Performance By Candlelight: How Do Candles Elevate Art?


If you’ve ever gone to a musical event or an old-fashioned theatre show, it’s likely that you’ve been sitting in a room which is predominantly lit with warm, flickering candlelight. Oftentimes, we simply accept candles as normal in these kinds of environments, and we don’t give them a second thought, but they are actually far more integral to an artistic experience than you might think. 

Candles are not just a pretty sideshow. They are an impactful and important part of a performance. In short, they are a way to elevate what you see on the stage, acting hand in hand with the atmosphere and creativity that the performance is attempting to portray. Let’s look at a few ways they manage to do this:

Candles Are Aesthetically Beautiful

While ordinary electric bulbs can emit a substantial amount of light, they are not exactly interesting to look at. With a range of designs (whether that’s old-fashioned, art deco, traditional or modern), candles can add to the aesthetics of performance and become a piece of art themselves. If a traditional play is being performed, for instance, intricately designed candlesticks can be utilised to fit in with the aesthetic of the story and help maintain and elevate the illusion for the audience. 

Candles Can Tell A Story

There is a reason why candelabras are utilised in churches, or Shabbat Candlesticks are placed around a Jewish dining table. Candles can help to translate a story through their design and context. They can communicate in a way that is visually compelling, telling a story without the need for any words. This is also important when it comes to the atmosphere. Going back to the past, storytellers used to perform readings of their books with the pages lit by candlelight. This helped to build and maintain an atmosphere amongst the audience, taking them out of the world they were living in and placing them into the world that the storyteller had created.

Their Scent Can Invoke Feeling And Emotion

Another great thing about candles is that, unlike electric light, they utilise far more of your senses. Scented candles such as Yankee Candle, for instance, can elicit feelings of euphoria or melancholy. They stimulate your limbic system, which is the part of the brain that evokes memories and emotion. They can also make you feel relaxed and dreamy, with scents of lavender and chamomile often being used in orchestral performances where the ambience is supposed to be soft and calming. 

They Are Essential For Mood Lighting

One of the most important ways candles elevate art is through the different kinds of lighting they can offer. While electric light can be harsh and bright, candles emit far more of a warm and natural glow. Rather than a vivid white light, their light is orange and soft, low and atmospheric. Their steady, kinetic flicker can elevate the mood and give a setting an entirely different feel. This is also the reason why candles are used for relaxing or romantic evenings at home. Through their ability to enhance a mood, they are also perfect for enhancing an atmosphere and assisting a piece of art to reach another level.