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Guildhall School of Music & Drama at Milton Court


Install Awards Finalist 2014Milton Court, Guildhall School of Music and Drama's state-of-the-art facility near its Silk Street premises, is part of a multi-million pound development by Heron International. It houses a 608-seat, world-class Concert Hall, a 227-seat theatre, a Studio Theatre, a television studio and three rehearsal rooms.

Stage Electrics has supplied, installed and commissioned the lighting, audio and video systems 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 School wanted to update and expand its site to ensure it continued to offer its students incomparable training in exceptional, state-of-the-art facilities. "The project has been at least ten years in planning during which time we thought through every aspect of each venue to ensure our specifications would future-proof it for the next 25 years,' says Guildhall's Head of Theatre Technology, Steve Huttly.

The project has not been without its challenges with the physical challenge of cramming so much into a tight space being a major consideration. "Theatre Projects has encouraged a collaborative design process which has been rewarding for those involved," says Stage Electrics Technical Project Manager, Nick Broad, who has responsibility for successfully delivering the programme. "It led us to contribute a number of bespoke solutions to meet challenges as they arose."

Bespoke Solutions
Stage Electrics 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 aid flexibility. "Now we can plug in chain hoists, floating variable speed winches, dimmers and our AU:Tour rack wherever we choose and move them easily between venues," says Huttly. "It also gives us the vital opportunity to teach students about three-phase electricity."

Cable management for these temporary installs are handled in the public areas by unique magnetic cable hooks designed by Stage Electrics to flip up out the way when not in use. Cables are fed through purpose-built cable passes which pierce the walls between auditoria and front-of-house areas.

Stage Electrics equipped both 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 with 3kW and 5kW dim and non-dim modules and ETC's new ThruPower modules. The ThruPower modules can be switched remotely between dimmable and non-dim functions and were installed in anticipation of a greater use of LED fixtures. Stage Electrics also fabricated IWBs and custom-built lighting ladders for the Theatre, in addition to manufacturing portable dimming and power distribution solutions.

Loose equipment
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.

Rehearsal, performance and house lighting can all be controlled directly from each venue's lighting console (an ETC Gio in the Studio and Theatre, a GrandMA 2 Light in the Concert Hall, each with a spare for backup) or from a Stage Electrics customised panel with ETC touch screen interface which can be configured and programmed for all levels of technical ability.

Milton Court SM DeskSound equipment in the Studio and Theatre consists of a Yamaha LS9-16 and a Yamaha LS9-32 mixing desk respectively, d&b loudspeakers speakers and amps, Martin surround sound speakers and a Yamaha DME 64 processor. The Concert Hall operates with a Yamaha M7CL-48 mixing desk and a full, self-powered Meyer speaker system.

Quality of acoustics takes precedence 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.

"Stage Electrics was on site for two years with our Site Manager, David Squire, controlling day to day requirements and working closely with Theatre Projects' Project Manager, John Riddell," says Broad. "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. It has been a highly technical programme and we have enjoyed the challenges and creativity it brought to us."

"The high specifications of Milton Court enable us to reflect best practise, 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

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