Former Roxy Music and Squeeze member, Paul Carrack held three performances at the Royal College of Music with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in April.
A trio of Yamaha digital consoles were used to mix and record the shows, which were held at the college’s 400-capacity Britten Theatre. A pair of Yamaha M7CL48-ES consoles handled front of house and monitor sound, while an 02R96VCM was used to track the show for a DVD recording. Three Yamaha SB168-ES stage boxes were also employed for the shows.
With so many players on stage the main focus of the mix was to make sure Carrack’s vocal could be heard above the orchestra. “It’s an unusual gig, a very small venue that’s not looking for a lot of amplification. Very rarely do you do amplified orchestral work in a nice little theatre like this,” said system technician Charlie Brown."
“It’s about mixing Paul’s voice on top of the orchestra and pulling other instruments out just enough to make it sound acoustic, but still live and full,” added Keith Birtwhistle, Carrack’s long-term front of house engineer. “These are prestigious shows for him, the kind of unusual gigs that he really enjoys doing. And it’s been going down a storm, the audience is loving it and it’s sounding great.”
Microphone placement comprised ambient condenser mics, to get an overall sound of the show, plus spot mics to pull out the solos and particular parts where necessary.
“It has been quite a journey from Paul’s normal nine piece band to this,” said monitor engineer Andy Parker. “He’s a big fan of in-ear monitors, so my biggest challenge is trying to give his mix a high quality of sound and not sounding like a lot of very ambient mics on a very open stage!
“The difficulty in this environment is, if your not careful, the orchestra can sound as if they’re miles away from him, so it’s been a challenge to mix but the M7CL is a great desk for the job. The shows have sounded fantastic, both Paul and I have been very happy with it.”
“One of the really useful things for me is that the M7CL is not dual layered like most digital desks,” Keith continued. “It’s a 48 channel desk with 48 faders, which means instant access to most of the channels. You need that with an orchestra, because you never know what they’re going to do and you don’t get much time to soundcheck.
“With 80 musicians on stage, you can’t keep asking them to stop and for a certain instrument to play a bit again. You listen, use your knowledge of an orchestra and your hearing to set the sound up in the time there is available and then constantly adjust it throughout the show. Having a lot of faders makes that a lot more straightforward."
Meanwhile, in the Royal College of Music’s in-house studio, engineer Steven Harrington was using the resident 02R96VCM console to track all three shows to ProTools for a future DVD release.
“We use the console for a lot of things, mainly studio recordings for students and live recordings from the College’s various venues,” said Harrington. “Permanent tielines link the console with the live performance spaces so, for this show, 32 channels of both digital and analogue feed are being tracked on the Yamaha console. That recording will then be taken and mixed for the DVD."
He continued, “Some of the original mics hung in the Britten theatre are fed via analogue ties, so we’ve got them on a separate layer, using the preamps on the desk. It’s a pretty versatile console for every scenario we have and we frequently use every layer. It’s got all the facilities we need in a compact footprint.”