Clair Solutions Builds Out Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame Theatre

As an institution, the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum is over 25 years old, but the building it’s housed in is brand new. It overlooks the Ohio River in downtown Owensboro, Kentucky and inspires visitors with interactive exhibits and bluegrass memorabilia. However, BMHFM also curates and promotes the best of contemporary bluegrass via its adjacent Woodward Theatre – a 450-seat purpose-built space for acoustic music. BMHFM worked with national AVL integration firm Clair Solutions to make the Woodward Theatre a state-of-the-art performance venue and production studio that is capable of broadcasting, editing, streaming, and archiving performances from hall of fame inductees and bluegrass’s rising stars. Specifically, Clair Solutions designed, installed, and commissioned the video, audio, lighting, and rigging systems for the Woodward Theatre.

“The folks who were responsible for the Woodward Theatre project were aware of the AVL work we did at the Franklin Theatre in Franklin, Tennessee,” explained Michelle Caron, theatrical lighting designer at Clair Solutions. “That project received a lot of press and accolades. The vision for Woodward Theatre was state-of-the-art technology and comforts, but with the usability of a good old fashioned roadhouse. They wanted touring musicians and engineers to feel right at home. Live music and touring are in our DNA. All of our audio, video, and lighting expertise is in-house, both on the design and installation sides. We don’t outsource any of it.”

The comprehensive video playback, capture, routing, and editing system starts with a Barco Digital Cinema DP2K-19B projector and integrated server – the same calibre technology one would find in a modern, high-end cineplex. Blu-ray playback is accompanied by full 7.1 surround sound for movies and video presentations, allowing BMHFM to not only show bluegrass-related content but also to provide art house cinema for the local Owensboro community. On the event-capture side, four Sony BRCX1000 high-definition pan/tilt/zoom cameras can be mounted and connected from numerous locations throughout the room. A full Avid Pro Tools HDX system provides multitrack recording and mixing capabilities. A Ross Video Carbonite video switcher system with XPression graphics playback and Ultrimix routing, paired with Atomos recorders, give BMHFM all the power it needs to create fantastic videos. Rather than hiding all of that technology away, the Woodward Theatre has a ‘fishbowl’ where visitors can watch the engineers working. Finally, Clair Solutions designed in splits and connectivity to give comprehensive audio and video feeds for broadcast trucks.

Clair Solutions designed the lighting at the Woodward Theatre so that it would be familiar to any tour manager or lighting tech. A High End Road Hog 4 lighting console serves as a familiar interface. Together with Elation Sixparr 200s, ETC Source Four LED and tungsten lights provide overall theatrical ambiance (with excellent camera pickup from the tungsten lights). High End Solaspot 1000 moving lights can amp things up when needed. ETC BlueBeam lights illuminate backstage and the catwalk egress. The rigging also provides plenty of opportunities for additional gear, and additional hang points even allow a tour to fly its own truss. Flexibility and adaptability are the watchwords, and Clair Solutions gave the Woodward Theatre plenty of power to meet any rider. Finally, an ETC Paradigm system provides control of the architectural lighting in the venue and the lobby.

To complement the room’s incredible acoustics, Clair Solutions used the high-fidelity, high-impact i208 line array system from its sister company, Clair Brothers. Their USLP218 subwoofers round out the low end, and musicians can get deep into the music onstage with eight Clair Brothers 1AM monitors. Lab.gruppen amplifiers power the system with a combination of integrated and stand-alone Lake DSP for loudspeaker conditioning, and QSC Q-Sys DSP handles overall signal conditioning and routing logic. A DiGiCo SD9 console provides a comfortable interface for any audio engineer. All audio signals are conveyed between equipment via a Dante system with a redundant analog backup.

Despite the tremendous scope of the job, the Clair Solutions team gracefully navigated delays and tight timelines that were imposed on them by other aspects of the overall project. “We dealt with the situation as it was,” explained Gaetan Rioux, senior AVL technician and project manager with Clair Solutions. “Early on, that meant providing advice and making decisions before they were ready with a contract. Other delays toward the end meant we couldn’t get in there to work until two months to deadline. We gathered the troops and worked through some weekends to make it happen.”

Chris Joslin, executive director of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum adds, “This fantastic venue is a music centric cultural center, so we are all about music with a mission. Nothing highlights the deep legacy of bluegrass more than live music and it energizes everything we do. The production capability we have through Clair Solutions enables us to deliver in the performance space, but also enables us to take the great performances far beyond the four walls of our theater through live streams and television. In addition, every great performance and program is archived, both visually and sonically, for the future. That kind of preservation work is at the very heart of our mission.”