The Train of Hope

Client: King Baudouin Foundation under the authority of the Belgian Government
Activity: Institutional Authority
Attending Public: 5,000
Location: Belgium / Brussels
Venue: Forest National
Partners: European Community

Client Requirement:

The foundation considered this commemoration as a major event, as it would be attended by the royal family, the government with the prime minister and several other ministers, the complete diplomatic corps and a lot of dignities and representatives of several foundations and associations. It would also be broadcast live on both national television channels.
Our mission was to create and produce a dignified celebration for 2,500 veterans and 3,000 young people. For the eldest, the event had to be a commemoration of long years of suffering as well as the unforgettable moments of liberation. For the youngest, it would be an opportunity to underline their respect and recognition for the older generation. An extra wish of the foundation was to really involve the young people in the show, to give them the opportunity to express themselves in order to give a modern and enthusiastic drive to the ceremony.

Target Groups:
2,500 veterans and 3,000 young people from schools

Our Proposal:

Since the trains deported millions of people and the trains also brought back the survivors of the camps, we wrote a scenario around the main theme of an imaginary train of hope. In total, more than 550 people played a role on stage: a symphony orchestra of 60 musicians, 1 director + 3 guest musicians, 3 young presenters, a chorus of 200 children, 100 veterans, 4 percussionists, 7 acrobats, 16 dancers, 24 extras, a military fanfare of 32 musicians, 50 Flemish, 9 French and 15 German young people from each community and 24 young people representing the European community. In addition, some 300 other people were needed for the organisation on site (audio-visual technicians and operators, back stage people, riggers and runners, scene builders, wardrobe keepers, property men, catering people, hostesses, stewards, parking boys, security guards, etc.)
We all have heard the horrible stories about the world war and the camps but it’s only when you get involved with the history that you realise how malicious human nature can be. We were shocked when viewing hours and hours of video footage. We were crying when we listened to the music score we were preparing. The stress of the last mounting hours made us laugh at any stupid incident. We were fighting against sleep during the last rehearsal night and we were finally dumbfounded when we felt that Patricio’s show was moving the entire audience to tears. Here are a few stories that illustrate how complicated the job was. I remember that the huge number of participants overwhelmed our back-stage manager during the first rehearsal day. He promptly decided to paint stripes on the floor of the back stage corridors in order to regulate the traffic and avoid accidents. Our stage designer created a clever concept for a large stage to accommodate all the different parts of the show. The combination of several levels (6 meters at it’s highest), some wide stairs and two ramps, made a really good-looking presentation. The most ingenious idea was to place the symphony orchestra in a kind of basin between the ramps in the middle of the stage. Just by using the light system, the musicians appeared and disappeared according to whether they were playing or not. At the sides of the stage, 4 high towers were erected on which the percussionists were installed. As it is an old building, Forest National only has a limited number of dressing rooms backstage. The more the project grew, the more we had to ask for additional places to be able to put our artists. Finally, we ended up in the office of the general manager. When we heard that 1,200 veterans (coming by coach from all over Belgium) were supposed to get a lunch before the show, we had no other solution than renting the adjacent ice skating rink. We ordered a wooden floor and some 800 m² of carpet to cover the ice and installed tables, chairs and bars for our aged guests. For the sound mixing, the engineer had to combine 5 mixing tables to handle the 132 sources. 24 wireless microphones were used. 3 sound engineers were dedicated to managing the use and changing of microphones on stage. Due to the enormous surface of the stage, they had to install a number of sound monitors. Because television was also broadcasting the show, 64 outputs were necessary.
Due to the number of acts and performances at various spots on stage, it became unrealistic to light the complete show with traditional lighting. No less than 52 computer driven Telescans were hung in the trusses to be able to pre-programme the whole set.
As a backdrop, we created a cyclo by using 3 screens. The dimensions were 8x8 for both side screens and 16x8 for the central one – reasonable sizes to be able to project large-size slide images and video films with the necessary impact on the audience.