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Alec Szuch Runs Nahko and Medicine for the People Show with ChamSys

Nahko and Medicine for the People in concert

There's a sense of magic one feels upon entering the century old Ogden Theatre in Denver, Colorado. It's not just because Harry Houdini appeared there soon after the stately building on Denver's Colfax Avenue opened its doors in 1917. The transformative aura comes more from some of the special acts that the theatre has hosted over the years, like the two shows that Prince performed on May 12, 2013 (his last in Colorado). Closing his concert by leading the audience through the chorus of "Purple Rain," the rock great asked, "Does that feel good?" Then answered, "It's like medicine."

The healing power of music, along with ample amounts of magic, were in the air at the legendary theatre in late December, when world music collective Nahko and Medicine for the People performed an enthralling and eclectic blend of music that seamlessly wove in elements of jazz, gospel, rock, reggae, and other genres. Fitting the vibe of the music was a subtle but colorful and constantly changing light show that Alec Szuch controlled with his ChamSys MagicQ MQ100, with an Execute Wing and Extra Wing, supplied by Synaesthesiax.

"Alec is an emerging talent, and we were happy to provide him with this console," said well-known lighting designer and Synaesthesiax owner Jonezy Lights Jones. "We have owned that MQ100 for five or six years; it's a durable workhorse. It's traveled all over North America, Japan, the Philippines, and Europe. It's good to see what Alec is doing with it."

Szuch, who designed the show in addition to programming it, says that running his console has been a pure pleasure. "Working on a ChamSys console with the Execute Wing and Extra Wing is really enjoyable for me," he declared. "It's fun to get the flow of your desk down and work across it smoothly. Everything you might need is at your fingertips, and a lot of the time it's there as a physical button. Nahko and Medicine for the People make very intuitive music that's meant to be felt, so it's nice to feel the click of the console when you're running the lights for their show."

Punting was at the heart of Szuch's light show for two of the three nights that his client appeared at the venerable theatre. "Night one, we did our show for the band's new album My Name is Bear," he said. "We recently toured with this album, and I designed a cue-based show with punting for added effects or slight changes. In the My Name is Bear show, I like to have my Execute Wing set up as my punt desk and my main console as my cue desk, with specials and other dedicated fixtures on an Extra Wing. However, for nights two and three, I set up all of the surfaces as punt and ran with it. The desk is ideal for punting. You always seem to be able to find right button fast."

Szuch used 100 luminaires, mostly moving spots, beams, and washes, in his show between the house rig and floor package. "We didn't want excessive gear, we wanted something vibey," he said. This is precisely what he created too, thanks to a lot of backlighting, aerial effects set at different angles, spacey gobos, and the adroit use of dark spaces.

According to Szuch, his ChamSys desk played a big role in helping him achieve this look. "There's a lot to like about this console," he said. "It has fast and easy clone/morph and versatile fader/button options. Almost everything on the desk is tactile; when I need something from the desk, it's nice to feel a physical button or wheel."

"Aside from a great console, I also had a great team," continued Szuch. "I can't say enough about Thomas Fortier (front-of-house/production manager), Nathan Cross (monitors), Melissa Gibson (TM), Jonezy Jones, Annie Smith, and Teri Jerramnk, as well as the Ogden crew and the full Medicine Tribe family for all the help they provided."

People were at the heart of Szuch's design for the Ogden Theatre shows, not just at the back end, but also in terms of the creation of his design. "Nahko and Medicine for the People is truly medicine for the people, so I keep that in mind when creating a show," he said. "I followed the energy of the show, whether it was during an intimate song when minimal lights were used, so the audience was urged to listen with their ears and not their eyes; or during full-on rock-and-roll moments to expulse any energy that may have lain in wait."

"The most important aspect of my shows is the people," continue Szuch. "It is always for the people. My goal with the lights is to include them in the action, to pull them in and make them feel at home -- and to provide them with moments that they will remember."


(9 February 2018)

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