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2017 with Virginia Bronze: Concert: Mystical and Majestic

Britt Conley’s Stained Glass and light show with Virginia Bronze at the National Masonic Temple. Photo by Forrest MacCormack

It was a year in the making and an amazing artistic journey! In June of 2016 talks began with Virginia Bronze on collaborating on an art/music venture for their season finale. The concert: Mystical and Majestic would take place at The George Washington Memorial Masonic Temple in Alexandria Virginia. While attending one of their concerts in the same hall, I attempted to envision how we could artistically unify a cohesive sound and visual experience.  From the moment they began, it came flooding in. The clarity and beauty of the bells reminded me of glass. By the concerts end, I was envisioning working on large- scale glass works and potentially providing an interactive light show that would run in tandem to the music.  The first questions were, can I learn stained glass and lighting as well as create the works within the deadline.

I had no idea how much work this going to be.  That said, I’m a bit tenaciously driven toward deadlines and wanted to provide Virginia Bronze with something truly memorable.

Learning to solder and make it happen. Photo by JImmy Powers.

The learning curve was pretty high, but I somehow managed it! A special thanks to Jimmy Powers for all his patience, advice and understanding, while I tried to manage these giant works as my very first glass art.  It was such a wonderful experience.

While I worked on the glass, I also had to learn all about lighting and programing the light diodes. So much to learn.  It was one of my more epic art experiences, in a great way but also with all the trials and tribulations of learning so much, in such a short about of time.

Oddly, learning how to do stained glass for the first time is not as hard as learning how to create lighting. Now this is a rather large learning curve.

That too was massive endeavor.  A thankyou to Nathan Devonshyre for helping me with all the lighting and software issues that inevitably came up.  He even came to do a house call at the hall just before showtime!

The final Nimrod, a version of Lux Aeterna by Britt Conley

The pieces they gave me were Nimrod, a version of Lux Aeterna, Stravinsky’s  Firebird Suite, Debussy’s Sunken Cathedral and  Mussorgsky’s Great Gate of Kiev.

Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite by Britt Conley

For Sunken Cathedral I wanted to show the work from which Debussy wrote from.  The myth he based his music on was on the once an eon experience when the sun rises over the sea, without a cloud in the sky.  The lucky person standing near, would find the sea, completely placid and crystal clear down to it’s depths for miles.  They would see the glistening cathedral at the bottom of the water and then saw waters bubbling turmoil as the cathedral slowly rose up, crashing the surface and glistening in all its glory for one day only, til sunset.  It would then come crashing down into the water, not to be seen for another 1000 years.  I wanted to use both clear and tumultuous, textured glass to show both elements of the story.  I added the cathedral in abstracted lines of copper to show it within the depths of the water. I created a slow sunrise in light dynamics to fluctuate from the blue water to the fiery reds and back to represent the magical single day.

Debussy’s Sunken Cathedral.

The wonderful thing about glass is how different it looks under light.  Great Gate of Kiev was constructed to represent the chordal groupings and their variations.

Mussorgsky’s Great Gate of Kiev by Britt Conley – with lights
Mussorgsky’s Great Gate of Kiev by Britt Conley – with lights

The same panel can morph through massive color extremes.

Britt Conley’s Stained Glass while testing the lighting

I created a kickstarter and thanks to friends and family, I was able to pull together the last of the missing funding to finish getting all the glass and lighting parts.  I can’t thank everyone enough for helping make this entire project come to fruition!.

Before I knew it, the day arrived, we rented a truck to move the glass, stands and electronics for the show. It was logistically well thought out but still difficult.  I was busy doing the lights live, with the actual music cues so that the light and sound were  unified. Spent most of the time watching their conductor Carol Martin.

Britt Conley’s Stained Glass and light show with Virginia Bronze at the National Masonic Temple. Photo by Forrest MacCormack

Two weeks after the main concert we did a second one at The Workhouse Arts Center. I ran the light show from my computer.

Britt Conley’s Stained Glass and light show with Virginia Bronze at The Workhouse Arts Center 6/17/17

Of course I could not have done any of this without the support of James Davis, who offered a studio to work on the glass, wood shop access to all the tools that were needed and transporting and setting up each show.  A team of great people, including Forrest Tex, who designed my stands and light boxes.  Thanks to everyone who helped make this a successful event!!!

Britt Conley, working the concert at the Workhouse Arts Center

I loved the challenge and the project provided a phenomenal creative experience.  I hope to create another in the future… when I have more time and funding!

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