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2Cellos embark on 2019 Let There Be Cello Tour

Louise Stickland • May 2019Tour Lighting • May 3, 2019

The rear LED wall moved up and down. Photos by Crt Birsa


2Cellos traveled the U.S. from February to mid-April, performing in support of their Oct. 2018 album release, Let There Be Cello. The two cellists, Luka Šulić from Slovenia and Stjepan Hauser from Croatia, have been thrilling fans with their unique crossover style that puts the often-underrated cello in the spotlight, offering up a lively mega-mix of raucous rock and perfect pop along with classical and film music.

Their lighting designer is Crt Birsa from Slovenia … a small and stunningly beautiful country nestled between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia which has everything — mountains, lakes, coastline, history, culture, architecture, dynamism and modernity — and a sustainable population of two million. Slovenia is also known for its talented artists, musicians and singers.

Crt Birsa – image by Dusan Kranjc

‡‡         A Musical Background

Crt’s own path into the industry started as a musician — he’s played guitar in bands and has been writing music since age 12. When studying Graphical Technology at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Engineering in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s vibrant capital, he started working with a sound and lighting rental company, DEGA Systems, to earn extra money.

Initially he did everything for shows and events — sound, lighting, rigging — but once he started operating the lighting console, his natural and highly rhythmic style caught everyone’s attention — including his own.

Realizing that he enjoyed operating and the drama and effect of lighting on a performance, he worked on more lighting shows and tours. He already had lots of imagination and learned how to program and operate all the main console platforms, transitioning almost naturally from musician to lighting designer and forming a company, Blackout, to administrate his design work.

Crt was lucky enough to experience several ground-breaking career moments which led to big breaks. The first was working with Bosnian rock band Dubioza Kolektiv who are massive, especially in the Balkans region – and fast growing in the rest of Europe — and were the first to put his lighting skills to the test in front of large audiences from 10,000 to 100,000 and big stages.

The second was working with leading Slovenian set designer Greta Godnic. Through her he started to work for Slovenian National TV and other TV channels and learned how to light a genre with very different requirements to live shows. As a design team, Crt and Greta have collaborated on several complex and rewarding projects.

The third “break” he highlights was landing the 2Cellos gig in 2014. He was in the right place at the right time, working as the LD for Schengenfest, one of Slovenia’s largest music festivals. They liked what they saw and asked him onboard, which has opened the door to large scale international touring and some massive one-off shows in incredible places all around the globe.

‡‡         Wide Variety of Songs, Looks

“There is always massive scope for lighting 2Cellos and being visually imaginative due to the vast range of the music” he commented. “Lighting is also an active way in which we like to help draw all the fans into the performance”.

The 2Cellos touring team now has a small core of nine (up from five when Crt first joined) and that includes Luka and Stjepan, drummer Dušan Kranjc, sound engineer Filip Vidovic and video designer Zaor Kolar.

The artists do have some input and specific requests such as the stage presentation. But they essentially trust Crt to work on the lighting designs and come to them with a set of clear and coherent ideas, a task on which he works closely with Zaor.

The show looked enormous at times

‡‡         The 2019 U.S. Tour

Let There Be Cello was a new tour, but for the sake of continuity and some practicalities like the very tight time schedule, between the start of it and the end of the last tour, they used the previous touring lighting rig as a base design, adding new elements in both lighting and video.

The U.S. tour was split into two segments covering mostly arenas in major cities and including some famous venues like Radio City Music Hall in New York, The Shrine in Los Angeles and Fox Theatres in St. Louis, Detroit and Atlanta.

The technical design stayed straightforward and very versatile, leaving the stage space clean and uncluttered with cellists Luka, Stjepan and drummer Dušan as the focus. They opted for long straight trusses with a series of drop-down bars to give some variation while keeping quick and easy to load ins / outs in mind. “I needed a rig that could go from subtle and elegant to big rock out moments,” explained Crt.

Big Rock looks abound during the rock medley

‡‡         Beams and Washes from 18 Towers

New for this tour were 18 thin towers — nine one each side of the drum riser, which were loaded with LED battens which merged into the LED screens upstage. The thin towers were laden with 72 of GLP’s X4 Bar 10s, effectively fill the space for the show, which was carried by just the two cellists and a drummer onstage.

The back LED screens were on an automation system and could move position from the standard trim height (with the bottom around 10 feet off the ground) down to the stage deck, for variations and — in the lower position — to create some nice silhouetting effects.

The main moving lights on this tour were 24 Robe MegaPointes, 24 Spiider wash beams, with five BMFL Spots for key lighting.

Robe has been Crt’s moving light brand of choice for some time. The brand is very popular in Slovenia — taking a large chunk of the moving light market thanks to a very proactive distributor in MK Light Sound — and he appreciates the multi-functionality of the latest Robe luminaires and has always found them to be reliable.

Twenty of the MegaPointes were rigged on the three 60-foot wide upstage trusses – six on the drop pipes – with the other eight units on the floor behind the band. The Spiiders were also positioned in a similar configuration, with six upstage on the floor.

The BMFL Spots were on the audience / advance truss and were the only key lights in the show. Due to their extreme brightness, he could use them in color, which worked perfectly for specific parts of the show.

The lads get into it. Photo by Sineshooter

‡‡         Rocking the House

Crt relied on MegaPointes for all the main lighting effects because “it’s basically a rock show that requires really good spot luminaires and MegaPointes can absolutely deliver this”. He narrowed them down to work as beams for two or three numbers, but their fundamental function was as a spot fixture, and with so many options in spot mode, he didn’t need any additional units.

The Spiiders’ role was to fill and color the stage and the air and provide a good background ambience for the MegaPointes.

Twelve Atomic LED strobes on the three upstage trusses worked well and combined with the X4 Bars during the rock section of the show when they energetically belted out classics from AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, Nirvana, The Prodigy, Iron Maiden and others — using just cellos and drums — to the delight of the American audiences.


BMFL’s were used for key lights

As a tribute to all those legendary retro rock lighting designs, there were 16 2-lite moles and six 8-lite Moles on the floor and in all the flown trusses. A single SGM Q-7 on the floor between the two cellists was used to contrast the shadows from the front keys and make a smoother key light for the video cameras, considering how cellists often look downward while paying.

Crt controlled all of this via his ChamSys MQ80 console, using an MQ100 Pro as backup. During programming and operating, he works in tandem with video designer Zaor, who is also mixing five cameras — two main ones stationed at FOH with 99 zoom lenses, two operated wireless units roaming on and around stage and a GoPro on the drummer – as well as playback video. This ensures that all their energy gets offstage and out into the audience assisting in all ways to imbibe the full and extended 2Cellos experience!

Upstaging was the U.S. lighting rental vendor, where Crt worked with two “fantastic” crew chiefs — Ron Schilling on the first leg and Jim Fredrickson on the second. “Both have done so many much larger tours than mine, so I am very honored to have worked with them” he concluded.

In addition to lighting, Crt loves being creative generally and traveling, and says this U.S. tour has been fulfilling, different and interesting. With 2Cellos soon due to head back to the studio to produce their next album, all the signs are that there will be plenty more on the cards from them … plus several other projects that Crt has on the go.

Tasteful looks were plentiful

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