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Panto And Pitch-Perfect Pupils: Yamaha Brings Christmas To Perth

Dec, 2017

Andy Kidd (Perth Concert Hall head of sound) with John Pike (Perth Concert Hall technical manager)


In venues the length and breadth of the UK, Christmas concerts and the grand tradition of pantomime are getting thousands of people into the festive spirit. Yamaha mixing consoles are at the heart of many, with no less than six hard at work in Perth, Scotland.

Opened in 2005, Perth Concert Hall is a truly modern, multipurpose venue. Amongst many innovations, the main Gannochy Auditorium features movable seating, stage and thrust stage to transform the space for a wide variety of productions. The technical specification is similarly state-of-the-art, with Yamaha CL5, PM5D, LS9-32, 01V96 digital mixing consoles and R-series i/o boxes, all on a Dante network.

The venue is owned and managed by Horsecross Arts, which also runs the adjacent Perth Theatre. Having reopened in November 2017 after a four year, £16.6m refurbishment, Yamaha QL5 and QL1 digital consoles were installed in Perth Theatre and put straight to work on twice-daily performances of pantomime Aladdin.

Meanwhile, in the Concert Hall, the festive entertainment includes annual Christmas concerts by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish folk musician Phil Cunningham and independent schools Kilgraston and the Dollar Academy. Add in slapstick children’s entertainers Funbox, a range of non-Christmas themed productions and the need for mixing consoles that are as versatile, reliable and easy to use as Yamaha becomes clear.

“We opened with the PM5D, adding the CL5 later as the Gannochy Auditorium’s main mixer,” says Perth Concert Hall head of sound Andy Kidd. “The first thing is that they need to be rider-friendly. We have everyone here from Joe Bloggs with his disco to high end touring engineers, so we need consoles that anyone can walk up to and mix on.”

Equally important is the quality and versatility of the system. From complex orchestral mixes to doing monitors for performers with little experience, the console needs to take it all in its stride.

“We mix monitors for the school concerts from the CL5 and, of course, they don't really know what they want to hear,” says Andy. “During rehearsal we ask them to keep playing and we will be their ears for them. Being a concert hall it’s a very live sound so, thanks to the StageMix app, we can step up there and make it right for them.

“At the other end of the scale, one of the many good points about the CL5 is that you can do 12 ways of stereo IEMs. It makes complex monitoring from the main console possible.”

While Perth Theatre was being refurbished, the annual pantomimes were staged in the Concert Hall. Despite panto’s reputation for being rather lowbrow entertainment, the production values are usually very high.

“Because of all the other shows we do, the build, get in, rigging, techs and the dress rehearsal all had to be done in just five days. And in the middle of it we had other events,” says Andy.

“Some of the things in the panto are technically very challenging. Being able to programme everything on the CL5, all I had to do was recall the show file, check that all the microphones were set up OK and step through the cues. The ease of being able to do it was fantastic. It’s the same with the QL consoles in the Perth Theatre. Here, we go from that to a rock gig and from that to the BBC recording a full orchestra…”

Talking of which, the Concert Hall also has its own live streaming facilities and Steinberg Nuendo Live for recording shows. The BBC also regularly records there.

“It’s great to have a mixing system that they can simply come in and plug in to,” says Andy. “It’s a great marketing point for us that the BBC uses our equipment for their recordings. It means we are known for everything being up to their standards.

“It’s all there with a Yamaha console, it just makes sense. Five shows a week, every one is different and the same desk does all of them.”

Meanwhile, as carols ring in the ears of proud parents and, over in Perth Theatre, Aladdin defeats the evil Abanazer, Yamaha digital mixers have done their bit to bring the spirit of Christmas to another UK city…

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