Dave Kersner: Sampling THE CONCERT for Barbra

(The original interview was posted at www.sampletank.com)

The Barbra Streisand gig happened actually as a result of doing some custom sampling for a Madonna tour. For Madonna's Girlie Tour I had met the guys who do Madonna's midi and keyboard set up. They told me they had 9 Akai 3200s which was unheard of back then. I convinced them to make one of them just dedicated to piano which was sort of a new concept. This was just before there were "Piano Theme" sample libraries out. So, I sampled this beautiful Yamaha C7 grand over at Milagro Studios in Glendale. I did a custom 32 meg version of it for the tour as well as some other sounds. They loved it. By the way, there is a version of this piano in Sonic Synth. Anyway, later on I get this phone call from one of those guys. It's Peter Wiltz and he's calling from Japan. He asks me if I would do him a favor and go audition some sampling trick for some singer under their company name, Auditory Illusions. I am thinking this is going to be some lame gig they can't be bothered to do. But, it turned out it was for Barbra Streisand and this really prestigious show at the MGM Grand in Vegas for New Years. Peter asked me to do it because they were in Japan with Madonna but didn't want to lose this gig. So, I went down to Sony where they were rehearsing, auditioned and got the gig. What did you end up having to do for that gig in Las Vegas with Streisand? Well, it was what you'd call "flying in samples". I basically had to sample dialog from recorded actors and play them from a keyboard live. She had this little skit in between songs where she would talk to an analyst from the stage. She had these couches set up and would stop the song and say "What's wrong with me?" and a doctor's voice from off stage would answer her. I was the one who triggered the doctor's voices. She didn't want to have the actors there for the show each time because she couldn't predict how it would come off with them not being in front of her. So, I was "wizard behind the curtain" on that gig. There's some funny stories about that whole thing that I've talked about on the Sonic Reality/Sampletank forum at www.kvr-vst.com.

Concert lights

Lighting Designer Peter Morse, THE CONCERT

Perhaps one of his largest challenges was the lighting for the 1995 Barbra Streisand: The Concert tour and television special, which aired on NBC [sic] and earned him an Emmy nomination. "There were two IMAG screens at the concerts so I had to light for live and video at the same time," he says. "This was great training. Barbra Streisand viewed the video closeups very carefully so I ran the show with binoculars around my neck."

Streisand's tour was more laid back than most, performing in just six cities in three months. The lighting was more theatrical than most concert rigs, in keeping with the three early-American-style sets on the front of the stage for the first half of the concert. "There were three rooms with furniture, which gave us intimate areas to work in," says Morse, who took over the lighting for this tour after the initial performance at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The rig included a wide variety of moving lights, from Obie Telescans, Vari*Lite VL2s, VL4s, and VL5s(TM), and 70 High End Systems Intellabeams(R) that hung low on a fan-shaped truss over the orchestra which sat on the upstage half of the stage. "Marc Brickman did the original lighting in Las Vegas and this was a visual element that I loved," explains Morse. "It sort of transported Streisand into the 90s."

Morse lighting from The Concert

A center window on the set flew out to reveal a large videowall that showcased clips and film footage from Streisand's career. These images played with live images from the concert to create moments like Streisand singing a duet with herself during a song from the film Yentl. The Telescans (once again programmed by Serame) were hung above the set as automated backlighting that could follow her around the set, while the VL4s and VL5s washed the sets and backdrops with color. The VL2s were used to focus in to highlight plants and other props, or with gobos.

For the second half of the concert, the stage was cleared of furniture. "This gave it more of a concert look and a bigger lighting look," says Morse. The Intellabeams which had been focused on the orchestra now swept downstage. For the final song, Morse used rainbow dichroic filters with multicolored beams. Most of the colors Morse used were custom blended.


Related: Barbra's 1994 Concert Page