SPOTLIGHT: the Winspear Lighting Crew

SPOTLIGHT: the Winspear Lighting Crew

By Michelle Luong

The Winspear and ESO are no strangers to retirements from people who have been with us for decades. Most of these retirements are from musicians, and they are celebrated in their own right.

Opened in September 1997, the Francis Winspear Centre for Music is home to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the venue of choice for many community groups. The focus in our hall is often the artists on stage, but behind the scenes, our production crew works tirelessly to ensure that our artists can truly shine.

In particular, our Head Lighting Technician, Warren Bertholet, and Assistant Lighting, Doug Radford. Warren has worked at the Winspear Centre since it opened in 1997 and Doug almost as long, starting in 1998. At the end of the 23/24 season, our dynamic lighting duo is retiring.

Warren is responsible for meeting with clients, performing administrative duties such as scheduling and budgets, and, of course, setting up and operating the lighting, often with Doug by his side. On performance days, those two are usually seen running up and down six flights of stairs to the canopy to refocus the lights.

But they both go above and beyond lighting. Warren’s colleagues describe him as "someone who is always willing to help," "safety conscious," and "an all-around good guy." While he would describe himself as someone who is not keen on holiday decorating, each year, he would painstakingly hang each snowflake from the baffles above the choir loft and place each tree throughout the venue with care. The staff secretly suspect that he likes to arrange them so that the snowflakes and trees can be lit up just so.

Our lighting team is all about creating a better experience for the client. One of our long-time community groups, Suzuki Charter School, said, "We are always glad to see Warren and the other familiar faces as our tech team. The first year we were there, Star Wars was a big part of the suite. We hadn't planned this, but being the pro that he was, Warren quickly found a way to add some red lighting as our "Darth Vader" entered to engage in an epic lightsaber battle. Another year, we had a Beatles theme and thought it would be fun to have bubbles appear on the sails for "Yellow Submarine." I'm not sure how, but there were bubbles! There were many more crazy asks over the years and the team always did what they could to make everything special and specific for us. Warren’s warm smile, great hugs, loud laughter, and expert professionalism as we asked for the impossible and he created magic will be fondly remembered."

Another annual group, 5 Artists 1 Love, recalls their first performance at the Winspear Centre, which was interrupted by the pandemic. The group opted to shoot a video instead. "[Warren] quickly established himself as a warm, friendly, and approachable member of staff. I recall that there was so much going on that we hadn't really put in a lot of thought about how we were going to light the stage. Under his facemask, I could see that he was smiling as he suggested a few options. It was a smile that said, "Don't worry, I've got you." When it came time to film, it was clear that he, in fact, did have us. This stage was lit beautifully. It was perfect, as if we had discussed the vision for the lighting many times. Over the next three years, we became quite familiar with that look. [Warren] always helped us elevate the production and did so with a positive attitude and a smile."

One thing Warren wanted to do before retiring was upgrade the critical parts of our lighting system—the console and the movers—before he handed off the ship. And he's done just that. With the support of a Community Facility Enhancement Program grant in 2023, new movers and a console were installed that have elevated the lighting this season beyond anything we’ve ever seen in our hall.

A highlight piece this season was 'Mothership' by Mason Bates, which incorporated moving lights to accentuate the electronic beat. Our audiences are not used to dynamic lighting, and the gasps were audible when Warren flashed the lighting across the audience, timed perfectly with the beat drop. One audience member commented that the piece was "A real surprise – we always expect colour and verve from the ESO, but these program pieces appeared almost unknown to us, and each was exciting and deeply emotional, multi-sensory, and so pleasing."

Outside of work, Warren is described as a ‘huge’ Oilers fan and avid golfer. He’s also a proud father and grandfather. Fun fact: both of Warren’s children, Matt and Justine, worked with the Winspear’s Patron Services Team during his tenure. The team reminisced fondly about Warren watching his kids working front-of-house with a proud twinkle in his eye.

Speaking of golf, it is well known that Warren can be found playing a round on Wednesdays during the warmer months. That meant that a call was put out to Doug. Doug has been assisting with lighting and filling in for Warren when needed for many years. If you ever needed a follow spot, Doug was your guy.

Like Warren, Doug did so much more than just lighting. He is a musician and composer, loves to travel and read a good book. Doug never hesitated to lend a hand where needed. Over the years, he’s helped patch microphones, assemble risers, move the choir loft, pack and drive many box trucks for run-out concerts, and so much more.

Funnily enough, for people who work with lights, Warren and Doug don’t like being in the spotlight. They’d much prefer to be the ones operating the lights.

We’ll miss you both, especially Warren's grumbles and Doug's big smiles before each performance. Happy Retirement, Warren and Doug!

The ESO and Winspear Centre work in proud partnership with IATSE Local 210.