Front of house engineer Wim Van Der Molen (pictured, left) recently upgraded his mixing console to an SSL Live L500 for Dutch violinist and conductor André Rieu’s recent tour.
The console, supplied and supported on tour by Solotech, mixes up to 128 inputs from stage for both the PA and monitors from the FOH position.
The tour's previous digital console had been in service for 12 years when Van Der Molen, who has been touring with Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra for around 24 years, decided to look for a new system.
”We had to put forward a good argument to the boss for replacing our existing console,” said Van Der Molen, “and we had to be convinced as well of course... The first time I mixed on the SSL I knew it was better; it was amazing. The result was even better than I had expected."
The show travels with 128 preamps via a rack of SSL Stageboxes with SuperAnalogue inputs, and while it does not always use all 128 inputs, it does expand regularly for special events when the addition of a choir, various regular guests, and a larger orchestra bumps up the count.
While VCAs are available on the L500, the show does not use them. Instead it is organised with the unique Stem Group - a special audio group with flexible routing possibilities and the option of full processing which allows Van Der Molen to balance the whole orchestra against the singers and soloists. "Sometimes the orchestra can overplay the soloists and this makes it very easy to correct that without having to make lots of adjustments," he explained.
Rieu's vocals are not routed to the main mix, but are sent directly from the console as a separate input to the Meyer Sound Galileo system. "This means I can EQ it and send it to different fills and specific speakers," said Solotech project manager and systems tech Alexandre Dugas (pictured, right). "It's just something that comes from experience in different venues and with varied systems. It seems to work best for us. They are omnidirectional lavaliers and they need a lot of control."
The eight monitor mixes for the show are all managed from the FOH console. They are not complex mixes, but as Dugas explained: "For a standard show we have at least 80 microphones on the stage and with a choir that can be more than 100. With all those microphones, a lot of complex monitor mixes would make a big mess!"
The main value of the monitor mixes is as direct feedback for the musicians from their own instruments. The front fills are mostly Rieu's violin, along with the soloists, as Van Der Molen remarked: "André is the conductor, so when he is playing the violin, the orchestra must play off that lead."
When it came to the final stamp of approval on the SSL, Van Der Molen recalls a playback of Ravel's Bolero to Rieu after one of the 'test' shows. "It's a piece of music big on dynamics," he said. "We played it back for Rieu and he was very impressed. All he said was 'Okay... It's all yours!'"