The English National Ballet recently completed a series of 14 sell-out shows at the new 500-seat Theatre at The Concourse Performing Arts Centre in Sydney, Australia, to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
In order to achieve a natural effect whereby the music did not sound over amplified, the venue’s sound designer and production engineer, Owen Ironside, selected a range of DPA microphones to capture the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra’s performance.
“The Theatre is a very intimate space and my goal was to make the mix as transparent as possible and merely bring the orchestra image out of the pit, sonically speaking, without it sounding like the PA was even on,” Ironside explained. “In total there were 29 musicians situated in the open pit, beneath the stage. To achieve the results I wanted I opted to mic each section with DPA microphones, with the addition of a solo DPA mic on 1st violin, as opposed to a traditional Decca Tree approach.”
On Ironside’s recommendation, the Concourse Arts Centre invested in 12 DPA 2011C Twin Diaphragm directional microphones, which were supplied by DPA’s Australian distributor Amber Technologies.
“I used directional microphones because the orchestra was situated directly under the PA,” Ironside said. “To mic the venue’s Steinway piano I used the directional DPA d:vote 4099P instrument microphone set mounted inside the piano with magnet holders, making it almost invisible. This was a last minute addition chosen for aesthetic reasons when the director decided to move the piano on and off stage during the performance. I also used DPA Reference Standard 4015A wide cardioid microphones for harp and timpani in order to minimise proximity effect. The harp sounded quite boomy before amplification so I certainly didn’t want to accentuate this. The wide cardioids’ wide pickup pattern also suited the harp and timpani’s wide radiation, while for the single double bass I used a d:vote 4099B instrument microphone. This allowed me to close mic and gave me maximum control within the mix.”
The combination of Ironside’s attention to detail and the performance of the microphones appeared to impress many, from the audience and performers to the musicians and venue staff.
Gavin Sutherland, music director and conductor for English National Ballet, commented: “I was extremely impressed with the sound engineering for the Willoughby Symphony pit orchestra in the Theatre at The Concourse. The sound emanating from this moderately sized pit of 29 players, out front (in the auditorium) has a fulsomeness, richness and clarity worthy of some of the larger pit orchestras in Europe. A great natural sounding result was achieved.”
Following the English National Ballet performance, the Concourse Arts Centre has increased its stock of DPA microphones by investing in ten d:fine headset microphones, which it is using for musical theatre productions, and is also considering investing in different capsules for its Reference Series microphones to use during recording in its Concert Hall.
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