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Risers in a challenging space

Hi there: Our performing space not only doesn't have risers, but isn't even configured so that risers could get installed, so we have figured out a way to level the area where the singers stand. This means the choir members are on their feet the whole time, which is naturally very tiring for them.
Has anyone faced a similar situation? What did you do to remedy it (short of finding a different venue, which is currently not possible for us)? Our trouble is that chairs are not safe in the leveled area due to small gaps in the leveling, plus they would take up too much room. I've thought about trying to find or even build some sort of narrow portable “benches” to lean on, the way you might lean on a countertop. (Stability would obviously be an important factor!) Something like kneelers in a church—although up at the right height, of course—with room on each for two or three folks to rest on during non-singing portions of a concert. But that’s only a vague idea at best.
As always, any thoughts or suggestions welcome. Thanks! Bill
Replies (8): Threaded | Chronological
on October 11, 2013 10:46am
Bill, could you give us more details? I'm curious about the following:
  • What sort of location houses this space? Church? Cafetorium? Theater?
  • What's the height difference between the floor of the performing and audience spaces?
  • What are the dimensions of the performing space?
  • How do the singers access the space?
  • How many singers need resting places/chairs at any one time?
on October 11, 2013 2:35pm
  • We perform in a church.
  • Once we've leveled the area where we perform, the singers are probably 18 inches higher than the audience floor, give or take.
  • The church itself is probably--well, this is tricky because it's shaped like a diamond with the bottom corner nipped off, with us partway between center and the corner opposite that nipped-off bit; we stand right in front of the altar. Total square footage might be around 8000 square feet (the entire building footprint appears to be just about 100 feet each way for 10K square feet, but then you take off the nipped-off part). The leveled area where we stand might be 500 square feet or so.
  • They walk in from behind the audience and climb up a couple of steps to the leveled area.
  • We're around 35-40 people at best.
All the dimensions and measurements I'm giving are my best estimates, I can't confirm anything until we go in for the dress rehearsal in two months. Thanks! Bill
on October 11, 2013 5:29pm
Hi Bill,
Thanks for all that. Sounds like an interesting space.
And, while I wish that I could now offer some suggestions, all I have are more questions! When you originally mentioned singers having to be on their feet the whole time, I assumed you were dealing with multiple choirs who would have to take turns singing during the concert (the Concert Choir, the Chamber Choir, Madrigals...). If you're only one choir, I confess that I don't get it--what is the "non-singing" portion of the concert ... and how much time are you talking about? Since most choirs remain standing for their entire concert, you've definitely piqued my curiosity here! 
All that aside, I'm thinking that your singers and audience members would definitely benefit from your using some sort of risers, be they commercial staging platforms (modular) or homemade. Have you considered renting or building some that would fit your space? I'm thinking that a combination of platforms (4'x4'/4'x6'/4'x8'...) with varying leg heights could overlap each other and create a very viable choral riser system. I've built similar structures for various stage sets and audience platforming -- the modularity creates flexibility and would be very stable, especially if temporarily bolted together. If you would even consider such an option, let me know the exact measurements of the "stage" area and I'd be glad to help you figure it out.
All my best,
on October 12, 2013 4:39am
If we're doing Messiah or a Bach cantata or something like that, there are substantial stretches where the choir does not sing and would sit down. The issue with risers is that the leveling system (for want of a better word) isn't contiguous, leaving small gaps between the various blocks (which might be 3x3, give or take) that the legs of the risers could easily slip into. Plus there's no place to keep risers; the church doesn't own any and will not permit us to store anything on their property. (I don't know where our leveling blocks get kept, but I doubt there would be room there to keep risers as well.) Yes, it's a headache all the way around...
on October 12, 2013 9:34am
Hi Bill,
Cantatas and oratorios. Of course! 
Here's a potential solution for you. Would something like this work, perhaps leaned against the back of the space or set along the perimeter? To deal with the spaces in the floor (through which legs of chairs would fall), there's a very lightweight, large, interlocking plastic tile available at places like Home Depot. It's 20"+ wide and very portable. 
If that leveler wouldn't work, how about sheets of masonite that are taped down with gaffer's tape?
Both flooring options would take a little bit of time, but both could be laid down in no more than ten or fifteen minutes with a crew of four. Taking the flooring up would be even less time.
Another solution would be to connect each folding stool to its own small plywood base -- which could even be engineered to work with the folding aspect of the stool. Or buy a stool with wider legs such as this one (there are similar stools costing below $20 each).
Applauded by an audience of 2
on October 13, 2013 3:12pm
Wow, Tom -- I wish you lived close to me! :)
on October 14, 2013 8:04am
Tom's idea of the folding stool is a good one. However, his link goes to an 18" stool on Amazon. I have used a 24" stool from Walmart which is more of a "leaning" height than the 18" model. Walmart's 24" stool (same model and brand) is also cheaper and more accessible than Amazon's. Just my 2¢.
Wayne Miller
Cypress, TX
on February 12, 2014 2:12pm
Hi William, did your find a solution already? If not can you send me a picture made with a digital camera to show the spot. I may probably help you to find a solution or give a suggestions. Just send it to  buehnen(a)     Bill
Applauded by an audience of 1
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