October 21, 2019 2 min read
The seasonal shift into Autumn 2019 happened at the wave of the conductor's baton. When we were contacted by Aurora Orchestra about designing masks for their live broadcast of Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique" at Proms 2019, we knew it was going to be a milestone. The criteria presented some substantial challenges. With their bold silhouettes our Devil, Stag, Bat and Horned Skull Masks perfectly fit the look and feel of the performance, but they needed to be reworked for orchestral performance.
Here we see a bit of design brief specs to optimise the masks for the musicians
Working closely with Production Designer Kate Wicks, Steve enlarged eye-holes for visibility of the conductor, opened up nostrils and removed jaws for breath-ability and instrument access. It was also critical for the musicians to be able to hear what was happening onstage, so Steve left the ears exposed on the Stags, Skulls, Imps and Bats. The seemingly subtle differences between these and their previous forms were actually a real challenge to design to ensure performance-ready masks. They were completely redesigned to maintain strength and structural integrity during the performance.
Derived from our Devil Mask, the Imp is a smaller, airier descendent, ready for the stage
The Imp Mask had some unique design challenges and critical criteria to be met. The violinists had to be able to get their instrument under the chin, so the jaw had to go. The masks also had to endure two nights of passionately played music, so a few structural tweaks were employed to ensure the integrity of the form under vigorous conditions. Due to the massive scale of the venue, Kate chose masks with horns for the stage to make sure the audience wouldn't miss the theatrical aspect of the performance.
In this photo Steve took at the legendary Royal Albert Hall, we see the venue from the gallery on the fifth floor
Opened by Queen Victory in 1871, the Royal Albert Hall is one of the most treasured and distinctive buildings in the UK. The Proms has been an iconic orchestral event there since 1941, so to have our masks onstage was a true honour. The performance was broadcast live from the unbelievable atmosphere and unmatched acoustics in the purpose-built venue. You can watch the finale, "Witches Sabbath" performed from memory by Aurora Orchestra below. See if you can spot Steve and Marianne in the audience.
Just before this final number, the masks were handed out by a procession bearing Steve's Drum Lamps, which represented the moon in the performance
We'd like to thank Kate Wicks, the team at RAH and of course the astonishing musicians of Aurora Orchestra for making our masks part of this unforgettable orchestral theatre production. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a career highlight. We liked the new masks so much that we decided to release them in time for Halloween 2019. The Imp and the Devil's Drummer commemorate the event and you can build them by clicking the image below.