Since opening just more than a year ago, Washington Park has become the go-to venue for everything from concerts to fundraisers. Now, Music Hall’s tenants who call the park “our front yard” are gearing up for LumenoCity, a musical and visual collaboration that is the first of its kind in the world, featuring the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Music Hall itself.
In the second half of each outdoor concert, Maestro Louis Langrée, the CSO’s new musical director, will lead the orchestra in a 40-minute soundtrack to accompany an extraordinary visual experience known as architectural mapping. Three-dimensional graphics will be projected onto the façade of Music Hall, interacting with its architectural details, causing the building to appear in motion. YouTube has hundreds of examples of the mapping, but none last longer than 10 minutes and none are accompanied by a live symphony orchestra.
The idea grew out of the CSO’s discussions about a city celebration of Langrée’s appointment. Tim Maloney, president and CEO of the Haile U.S. Bank Foundation (which supports arts and culture, education, human services and community development in Greater Cincinnati), says the foundation’s support of video projection programs was a catalyst. “I thought it would be fun to light up Music Hall and when we connected with Landor Associates, we brought a team together.”
Landor Associates, an international corporation with a Cincinnati office, is known for brand imaging, corporate identity and package design, along with a strong commitment to creative initiatives. Architectural mapping falls squarely into that niche, one that is complex and costly.
“We map different details of the architectural nuances, using specific imagery in motion graphics and light to very specific areas of the building,” explains Dan Reynolds, Landor creative director who heads the media design division. “We showed the CSO managers what it means to do this hyper-accurate projection on the side of a building using the language of animation, cinema, light and form.”
CSO staff embraced the project, and so did Maestro Langrée. Reynolds says that his passion for visual art is matched by Langrée’s passion for music and anything audio-related.
“That makes it a genuine collaboration,” he says, “since we’re taking the music into ways we’ve never heard before.”
The selections chosen by Langrée range from the familiar to unexpected sections of classic works: Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra;” passages from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 (not the opening section) and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4; and ending with Ravel’s relentless “Bolero.”
Reynolds and Landor executive creative director Steve McGowan would not divulge details of the mapping but they shared technical details. “We’re using 12 gigantic cinema-style projectors that will throw 400,000 lumens (a measure of a visible beam of light) onto Music Hall,” Reynolds says. The process is constantly being refined — “We’re working in wet clay,” says McGowan, — and the logistics are staggering. But excitement far outweighs trepidation.
And so does financial support. Major funding comes from the Haile Foundation, Procter & Gamble and several individuals, foundations and corporations. McGowan also notes that LumenoCity is being created entirely in Cincinnati. Bids were sent out nationally for production elements such as sound design, and local companies such as Prestige Audio submitted proposals that were not only competitive but also made efforts to work for the city.
LumenoCity signals a sea change in the CSO’s attitude to remaining a vital cultural force over the coming decades. Orchestras face challenges as audiences dwindle, age and seek out other options. Haile Foundation’s Maloney acknowledges that, in addition to being unique entertainment, LumenoCity can propel community discussion of the arts and even performance spaces.
“We wanted this to be a way of celebrating the performing companies inside of Music Hall,” Maloney says, “to celebrate Washington Park and to literally illuminate Music Hall so that we can bring attention to how we figure out its restoration. And there’s a need for experimentation, giving patrons a different experience that accompanies Classical music.”
The CSO’s upcoming season includes experiments with standard Classical fare that are absolutely necessary, according to CSO President Trey Devey.
“We have traditional orchestral repertoire paired with choreography and mesmerizing multimedia photochoreography.” Devey says. “In March, MusicNOW will collaborate in ways never seen before.”
Indeed. Maestro Langrée’s first concert in November combines poet Maya Angelou with the acclaimed ensemble eighth blackbird. The MusicNOW concerts feature Bryce and Aaron Dessner of Rock band The National, premiering and performing their own works.
LumenoCity will continue to shine its light after this weekend. “Since we’re capturing the entire project from beginning to end in audio and video, we’ll have the ability to rebroadcast the concert and share elements on YouTube,” Devey says. CET is producing a documentary and Devey promises multiple opportunities to re-experience LumenoCity.
Running throughout the conversations with involved parties is unabashed pride in Cincinnati, the creative forces at work and the collective wish to forge a stronger sense of community. “This is us,” McGowan says. “We’re very proud of the fact that every bit of this is home-grown. People in the neighborhood have come out while we’re doing test runs and they’re so happy that this being done by local companies who care about this city.”
“This city isn’t known for media design and there’s so much talent here,” Reynolds adds. “We hope we’ll all become better known for this broader way to communicate.”
“This is the first time anything like
this has been attempted anywhere in the world,” Devey says. “It is such a
great way to welcome Maestro Langrée and usher in a new era for the
arts in Cincinnati. It’s not just the musicians or our arts partners
welcoming him — the entire community will be gathering for a shared
LUMENOCITY will be presented for free at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Washington Park. More: cincinnatisymphony.org.