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Sound Hire Opens Welsh Assembly

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"The MSL-4s are such a great and versatile box. We've just bought another 20 from Autograph Sales with the new L-Track rigging system..."

- Richard Liénard
Owner, Sound Hire

There are open-air concerts and there are open-air concerts with a difference. The May opening of the new Welsh Assembly in Cardiff was an opening with a difference for specialist sound company Sound Hire. Best known for its work with Pavarotti and the Three Tenors, the Sutton (UK) based company has been a highly specialized supplier of large systems for the growing classical & opera market for more than 15 years. With a loudspeaker inventory that includes Meyer Sound MSL-4s and MSL-10A loudspeakers, Sound Hire (www.sound-hire.com) has all but pioneered large scale classical and opera sound in Europe, especially with the use of jib cranes and flown point source sound systems.

The Queen opened the Welsh Assembly officially on May 26 in its temporary home at the old dock area, known as Cardiff Bay, along with Prince Philip,the Prince of Wales and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Interestingly, the water's edge site used for the concert is where the new Welsh Assembly building will eventually be built in 2001. Two stages, provided by Serious Structures, dominated the scene. The stages were built on both sides of the dock with a bridge stage spanning the two platforms. Forklift vehicles were used to move tents with mixers and lighting controls, as well as climbing spot towers. The usual mass of B.B.C. OB cameras on Vinten peds were moved around on the lower front apron between the stages. In daylight, the entire area was dominated by two 80-ton cranes, one on each side, with PA clusters flown directly above each stage. On site to oversee operations was Sound Hire's owner, Richard Liénard.

"They have such great clarity and have very long throw characteristics," said Liénard. "Using a crane is not only cost effective, but we can put the speakers where we want them and get the height for the long throw. We're using 10 self-powered MSL-4s under the MSL-10A in two rows of five to give us nearfield coverage with punch. Then we let the 10s do the rest. We're also using a number of MSL-4s for sidefill. The MSL-4s are such a great and versatile box. We've just bought another 20 from Autograph Sales with the new L-Track rigging system..."

The event seemed to include just about every Welsh artist available, with the exception of the Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia and The Stereophonics. But the B.B.C. produced a M.O.R. program that included Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, the 80-strong Welsh National Orchestra, a 10-piece house band and three all-male choirs. In all, 38 individual acts were on and off the stage in two hours. Sound Hire's FOH sound mixer, Jerry Eade, had a total of 288 channels over 5 desks to juggle with very little rehearsal time.

"We knew it was going to be a tight schedule and we planned as much as possible in advance," said Eade. "There's so much going on around here, with so many different overall aspects to the event that it seemed the event just kept finding people who were willing to perform. So in the end we just went with the flow and winged it!"

B.B.C., Wales, were host broadcasters for the event. Sound supervisor, Barrie Hawes, took a mixture of individual splits and mixed feeds from Sound Hire. The B.B.C. facilities digital mobile camera control room (DMCCR) truck with its digital Cantus desk was completely full. When asked about the size of the event, Hawes commented that it was just about as large as it gets from the channel point of view, with the possible exception of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Back at the FOH, Sound Hire's Eade had two Cadac F-Type desks, each with 80 channels. Feeding into the Cadac's were two Ramsa 24-channel S4424 and one Ramsa 52 channel S852. Eade was assisted by Greg Pink in the mammoth task of mixing the live show.

Stage logistics were handled well by George Hogan, who was the overall sound coordinator and Tim Meyer, who served as the technical and production liaison between the FOH and BBC.

Production manager Mike Scoble had the final word. "With such a vast array of artists and contributors, everyone, especially the sound crew, really did well to pull this one off," Scoble said.

July, 1999

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