The charity event “Reaching Out for Africa”, a gospel spectacular, which took place at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Sunday March 10, was literally “A day in the life of ” for the production and rental companies involved. Organized by Patti Boulaye to raise money for Support for Africa, a charity she founded to inform people of the terrible effect that AIDS and malaria are having in Sub-Saharan Africa and to raise funds to provide practical medical help, this one-off event had just a 24hr schedule, from load-in to load-out.

Produced by Sir Michael Parker, the event was almost a rehearsal for The Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, with which he will also be involved. The 3,000 strong choir, drawn from schools, churches and choirs across the UK, Europe and Africa, will go on to form part of the 5,000-strong Golden Jubilee Gospel Choir which will sing at Buckingham Palace in June 2002.

Lighting the show on behalf of Fourth Phase, LD Michael Odam – who signed in at the Royal Albert Hall at 6am and signed out 16hrs later – had the usual brief from the rental company: to use as much of Royal Albert Hall’s own lighting rig as possible. As a charity event, the organizers wanted to keep additional costs to a minimum.

“The trick with an event such as this,” said Michael, “is to not be too ambitious and the Hall has a sizeable lighting rig of its own. I specified a Whole Hog II desk, added 30 moving lights, including Mac 500s, Mac 600s and Studio Spots, to the existing rig, and we also had a Cirro Lite hazer and Jem fog machine plus a Reel EFX Sky Dancer Fan. While you can never pre-plan everything, I work with WYSICad and Fourth Phase has a WYSIWYG facility, so I was able to do some patches, color sets and a couple of looks before the event. However, with a show like this there are always surprises – the first time we saw the speakers who linked all the elements of the show together was the show itself.”

Alan Thomson, managing director of Fourth Phase, commented: “On paper it looked like just another day at the Royal Albert Hall, but the sheer number of kids in the choir – and their enthusiasm – turned it into something else. It was a fantastic evening – we all had a long day, but to see so many people having so much fun was absolutely terrific.”

The choir, which occupied not just the choir stalls but also the arena and the public stalls, consisted mainly of teenagers and pre-teens, but it seemed that no one had pre-warned the guest star of the evening, Sir Cliff Richard. When he came on stage for his sound check at 5pm, things were delayed for 15 minutes as several hundred screaming teenagers clamoured for his autograph: just like the old days.