Thursday, July 10, 2014

Beyond the Stage: Crystal Wishes and Orpheum Dreams

Nothing beats that moment when you walk into the Orpheum Theatre for the first time.  It's like jumping headlong into the 1920s, attending an exclusive formal event, or possibly even getting a taste of what it would be like to have a royal title.  One of our favorite things to do is to listen to all of the "oohs," "ahhs," "whoas," and "wows" that we hear when people walk through the doors.

We work hard to keep the Orpheum historically preserved, making sure that even the chandeliers are pristine.  Chandeliers aren't necessarily the first things that come to mind when you think of preservation, but the Orpheum's Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers are in fact original to the building, meaning that they are at least 85 years old and certainly among the most beautiful antiques we have. 

Last week, our team cleaned the Orpheum's six grand and four "bowl" chandeliers.  Once a year, the chandeliers are lowered to eye level for a little maintenance - and this is no easy task!

Because of the sheer weight and size of our grand chandeliers (the largest of which, pictured above, weigh 2,000 lbs. each), it takes hours just to lower them from the Orpheum's massive ceiling.  So slow in fact, that the naked eye can barely tell they are moving without the help of a vantage point.  Once on the ground, every single piece of Czechoslovakian crystal is prepped to be cleaned and polished. 

First, each chandelier goes through a gentle steam clean using good old fashioned distilled water.  This allows the fixture to be cleaned thoroughly without the use of harsh chemicals, helping to preserve the integrity of the crystal.  While doing this, workers look for any broken or cracked pieces and evaluate if they can be repaired.

Next, each and every piece of crystal is hand-polished using a lamb's wool cloth.  As you can imagine, this takes a considerable amount of time to polish just one chandelier, let alone ten!  Finally, the bulbs in the chandeliers are replaced, allowing plenty of light to keep the chandeliers sparkling.  All in all, it takes a team of four at least two full days to restore the chandeliers to their maximum luster, not counting the day or so it takes to lower and raise the chandeliers.

So the next time you walk into the lobby for a show or look up towards the auditorium ceiling at intermission, we hope you'll notice that the twinkle in our chandeliers is a little brighter, enhancing the beautiful, magical ambiance of Memphis' historic Orpheum.

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