentopening on September 13.What is the process from your end to get readyfor that opening?A lot of it is now done. We’ve been coming upto the site throughout the whole constructionprocess, to check on all the different elements, andduring the process we’ve been testing the roomacoustically. We just had three days this week oftesting the acoustics and the audio-visual design.What do those types of tests involve?For the room acoustics test that we do in theperformance hall, we have a whole measurementkit. The main sound is a frequency sweep that weplay through a loudspeaker and then we capturethat using a special microphone called an ambisonic.It catches not only the level of sound but alsothe direction of where it’s coming from. It’s notonly the level or the frequency balance, but alsothe spacial components of the sound that is a keypart of the design, and a key part of what makes aroom special. We also have a starting pistol that weshoot as well, and a static white noise that we playthrough the loudspeaker, to measure variations inlevel across the room.How does it all start?The process really starts in design. We build a3D acoustic computer model of the space, wherewe input all the acoustical properties of the wallsand the seats and the ceiling and can simulate inthe model how it’s going to sound. We have a spacethat we built in our office called the SoundLab;it’s a listening room where we can simulatethe acoustics ofspaces that we’redesigning. A keypart of the processfor The Isabel was tomodel the space wewere designing tosimulate the acoustics,and then withQueen’s and thearchitects to listento that design aswe were designingit. The testing wasfrom the designbut then continuedinto the constructionprocess.How was yourplanning for thespace influenced bythe types of eventsit will host?Joe Solway (left) withcolleague Matt Mahon (right)in the lobby of the Isabel.The shape and the form of the room camedirectly out of the programming meetings withQueen’s. From the outset of the project, we satdown with Queen’s faculty and defined a matrixof usage times. We said the hall would be primarilyfor chamber groups but still had to accommodatethe symphony orchestra of the university, andeverything from jazz to Brazilian samba to amplifiedsound use for film. From that, we sketchedout what the basic shape and form needed tobe for those functions. The architects took thosebuilding blocks, if you will, and based their designon those parameters. I think the reason why we’reso happy with the design is that Snøhetta areamazing at taking those design parameters andthen fully integrating them into their architecturalvision. Really, the acoustical properties aretotally embedded in the architectural design. That12 | September 1, 2014 – October 7, 2014

doesn’t always happen. You don’t always have such a harmony of architectureand acoustics, but I think here we have a design where both areworking together.Is your job done now?Part of the analysis of the data that we just took involved measuringthe room. We have acoustical drapery that can be deployed at each levelin the room to change the acoustics, so the final step is to analyze thatdata and to advise the technical director on how different configurationscan be deployed for different kinds of performances.Even though the design is finished, the life of this building is juststarting – and how it actually gets used will change over time, so wewant to be there to advise Queen’s as those needs and uses change. I’ll beback at least for the gala opening on the 20th and for the first professionalconcert on the 21st, and also to get feedback: on how the building is beingused, and from performers’ and audiences’ reactions to the space. Tohear that feedback is essential for closing the loop on the design process.GARY CORRIN, Toronto Symphony Orchestra Principal LibrarianHow long in advance do you work on organizing a concert andputting it together?I like to make music available to musicians three working weeks beforethe first rehearsal. That’s just sort of a benchmark … For each concert Iload anything necessary to play that concert in a folder, and that folder isavailable to musicians…We probably do an average of two shows a weekand I have an old set of shelves here that has five slots in it. And basicallyI just try to keep them filled. So to summarize it, whether you thinkof it in weeks or not, musicians usually have music available to themabout four concerts in advance.I guess that means, for you, a great deal of multitaskinginvolved.Right. For some concerts I know up to a year in advancewhat the program is going to be and I work on that alldifferent ways. For instance, if we have a guest conductorthat I see in March and I know he’s coming back in February,by then I’ve already seen what his program is and I can askhim some very specific questions about that … so I tell peopleI’m working anywhere from three minutes to three years inadvance on things in any given day.At the moment that the concert is starting, is there anysense of the pressure being off, or are you already justthinking of all the other things you have on the go?It’s really the first rehearsal, because that’s when everybodyshows up and we’ve got to have all the parts and theright editions. So by the time the first concert shows up, Iguess I’m probably the most relaxed person in the orchestra.My work is pretty much done by that time. I have some ceremonialtasks for the concert, like putting the conductor’sscore onstage, setting up the folders and cleaning them up,but largely it’s getting through the rehearsal that’s my stressful part. I’mthe guy who by opening night is looking way past opening night. I’mhere and I’m doing stuff that people see, but really my concern is threeweeks to three months in the future. That’s what I’m working on, duringopening night. I will be sitting here listening to a monitor of the concertand enjoying that, and working probably on bowings, or something.What I like to tell people is that there are 80 to 100 people on stageand my job as a librarian is to make sure that their time in rehearsal isspent effectively. That means rehearsing, and not figuring out issues inthe printed music. If you back that up, any piece could have a problemthat I may need to solve ahead of time.So it really is a “wearing many hats at once” kind of thing.Sure. You know, here’s the deal: librarians in an orchestra or operasetting are responsible for anything to do with those printed pages thatthe musicians are looking at. Now, those printed pages dictate what’sgoing to go on onstage, because if it isn’t on the page, they don’t play it –hopefully! And so if there’s something wrong with those pages, there’skind of a mess at the rehearsal. There’s also a lot of information thatarises out of those pages, like how many horn players we need, howmany trumpet players … that’s one of the first questions that everybodywants to know in their planning. So, many hats? It’s funny – I don’t doall this stuff, but I’m kind of in charge of recruiting people and alertingTORONTOMASQUETHEATREThe PerformingArts in FUSION2014 / 2015 SEASONThree timeless storiesThe Soldier’s Tale by StravinskyOctober 25-26, 2014Acis and Galatea by HandelJanuary 15-17, 2015Les Indes Mécaniques based onRameau’s Les Indes GalantesMay 14-15, 2015Masque in the heart of Photo: Haney September 1, 2014 – October 7, 2014 | 13

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