Not your typical high school musical rig - A Gear Story

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Not your typical high school musical rig - A Gear Story

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:04 pm

I just finished up a week of working on Harbour View High School's production of The Phantom Of The Opera and thought I'd share some details of what the audio component of the show consisted of. This would fall into the category of a larger than average setup, especially for a local school show.

This was the second time HVHS produced one of their spring musicals at Imperial Theatre. The first show I did with them was 2005's Beauty and The Beast, which was also at Imperial, and I continued working with them at their own auditorium for several shows after that. With Phantom, the limitations of their own space would have prohibited a lot of what is necessary to pull off this production. The schedule is super tight with load in to the venue being on Sunday, the week of performance, Cue to cue on Monday evening, full rehearsal on Tues night, and a "Student Dress" on Wed night with an audience... which to me is a show more than a rehearsal once people are listening. Five public performances Thurs-Saturday with load out that night.

Scott DeVarenne and I have worked several full scale musicals together over the years, him being the tender of wireless systems and the general audio second. I hope he will pop in and share some of his thoughts on this week.

This was the largest pit band I have worked with for a show of this kind with an 18 member group under the direction of Mike Molloy consisting of brass, wind, and string sections, electric and double bass, keyboards, and electronic and acoustic percussion. Trumpet, trombone and french horns were covered with Shure Beta27s, flute, oboe and clarinet with Beta181s, and violins, violas, and cellos with SM81s. Bass was the direct out of Franco C's Acoustic Image amp that he plays both upright and electric through. This might be a concern if not dealing with someone who knows how to tweak a tone, but Franco is more than adequate in that circumstance. Acoustic percussion was covered by AKG C414 with electronic drums and percussion direct. Keyboards etc. are all direct. DIs were mostly LA Audio actives, with one or two of the passive variety sneaking in...

Voice was covered by 24 channels of Shure ULXP wireless systems provided by D&D Sound, combined with my own kit of Countryman B3 mics. For the show, we had 22 channels for key cast, one Beta87 hand held for last minute situations that can come up, and one complete spare system. There was one C414 stage left in the wing for chorus group vocals, and one PCC160 down stage center that was used only to feed some "stage" into pit monitors.

In total, I ended up with 50 inputs, not including effect returns, all mixed from the FOH Yamaha PM5D to not only house PA but 7 monitor mixes on stage and in the pit. Four Meyer UPA1P flown in the wings provide foldback of band to the stage as well as cue fx coverage. The house EV T221 wedges were pit monitors, as well as one on stage in the wing with the chorus mic.

Recorded effects were minimal with only 9 cues once all were committed. I've been running Multiplay with great success these days for playback interfaced with my Tascam US-1641. I had some sizable effect processing for several pieces of voice that director Juliette Bossé wanted heavily treated. A combination of a very long "Hall" reverb with a long delay also feeding into the reverb send giving me options depending on the piece ended up as a winner.

A serious challenge with this production was the blocking of actors throughout the auditorium, in front of the PA, delivering lines and singing. I actually ended up satisfied and surprised at how controlled the sound of the B3s was given the situation I was working with. Wireless coverage was a concern as well with performers delivering lines from as far away as the balcony and the rear of the orchestra level. After a few initial problems, Scott got antennas situated, and everything ended up clean and under control.

As usual, working with the staff, students and parents of Harbour View was a pleasure. The way the kids carry themselves in a situation like this outside of the comfort of their own venue is a testament to what and how they are being taught. I have worked with many adult groups who do not bring the same degree of professional attitude that these students on the crew and cast do. Kudos to all the gang!
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It just fills Forum pages..." --compasspnt

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Re: Not your typical high school musical rig - A Gear Story

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Mon Apr 30, 2012 1:34 pm

Image

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A crowded orchestra pit.

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Wireless world.

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On stage pre show... complete with wireless mic tree.

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Chorus mic.

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Last minute notes before the final show.
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It just fills Forum pages..." --compasspnt

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Re: Not your typical high school musical rig - A Gear Story

Postby Alain Benoit » Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:52 pm

Very cool.
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Re: Not your typical high school musical rig - A Gear Story

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Mon Apr 30, 2012 11:01 pm

One other thing that popped into my head that some may not have seen yet was the platform the keyboard players were using for much of their sounds called "Keyboard Ease". It's an idea for great players who are maybe less savvy at building their own patches for complicated shows like Phantom. It appears to be basically soft synths pre built for a given score that you basically step through one at a time for the given pieces. In spite of some technical issues with the setup, once we were up and running, everything ran as it should during the performances.
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Re: Not your typical high school musical rig - A Gear Story

Postby Scott DeVarenne » Tue May 01, 2012 12:02 am

There were some really messed-up (intentionally) sounding patches. There was one in particular that seemed to have layers of detuned content blended so, when a single note was played, it was a huge wave of ugly. I can imagine the creation of such a sound being beyond the archi-textural abilties of not only a player, but also an instrument.
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Re: Not your typical high school musical rig - A Gear Story

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Wed May 23, 2012 12:36 am

I take most comments on production with a grain of salt, but I heard a couple more stories about some who attended this show thinking that some of the kids weren't singing live! This is without a doubt one of my favourite things to hear when doing these shows because not only is it a compliment to how great some of these kids do from a performance standpoint, but to think that they are hearing tracks and not live voice is the ultimate for me. I work so hard to make things sound natural in these shows, and for that to translate to people thinking it sounds "too good" to be live... Love it!
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