City of Birmingham Orchestra celebrates 100th Birthday with socially-distanced 75-piece performance watched around the world

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Birmingham-based companies Outdoor Places and Unusual Spaces (OPUS), JA Productions and Production Resource Group (PRG) partnered with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) to deliver their first full 75-piece socially distanced orchestral performance since lockdown began, at PRG’s Live Stage facility in Longbridge, reaching an international audience.

The performance by the CBSO was staged to commemorate their 100th birthday celebrations and was streamed free of charge on YouTube and Facebook. So far it has had over 170,000 views and received global positive support. The performance, which is believed to be the largest gathering of musicians seen since lockdown, conducted by former CBSO Music Director Sir Simon Rattle.

The closure of the Birmingham Symphony Hall earlier this year meant that the CBSO’s centenary birthday celebrations were unable to take place. At a time when the live event industry has gone dark with a ban on mass gatherings, safety of all involved was paramount. John Adkins, Managing Director of JA Productions and long-time collaborator, visited the PRG Live Space facility back in June and immediately saw the potential for the Orchestra – it was the perfect place to shoot a livestream with over 75 performers, all whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Birmingham-based independent arts producer and OPUS Managing Director Caroline Davis has a long-standing relationship with the CBSO. OPUS worked alongside the orchestra to develop the concept and delivery model leading the creative production team, including digital content creators Takt.

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PRG supplied the studio set up including; a 40m2 3mm Black Onyx LED Video wall which showcased bespoke content that celebrates the CBSO’s centenary as an Orchestra of Firsts, over 150 automated lighting fixtures, PRG Ground Control™ Follow Spot units and full HD cameras. PRG also supplied the post-production edit suite and set up a fully backed-up livestream via LAN satellite and high-speed internet to ensure minimal disruption. 5 guest artists dressing rooms, a technical production office, personal space for guest artists to warm up in private and socially-distanced break out areas for each of the 75 members of the orchestra.

Everyone involved in the CBSO Centenary was temperature checked on arrival with PRG’s proprietary “Smartxcan” Temperature scanners. To ensure additional safety for everyone in the building, PRG also brought in an air handling unit to regulate and circulate the air, in line with requirements.

Managing Director of OPUS, Caroline Davis said: “We were delighted to conceive this event for the CBSO and ensure that they had a celebration befitting their 100th birthday. We identified an opportunity for the Orchestra, having seen the potential impact that live streams have offered the arts. We felt a virtual performance was the key to enabling the celebrations to go ahead without further delay and bring music back to people’s lives, albeit in their living rooms than a concert hall.”

Vice President of Event Services at PRG, Richard Gorrod said: “It was an honour to be part of this celebration. Everything went smoothly from start to finish and the production team and Orchestra management were a pleasure to work with from day one back in July. An enormous amount of pre-production is required for a ground-breaking event like this. Although PRG has vast experience in all types of events, each one is unique and poses its own set of challenges. I am pleased to say we overcame these challenges and provided solutions for everything from air handling to acoustic reflection, whilst providing state of the art lighting and video systems of course!”

Chief Executive of City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Stephen Maddock said: “The Orchestra have had a flood of positive well-wishes and messages from our audiences, board, staff and international equivalents from across the world, saying how much they enjoyed the Centenary celebrations. The figures show the incredible reach our music making can have. The planning, management and support we had from these local companies meant that we were able to overcome a multitude of challenges to get the orchestra back playing again and we have taken huge strides forward in our digital programming capability.”

Managing Director of JA Productions, John Adkins said: “We have worked with OPUS on a number of major events and we have a long-standing relationship with the CBSO, to assist with the technical production of their performances. It was a great pleasure to be part of this project and challenge our current circumstances to deliver a world class digital performance for a world class orchestra. The collaboration brought together a perfect harmony of skills and we are pleased to see how successful it has been.”

The CBSO’s 100th Birthday Celebration is available on Vimeo, to stream FREE until 30th September.

www.cbso.co.uk/cbso100