For nearly thirty years, Durham Marenghi has been lighting Raymond Gubbay’s Classical Spectacular show. Marenghi is one of those few designers who really do not need any introduction to the reader. His designs for this production have enthralled audiences at the Royal Albert Hall for decades as he describes, “Classical Spectacular has developed from an all Parcan rig with me operating on a Celco Gold to the addition of Vari~lites on an Artisan desk. I believe that we had the first Vari~lite fixtures outside of Rock ‘n’ Roll from the VL1 upwards, through the LSD Icon control and fixtures and then on to a full automated system controlled by a grandMA from MA Lighting. Over the years we have created a massive library of musical pieces with many different rigs and the grandMA2 has converted a lot of this data into the current repertoire. I know of few other control systems that could have achieved this.”
With MA control at the heart of the design, Marenghi goes on to reflect on how the rest of the rig has developed. “Since those years of the Par64, my fixture choices have obviously moved on a little! These days it is a Clay Paky rig that creates what I am looking for. The Scenius range benefits from the CRI of the new OSRAM lamp which has a fantastic range across the spectrum and allows me to use saturated primary colours on the colour wheel even with a star field gobo; the effect is still visible. The new Scenius Unico allows me to create some almost laser like lines using the shutter blades and the great optics while the Scenius Spot model gives me a wide range of the gobo options to keep each of the twenty odd musical pieces looking different especially with that superb range and depth of colour choices.”
Sharpys remain a mainstay of Marenghi’s rig but the newly upgraded Mythos2 have impressed: “The new lamp has made all the difference to the Mythos; the upgrade is free from Clay Paky and Ambersphere Solutions. Just four fixtures were needed to light the massive Union Jack Kabuki drop that reached up from the organ level to the roof which says everything about their brightness and zoom range. I also make use of their versatility using them for gobos on the RAH Organ or as pinspots alongside the Sharpys.”
The unique space that is the RAH throws up all sorts of challenges for a lighting designer but few are more familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the hall than Marenghi. “It appears as a very intimate show space but in fact the throw distances involved are substantial to say the least. The Scenius and Mythos handle these kinds of throws with ease and in fact for some audience effects we have to dial them down quite a lot. For perfect key lights on singers and other featured artists, the Robert Juliat Cyrano followspots, operated by the highly skilled RAH Spot Operators, perform excellently. I can call for headshots and long fades or irises with confidence that there will be no issues with the mechanics of the fixtures.”
Just as the trusty Parcan has been consigned to the history books, lighting control has moved on apace as Marenghi reflects: “Back in the day we used to rent an arena at Londons Docklands to create a show which had its first performance on the evening of the get-in day at the RAH. This had a significant cost in terms of venue, equipment and crew and with the appearance of WYSIWYG from CAST lighting we moved into the virtual world using MA Lighting control.
Today the entire show is currently programmed by Ryan Hopkins in WYG and we make a few changes to the focuses on the morning of the show; the rig shapes are always complex and gravity has an influence on how fixtures hang in the real world as opposed to the virtual. The orchestra rehearse in the afternoon and then we open Pandora’s box in the evening!
“The rig design changes every second or third season so the show remains at the cutting edge of current technology; the grandMA2 control, the Robert Juliat followspots and the Claypaky range of fixtures shine brightly down onto a sometimes slightly bemused orchestra!”