When longstanding client The Fulltone Orchestra came to us with the idea of going on tour with west end star Lucie Jones, we were obviously excited, but nothing prepared us for just how special a show this would become. The show's unique concept featured songs from shows and screen played by a fully fledged 46 piece orchestra conducted by Anthony Brown, featuring Lucie and a selection of talented guests to really top it off. Our brief... to translate the epic energy on stage to the audience and "make us look great".
That might sound like an easy task when you have a large number of musicians on stage ,making a lot of noise, but from an audio point of view the challenge the presents itself is to ensure that the audience experiences the dynamic range of the orchestra. They need to hear the quiet elements, they need to feel the monstrous moments and everything in-between without it becoming overwhelming and maintaining clarity and definition at all times. Ah... not so simple! But no match for the talented engineers at play here.
Both engineers opted for an Allen and heath Dlive solution for their fantastic reverbs, high processing capabilities, compact footprint and impressive sound qualities. We have learned over the years that to amplify an orchestra effectively you need patience, and not to try and change the tonality of the orchestra, rather enhance whats already there, eventuate certain elements but let the orchestra dictate the tone.
The Dlive consoles are a joy to work with on such a project, even with a large channel count, the DCA spill function enables a show of this size to be mixed on one layer for the most part. The on-board reverbs allow us to beautifully place the musicians in a pleasant sounding space no matter the acoustics of the venue they're playing in that day, ensuring consistency day to day. Our job is also made easier by using the best and most appropriate microphones. We utilised a large number of DPA 4099 clip on mics for all the strings, AKG C451s for wind and brass, Audio-technica AE3000s for the percussion and a concoction of mics for the drum kit, including the new 4055 On kick drum which was perfect for a mix like this. Everyone is raving about them but the best way it can be described, is it's incredibly well behaved and easily mouldable. The star of the show really being the outstanding DPA D:facto vocal capsule. It absolutely is studio quality sound for the stage. All microphones were picked from patch's extensive microphone stock.
Monitoring on a show like his is absolutely crucial, with varied acoustics at each venue, being able to hear one another isn't a given, and the difficult task fell to Kieran Powell to make everyone happy. We opted for the rhythm section to utilise or Allen and Heath ME1 Personal monitoring solution. This means that they each got their own controller which can receive up to 40 channels of audio from the monitor desk, the musicians can then create their own mix straight to headphones. We felt this was important as they can be quite isolated at the back of the orchestra, some of them are behind perspex screens to limit noise bleed for example. The orchestra themselves were catered for with speakers on stands on each side and the vocalists were on Sennheiser g3 IEMS. Lucie herself said "I have never felt like I dont want to take my ears out before, this is brilliant" ( nice one KP).
Another win for us was being able to Digitally share inputs between the consoles using Allen and Heath's Proprietary protocol: giga-ace. Using a giga ace card in each rack to link them, the clever Dlive gain tracking function enabled control freak FOH Engineer Toby to have gain control, seamlessly compensating the trim on Kieran's console so as to not affect his audio level. The system worked flawlessly, we didn't even notice that we were sharing a preamp! Virtual soundcheck from another waves card was also patched through the gigaace cards enabling both consoles to virtual soundcheck from one source.
Enough about audio ( we would go on for ever otherwise )
The lighting was creatively designed by Tom Morgan utilising the Global truss drop arm system to create an interesting and engaging rig with a respectable number of fixtures. Executed on a chamsys Mq80, Tom created dynamic punchy looks without distracting too much from the action. With such a dynamic show with epic soaring swelling moments and quiet, intimate moments of vulnerability, the programming needed to be spot on. The entire rig was LED including the fantastic Elumen8 fury 2 Cell blinders which can create a subtle halogen glow with their Dim to Warm technology which framed the orchestra nicely and brought you into the stage.
We have received nothing but positive feedback from the client, Lucie and her team and members of the public and the musicians, a few highlights to mention:
"Last night sounded and looked great, thanks for making that the only great sounding amplified gig I’ve ever seen in st David’s Hall" Audience Member
"just wanted to say on behalf of all us muso's a huge thank you for what you & your guys did yesterday, immense job! When you hear comments from the audience members who regular go to London venues such as "far better than the West End", then it confirms what we suspected. " Fulltone Orchestra Musician
"Mixing the sound of 50 live instruments and a lead vocalist from orchestral broadway tunes to more modern poppy shows is no mean feat but I have to say the sound design was amazing, the lights were brilliant too, and there were multiple times the audience were captivated in total silence, you really could hear a pin drop" Industry Review
"You are such incredible people to be around and what you produce visually and sound wise for us is off the scale good. We cannot thank you enough for supporting us on this tour - it was a huge deal and undertaking for us and you made it pukka!" Client
We have loved working on this project with the Fulltone orchestra, we are so passionate about translating the orchestra to the audience in a pleasing and impactful way and relish in the nuanced mix approach that requires. The Fulltone tone team have been fun and a pleasure to work with, we enjoyed a fantastic working relationship with Lucie and her team and look forward to working with them all again soon.
FOH Sound, Systems engineer and Production manager: Toby Chevis
Monitor Engineer: Kieran Powell
Lighting Designer: Tom Morgan
Technician: Mark Fleet
If you think we could help you take your show to the next level, we'd love to hear from you
A few images we captured of the last show at St David's Hall, Cardiff: