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David Howard Powers Many Facets of Myrkur with ChamSys
Europe – Like a physicist who turns a mind-boggling array of equations into a single, elegant theory, Danish sensation Myrkur captivates audiences by weaving wildly different musical influences into a single performance experience that is as beautiful in its simplicity as it is unsettling in its complexity. On her 2018 northern European tour, which ended 22 December, the gifted multi-instrumentalist dramatised the breadth of her musical vision by dividing her show into two distinct parts: the first devoted to traditional folk music, the second to black metal.
Despite this stark contrast, the show flowed seamlessly, driven by the artist’s passionate performance and supported by a multi-faceted production design by David Howard with a light show that was run on a ChamSys PC Wing.
“The show itself is split into two,” said Howard. “It starts with Folksange, a set of folk music from all over Europe played on traditional instruments. Afterwards, the stage falls to darkness before transitioning into an atmospheric black metal set. The show is designed to progress, with the metal set juxtaposing Folksange, but both have consistent design elements.
Key to creating this unifying design was the floor package that Howard created. Consisting of ten 'trees' of varying heights topped with LED tungsten-style lamps fitted with special RGB backlights fitted in custom-fabricated mounts, the design evoked images of a forest of light on stage.
To distinguish the two sections of the show, Howard used the LED filament for the folk portion and then turned down the intensity level with dynamic strobing and colour effects for the black metal set. To augment the compact floor package he relied on in-house rigs.
The tour passed though a very wide range of venues, some with an in-house rig of over 60 automated fixtures, and others with almost no house lights. “Using the resources at hand to make a show with the same level of atmosphere was sometimes challenging, given the wide discrepancy from venue to venue, but it proved to be a very rewarding experience,” said Howard.
Helping him meet this challenge was his ChamSys PC Wing. “Using ChamSys made it incredibly easy to exchange fixture profiles, which was invaluable in helping me manage the variety of in-house fixtures,” said Howard. “I programmed spot and wash information into the show file, then morphed this programming onto in-house heads during the get in and programming period. Being able to morph programming onto in-house heads sped up the programming period at each venue. Doing this allowed an overall more consistent show feel, even where venue size varied dramatically.”
The compact design of the ChamSys PC Wing also aided Howard on tour. “Given the size of the desk, I could do show updates in the tour bus,” he said. “This was a huge plus as the pre-production period was limited. Magic Vis made this incredibly easy too. It’s such a powerful built-in feature to have in a PC-based lighting package that aided pre-programming a great deal.”
Working with his floor package and assortment of house rigs, Howard was able to create an engaging multi-faceted show night after night that looked ethereally beautiful for the folk portion with warm colours, silhouettes and backlighting, then became more punchy with beams and gobos during the metal section.
“The transitional period between the sets consisted of a five-minute soundscape, where the lighting state transitioned from tungsten looks to a more aggressive aesthetic with glitchy and scattered bursts of flickering coloured light,” said Howard. “It was pleasing that this transition was picked up positively in reviews of the show.”
For Howard, the biggest reward wasn’t the reviews, but the feeling of mastering the demands of lighting a complex performance. “Being able to design and then fabricate a completely custom system lighting package, then translate this onto stages all over Europe was in itself very rewarding,” he said. “As a designer, you always want to light an artist who is atmospheric, and that’s certainly what we have in Myrkur.”
7th February 2019
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