Singing Choir

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This turned out to be a pretty sizeable project, and it takes two people to move it around because it's so unwieldy and heavy, but it's been a popular part of my display for quite a few years. I don't use it every year, but because it uses rope light, it's super-low maintenance and fills up a lot of visual space. - Dirknerkle

I came up with a concept while sitting in the choir loft between anthems in church one Sunday morning, and I drew a little sketch in the margin of my daily service bulletin:

1-choirconcept.jpg

I found a graphic on the Internet that was close to the vision that I had for the choir, so I made a screen capture of that.

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I needed a way to enlarge the relatively small graphic to the size I wanted, so I used a digital projector to project it up on a wall. I taped several sheets of newspaper together as my "canvas" so I could outline the elements I wanted to make in wire.

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I used 9-gauge wire from Lowe's that came in 50-foot spools. It's very stiff but bendable and substantial enough to weld, and it's rather inexpensive. I used two spools for all the elements of this frame.

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Ping pong tables come in really handy for big projects like this! I laid out the paper, and because I wanted to make each frame out of a single piece of wire, I needed to know how long each wire should be. I used string and taped it onto the outline of each element and then used each string to measure the length of wire and rope light I needed. The string also provided good practice for determining how I would wire the frames with a single, continuous length of rope light.

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After cutting and bending the wire into the shape I needed, I welded each piece together.

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Because I was planning to resurface the driveway anyway, I painted the frames on the driveway with a flat black paint. Painting may not have been necessary, but I think it does hide the metal better than had they not been painted, and it helps the zip ties adhere better, too.

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Once they were all painted, I did a test fit on the ping pong table and started zip-tying clear white rope light to each frame. The clear white rope light I selected could be cut every 24" and later on, I used a bit of black electrical tape to mask out areas I didn't want to show.

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Because I used clear white rope light, I used Metalcast spray paint to paint the various figures the colors I wanted. Dupli-Color Metalcast spray paint is usually available in auto parts stores or via Amazon. In some cases this meant using some masking tape to protect sections from overspray, but overall, I was very happy with the result. Each element had several coats of the spray paint to deepen the color. Then I laid them out on the floor of the garage for a test. Notice the wire grid beneath the frames. This served as a base to hold all the sections together. Zip-tying the pieces to each other and the grid made it quite strong. The grid is vinyl-coated wire garden fencing, also available at Lowe's or Home Depot. Note: The Metalcast paint seems to last quite a long time -- after 5 years' use, the colors are still vibrant and have faded only slightly.

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I made an arch out of PVC, mounted the grid in the arch and zip-tied four strings of incandescent mini lights (red-blue-yellow-green) around it. A single 16-channel controller is needed for the 11 choir members and four colors on the arch, leaving one spare channel. To mount the frame, I pound a couple stakes in the ground and set the PVC arch over them to hold the bottom and simply zip tie it to the tree branches in 3 or 4 places.

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All in all, it gives a nice effect, and each choir member is animated individually. There are three each of sopranos, altos and tenors and two basses, and when the choir is used, I animate the various voices appropriately with the music. Sequencing it takes a lot of time....

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After 8 years of use, I decided to refurbish the colors with Metalcast paint again. Good as new!

Choir refurb.jpg