Versatile Ayrton Khamsin shine for designer Travis Shirley on the Pentatonix Evergreen Christmas Tour 2021
Pentatonix, the three-time Grammy Award winning a cappella group, just wrapped their 18-date Evergreen Christmas Tour 2021 where 45 Ayrton Khamsin-S profile luminaires served as the main fixtures for the show. Ayrton is exclusively distributed in North America by ACT Entertainment.
The Evergreen Christmas Tour 2021, in support of the new Pentatonix album called Evergreen, kicked off November 27 in Baltimore and wrapped on December 23 in Grand Prairie, Texas. It was their first Christmas tour since 2019, the coronavirus pandemic having sidelined last year’s event.
Production and lighting designer, Travis Shirley, who heads Travis Shirley Live Design in Houston and Nashville, has been working with Pentatonix for the last nine years. “It’s been quite a journey,” he says, “seeing them grow to where they are selling out arenas around the world. After last year’s Christmas tour was cancelled, it was time to rejoice with a new show full of the energy and love Pentatonix is known for.”
Shirley says the beautiful art direction of the Evergreen album informed the design of the show. “Choreographers and creative directors Lindsey Blaufarb and Craig Hollaman and I were inspired by the album artwork, which pays homage to the 1960s with silver tinsel and retro clothes,” Shirley points out. “Then I channelled the look of The Johnny Carson Show and the Tom Hanks movie, That Thing You Do for the era’s lighting and scenography. We ended up designing around several curtain tracks starting with a metallic silver drape, then a vintage LED star drop and finally a red velour curtain.”
What Shirley needed for his lighting design were fixtures that enabled him to achieve a vintage look but with modern tools. He also required fixtures that were quiet since Pentatonix performs a cappella.
“Bandit Lites in Nashville, the lighting vendor for the tour, demo’d Khamsin for me,” he recalls. “It was love at first sight. Khamsin is a beautiful, well-rounded fixture. It had great brightness and colour temperature, and its LED engine made it nice and quiet.”
Shirley admits that up until then he hadn’t used Ayrton fixtures because he felt they were more in the specialty lighting category and didn’t fit his specs. “So it was really nice to see Ayrton play in the big leagues of meat-and-potatoes lighting with a multi-purpose fixture – and they’ve done a great job with Khamsin.”
He calls the fixtures the “workhorses of the show,” which was built around a forced perspective proscenium. “Khamsins framed all the edges of the proscenium, and they ran the gamut of applications from aerial effects to lighting scenic and principal artists.” Kyle Lonvin, whom Shirley brought on board for the 2018 Christmas tour, served as the new tour’s lighting director; Pentatonix tour veteran Chris Smith was the lighting programmer.
Noting the compressed production timetable that typically comes with a month-long Christmas tour, Shirley says that Bandit Lites “took a lot of the workload off me. They took my ideas and drawings and adapted them to Bandit’s inventory. No one could have done a better job.” Shirley actually began his career with Bandit, “polishing theatre cable at age 18,” he recalls. “How our relationship has changed and grown! Bandit Vice President Mike Golden and I had been trying to find something to do together, and I’m glad this opportunity came up.”
Shirley reports that the tour’s lighting crew said they’d had “zero problems” with the Khamsins during the run of the show. He has been so impressed with the fixtures’ performance that he plans to put them to work on some upcoming projects.
“They will definitely make their way onto my rock ’n roll shows,” Shirley says. “But the beauty of the fixture with its very even field shouldn’t be underestimated. Khamsin is a versatile fixture that can play rough and also put on a suit and tie.”
Text: Courtesy of ACT Lighting
Photos: © Ben Hausdorff