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Yamaha PM5D dances across the globe

Jul,2008

14 years after the public was first introduced to the Irish dancing of Riverdance, there are still usually at least two touring companies on the road at any one time performing a full theatre production of the show. This year has so far seen tours in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, China and Taiwan, with a tour in the production’s native Ireland also in full swing. And at the heart of them all are Yamaha PM5D audio consoles.

The interval at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest saw Riverdance’s public debut, with a full-length theatre production, Riverdance the Show, first taking place in Dublin in February of the following year.

Since then the public’s appetite for it has shown no signs of diminishing. Despite having played across the world and having spawned an entire genre of dance shows and with production values far more akin to rock’n’roll than anything that had gone before in the dance genre, Riverdance continues to delight audiences in many countries.

Sound design for all Riverdance productions is by Mick O’Gorman and his sound design company MOSCO, with Yamaha PM5Ds a fundamental part of his design.

Although the audience focus is primarily on the main cast of up to 32 Irish dancers, six of whom are principal dancers, each production of Riverdance also features a five-piece live band, two solo singers as well as two African-American tap dancers and a Spanish Flamenco soloist along with members of the company also singing and playing the bodhran.

With such a variety of audio inputs, it is a complex show to mix and necessitates two Yamaha PM5D-RHs to handle FOH duties, each with additional inputs to provide up to 72 channels. A d&b Q series line array provides the FOH sound, configured as LCR with time-aligned fills and delays. Foldback for the dancers is provided by sidefills and speakers flown from the lighting truss, while the live musicians use in-ear monitors.

“The shows make extensive use of sound effects and voiceovers, with such elements of the show using timecode,” says Mick O’Gorman. “We use the timecode from the sound effects playback to trigger mix and effects changes in the PM5Ds.

“Riverdance has always been at the forefront of console automation, in the areas of muting, routing and level starts,” he continues. “We have been using Yamaha digital consoles since the mid 1990s. Initially we started out with the ProMix01, graduating to the 01V and then the 01V96.

“For other theatre productions we have been using an LS9-32 and, when analogue consoles are used, we have regularly used Yamaha multi-effects units. So we have a long association with Yamaha and the equipment provides exactly what we need.”

For Riverdance Mick and his team programme each main dance number as a main scene on the PM5Ds, stepping through a series of sub scenes as the music and dancing change during the number.

“When hooked up to timecode automation we can go further, ensuring that small specific tweaks are always in the right place at the right time. In the same way we can alter our reverbs, etc, per scene or per sub scene,” he says.

One major advantage of the PM5D for Mick is the space the consoles save, not only the control surface itself, but doing away with outboard racks.

“We use all on-board effects and dynamics,” he says. “We are also about to explore the possibility of the new channel strip, master strip and reverb add-on effects plug-ins, which has been made possible by the recent purchase of a PM5D-RH V2.

The quality of the effects is very important, because the sound of the dancers shoes is one of the most important parts of the Riverdance show. So Mick makes clever use of the PM5D’s effects and panning facilities to make the sound as natural as possible.

“The sound of the shoes is amplified, so the trick is to make the sound of those shoes appear that is coming from the stage, not from the speakers,” he says. “To do this, we employ various signal delay techniques, with appropriate apportionment of sound to the left, centre, right, under stage and up stage speakers.

“To avoid spill, we use the best microphones on the instruments and locate them appropriately and the production itself is also choreographed very pragmatically. For example, loud dance passages are typically accompanied by loud music, which helps to obviate any potential problems with spill.”

This pragmatic philosophy is at the heart of the way Mick ensures that audiences never get anything less than the very best sound. And the Yamaha consoles go a long way to help him achieve that.

“It is our prime concern that, for all productions, the sound quality is very good in all seats,” he says. “With a packed house in a theatre environment we cannot monitor the audio in all the seats, so we provide complex sound systems and use all the available technology to as far as possible equally address all seats.

“Typically the sound crews receive very positive response from audiences, although of course sometimes the crew get told that they have done a great job with the lighting! But we are always interested in listening to audience comments and the Yamaha consoles play a significant role in the positive response that we get.”

He continues: “From an audio professional’s point of view, we have always been impressed with both the sound and the user accessibility of all Yamaha products. We are looking to take things further with the add-on effects plug-ins and, by the beginning of next year, the foldback on all productions of Riverdance will have been transferred to a separate Yamaha PM5D-RH located at the side of the stage.

“This change will make for a considerably reduced footprint and provide for greater automation and conformity between the shows.”

Data

Products PM5D , 01V96VCM

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