Blackburn, UK based lighting rental company HSL supplied all lighting and necessary rigging – including 8 A&O 7K Falcon Beams and Flowers and over 100 Robe moving lights for a DVD and Holiday TV Special performance by Sting at Durham Cathedral.

Lighting designer for the two shows was Manfred “Ollie” Olma of Koln-based mo2 Designs. The show was presented by Sting backed by 35 guest musicians, including string and brass sections, and was staged in the heart of the magical site-specific environment of Durham Cathedral.

The Cathedral, dating back to 1093 is regarded as one of the finest examples of Norman architecture and is a designated UNESCO world Heritage Site along with nearby Durham Castle which faces it across Palace Green.

HSL project manager Mike Oates comments, “It was a great privilege to get the chance to work in such an amazing building and also with Ollie, who is one of the most respected LDs in the business. The project entailed huge challenges as this was the first gig of this scale that had been staged there, which produced some superlative teamwork between the production company, our crew and the Cathedral staff, resulting in a truly inspirational event”.

When Olma was commissioned to light the show, he specifically wanted to use Falcon searchlight and flower effects to accentuate the cathedral’s architecture in a unique and memorable way, both for the benefit of the cameras and the live TV audience.

HSL owns one of the largest stocks of A&O products in the UK, and so they were asked to quote on supplying all lighting and crew for the event.

Apart from rigging a large quantity of fixtures into an unusual venue, other challenges included the fact that as a place of worship and as a monument of historical interest, the Cathedral was open to the public throughout the get in, tech and rehearsal periods, all of which had to be co-ordinated so not to disrupt its busy service schedule.

The stage was positioned below The Crossing, right at the heart of the church

The key lighting was all achieved using Robe ColorWash 1200s which were attached to the columns around the Crossing and those nearest to it in the Nave on custom brackets. The fixtures were mounted 2 per column on bespoke steel bars, designed to take the distributed weight down to the ground, and these were strapped to the columns and tensioned using BB lever hoists.

To illuminate the Nave and Aisle, more ColorWash 1200s were rigged on top of their flight cases along to the edges of the Nave, and where possible concealed behind the pillars on both sides.

To back and side light the stage and highlight all the surrounding architecture, more Robe ColorWash 1200s were rigged on the triforium level, a 12 metre high balcony running around The Crossing area. Additional units were positioned in the Quire area behind the stage. The lighting here was also boosted by Robe ColorWash 2500E ATs, for potent cross stage washes from the floor and at height from the triforium.For the regular Evensong services taking place in the Quire, all the lights had to be removed and then reinstated during the tech and rehearsal periods.

The set was effectively the interior of the church, with its imposing arches, pillars, vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows – so it was essential that all these areas could be evenly highlighted for the 8 camera shoot. Oates comments, “Ollie was happy to work with Robes for all his key and architectural lighting – and they proved ideal for the job”.

The Falcons were positioned on the floor and in the air. In the High Altar/Quire area were 2 x 7K Flowers, shooting their beams directly down the Aisle/Nave from behind the stage. At the end of the east and west transepts (to the sides of the Crossing) there was a 7K Flower. stood on its flight case, skimming the orchestra’s heads and shooting up into the ceiling. At the back of the Nave was another 7K Flower, ideally placed to fire piercing multi-colour beams from the very back of the Cathedral down towards the stage.

For some extremely high-impact over-stage specials, a 7K Falcon Beam and a Flower were rigged 30 metres in the air from the Bell Tower, directly above The Crossing.

During the initial site visit, Oates, Olma and crew chief Simon “Piggy” Lynch noticed a serious looking I-beam and a 1000 Kg winch up in the bell tower! After consultation with the Cathedral’s Clerk of the Works Bob Matthews, they realised that this would make an ideal rigging point for the 800 Kgs worth of Falcons.

The lighting scheme was completed with 4 Vari*Lite 3500s positioned outside in weather domes, rear lighting the main rose window at the back of the church, which created a spectacular backdrop to the performance.

Olma and programmer Markus Janning ran the show on 2 grandMA full size consoles and 4 NSPs.

The HSL crew – Simon Lynch, plus Rupert Reynolds, Tim Oliver, Andy “Paris” Hilton, Gabriel Cross and Andy Burrell – arrived on site on the Sunday ahead of the first show on Thursday night. They worked with 10 locals from The Handball Crew in Manchester to get everything prepped and ready in time, an operation that went extremely smoothly.

Cable management required meticulous attention to detail. It had to be neat and tidy as well as completely flat and safe for the many public visiting the Cathedral during the day. HSL invested in 300 metres of black matting to ensure that all cables were as near-invisible as possible.

HSL also sub-contracted Fourth Generation to supply generated power for all lighting and production elements – which included sound provided by Audio Rent from Switzerland – for the duration.

“Sting: A Winter’s Night…” was directed and produced by the Emmy award winning team, Jim Gable and Ann Kim of Graying & Balding, Inc.

Date of issue : 29th October 2009.

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