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Yamaha M7CL48-ES stars at reopening gala for Europe’s biggest open air theatre

Aug, 2010

The summer of 2010 has seen the reopening of Europe’s largest open air theatre in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Late July saw the 6,500-capacity venue’s gala opening concert, which featured opera legends Jose Carreras and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, plus a trio of Yamaha M7CL mixing consoles playing a starring role.

Originally opened in 1932, when English seaside resorts were at their peak, thousands of people came to witness theatrical productions and lavish musicals in a venue where the audience is memorably on the shore of a lake and the stage on an island in the middle of it. But by the 1970s the theatre was in decline, it’s biggest claim to fame during that decade being a regular host venue for British television’s legendary It’s A Knockout. Hosting its last performance in 1986, the decaying remains of Scarborough Open Air Theatre lay forgotten for over 20 years, until its recent £3.5m restoration.

Subfrantic Production Services provides the revived venue’s audio infrastructure and is deploying its Yamaha inventory at a number of events this year. First was the gala opening performance, held on 23rd July, for which two of the recently-launched M7CL-48ES were cascaded together via ADAT cards to form a 96 channel mix position at front of house, with a standard M7CL-48 at the monitor position. Six SB168-ES stage boxes provided the onstage feeds, with an EtherSound™ multicore providing the necessary link.

“We’d been using the standard M7CL-48 for some time, but it was our operations manager Sean Murphy (who also handled monitor duties at the event) who convinced me to invest in the new ES version,” says Steve Davies, Subfrantic proprietor and general manager. “I was a bit sceptical at first, but I’m very glad he did, for a number of reasons.”

One of those reasons was the theatre’s lake, beneath which has been installed a network of pipes for multicores and other infrastructure cabling to be run through.

“We were going to get a copper multicore made especially for the venue, but the EtherSound Cat5 link made a lot of sense financially. We intend to leave the infrastructure in place, so I’d rather leave 100m of Cat5 cable than £6,000 of copper,” says Steve,

“Another issue was with the pipes themselves - it’s not a straight run, so getting a standard multicore through would have been a nightmare. On top of that, when we opened the pipes up they were flooded, so when we arrived with the Cat5 we were very glad we’d gone down that route. There is a lot of unpleasant stuff in that water, which you really wouldn’t want to have to clean off a big multicore!”

Last - but by absolutely no means least - was the issue of audio quality. “The audio quality of the M7CL48-ES is a significant step up,” Steve continues. “It has brought it a lot closer to the PM5D, but you still have the M7CL’s user interface, which I really like. And it’s a really flexible console.”

Providing the musical accompaniment for the event was the Orchestra of Opera North. Jose Carreras and Dame Kiri sang both alone and together during the show, which also featured Huddersfield Choral Society, the whole production tied together by compére Brian Blessed.

Using a total of around 90 channels, the orchestra used a combination of DPA, Schoeps, Neumann, AKG and Shure microphones, Blessed had a wireless DPA headset and the opera stars each a pair of suitably, as Steve puts it, “über expensive” Schoeps mics.

“It was a standard setup for this kind of music,” he says. “Some engineers prefer two mics for the lead vocalists so they can have different inputs for FOH and monitors, but we had the second as a spare, just in case. The channels were all paired at FOH, so it was a failsafe.”

Things at the mix position were, inevitably, fairly complex. The two opera stars had brought their own front of house engineers, Steve manned the faders during Blessed’s segments and co-ordinated things between the two visiting engineers, while Martin Atkinson mixed the orchestra and choral society. But things all went very smoothly, despite having to do some rapid planning and the pre-show line checks having to be done in a downpour.

“The biggest challenge was really the amount of time we had to prepare,” says Steve. “The programme wasn’t decided until later than we’d have ideally liked and we couldn’t work out the size of the orchestra until we knew that. But once we had the information, Richard McLean at Yamaha bent over backwards to help us. For example, once we realised it would be a three-desk gig, he loaned us a flightcase to get all the consoles there safely. It was a big show and he was a great help.

“Configuring the system during the line check was difficult, everybody got soaked,” Steve continues. “One thing the venue had overlooked was adequate cover at the FOH position, but we rigged up some tarpaulins and had no problems whatsoever with the consoles.”

After a wide range of music had been performed to an appreciative crowd, an aptly rousing rendition of Scarborough Fair, followed by the 1812 Overture with accompanying fireworks brought Scarborough Open Air Theatre’s spectacular reopening concert to a close.

“On the show day the weather was fantastic. We expected the odd problem, but everything worked flawlessly,” says Steve. “The acoustics are fantastic and we had a number of comments about the good sound.

“Yamaha’s support was also excellent. It has always been very good, they are very flexible on any manner of things. It makes a big difference to us.”

Data

Products M7CL-48ES , SB168-ES

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