Planning and Realization of the sound system and Front of House mix of a musical show in the tradition of a mystery play
Special challenges / difficulties:
Bandwidth of the musical spectrum, structure of the venue, number of participants, scenes with high demands on speech intelligibility
In October 2004, a large music spectacle took place at the Basilica in Echternach again. Under the name "PANDORA" this time a play was planned in the tradition of a mystery play.
The basic room acoustic challenges were the same as in 1998 for "ORALBORA" (see project). The instrumentation and the choir were almost identical to the 1998 performance. Again Jean Marie Kieffer acted as composer, conductor and the organizational and artistic director of the project. New in the team was Danielle Hoffelt, like Jean Marie Kieffer a teacher at the "Lycée classique d'Echternach". She was responsible for the theatrical part of the play's texts and stage direction.
A mystery play is a combination of singing and acting, so this time I had to deal with an extended stage area. To gain more space for the stage the second altar, below the orchestra level, was completely overbuilt. Framed with set decoration this area was used for the scenes.
As a consequence there was an additional challenge concerning the sound concept. I had to embed thirteen actors, some of whom with singing parts. Therefore all of them were equipped with wireless microphone headsets. In order to achieve an "inaudible" neutral sound transmission, especially for the dialogues, I decided to choose headsets with omnidirectional microphones. However these types of microphones increased the risk of feedback. In addition, that can quickly lead to unpleasant sound distortions, caused by crosstalk from closely positioned actors.
The large choir behind the orchestra was given additional tasks in the story. On top of their "normal" chorus parts the choir was to represent the residents of the village in which the story was based. This also led to different audible implementation, I decided to change the pickup of the choir compared to 1998. Instead, of putting the microphones on boom stands aside the choir, we flew small metal bars with steel wires from the light rig. To these bars we could attach the microphones, which gave me a much better possibility for the positioning and orientation of the microphones. Another positive effect with this kind of pickup system was that the whole construction was less noticeable at show lighting. That supported the concept that the audience should, as far as possible, not notice that there was any sound reinforcement in use during the show.
Due to the changed spatial requirements on stage in comparison to 1998, the entire time - alignment had to be re-done of course and the acoustic "zero line" had to be redefined. This time, in order to tune the system, I used a Smaart-Live measurement system.
Another novelty was a video monitoring. Since understandably the conductor could not be placed in front of the scene, a 2-way video monitoring was necessary. Thus, the conductor got a wide shot from the scene to be able to follow the play at his back. The actors got video monitors with a close-up of the conductor at the edge of the stage to get there musical cues and guidance.
Like in 1998, the performances should be recorded in multitrack. A CD was to be produced from the recordings of all 5 performances. This time we had a 48 track hard disk recording system for that task.
As a mixing board, I decided to use a digital one this time. With the YAMAHA PM1D I was able to "kill more than two birds with one stone":
With this desk it was relatively easy to handle the necessary 64 input channels. In addition, it was possible to realize the stage monitoring of the front of house console, saving cost considerably. Next, with the PM1D it was also possible to link the recording directly to the digital mixing system. So an additional console for the recording could also be saved. The necessary sub-mixes (64 inputs plus 2 atmo > 48 tracks) were realized on the PM1D as well. Gunni Mahling, the recording-engineer, had a "RECO" - remote control unit which gave him the opportunity to access "his" sub mixes at any time, for necessary chances .
Another reason for using this digital concept was the option to use the wireless RECO - system for a more easy and precise fine-tuneing of the sound system.
The final reason for the use of PM1D was, that at this time it was the only console that could provide the necessary automation and on-/offline editing options needed for such a special show.
Again, I was not only responsible for the planning and technical direction but also for the sound design and the front of house mix.
The sound equipment was provided from the company PADCO, Cologne.
Gunni Mahling Studio Saarbruecken was responsible for the recording and CD production.
Thomas Fuhrmann supported me as stage- and wireless- technician.
This time "TRIACS" a Trier based company was responsible for the trussing and lightning.