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The A Tour
If you're setting out on a trip, better be sure you bring enough provisions. And if you are setting out on an 11-week tour of nearly 50 cities and 50 different venues, ranging from large house-of-worship auditoriums to civic center arenas, you had better be packing enough sound gear, and especially loudspeakers, to cover every situation.
"The A Tour" takes Myrrh Records' (www.myrrh.com/), Anointed, Sparrow artists, Avalon, and opening artist Nichole Nordeman out on the road until April 15 - the same lineup that recently came off an 8-week Fall tour, winding up on Dec. 30th. Each tour was/is backed by Nashville-based Blackhawk Audio, Inc., supplying a hefty, but necessarily flexible rig based around self-powered loudspeakers from Meyer Sound. The full complement of Meyer loudspeakers - 34 in the front-of-house system - will not be used for every show. But the loudspeakers need to be there in numbers in order to handle the largest venues on the tour. Production Manager/FOH Engineer, Jay Wright (who selected the system components with Blackhawk Audio's assistance), has played a few of the venues on previous tours with other groups, but most of them he'll be visiting for the first time - a good reason, again, to pack everything he might need.
THE MUSIC AND THE SOUND SYSTEM
Avalon was the recipient of three Dove Award Nominations this year, all for songs from their 1999 album, "In a Different Light:" Pop Recorded Song of the Year, "Testify To Love;" Inspirational Recorded Song of the Year, "Adonai;" and Long Form Video of the Year, "My Utmost For His Highest." In 1998, they received the Dove Award for New Artist of the Year.
Opening act, Nichole Nordeman, has just released her first album on Star Song Records, "Wide Eyed," for which she wrote lyrics for all 10 songs and got co-writing help from producer Mark Hammond on music for five of them. Many of her songs feature strong piano instrumentation, her instrument of choice. She's the center of a trio that included a small Cocktail Drum Kit and a Bass Guitar.
Wright describes Anointed and Avalon as basically vocal groups, backed up by the same band. The Meyer Sound system affords great clarity in the vocal range, which really helps these groups project, he says. "For Anointed, my 650-P subwoofer and MSL-4 package can really throw down. And the kick drum comes through, rock-solid. The system can hang with both the R&B and pop-dance. Still, the heart of the system is the MSL-4's and, partnered with the Midas Heritage console, they make the vocals rich and absolutely crystal clear. "
For this Spring's tour, Wright added a few loudspeakers to the rig he used for the Fall Anointed Tour: two more DS-4Ps to assist the mid-base range of the MSL-4's, which also allows the MSL-4's to run more efficiently, he says. "The additional boxes, again with the Midas Heritage, give a real fat, warm, hi-fi sound. I don't really have to do much in the way of EQ'ing this system. As you can tell, I'm extremely happy with it."
IT'S GOT TO BE FLEXIBLE
But for church auditoriums, Wright selects and configures differently: "I'll use eight subs, four per side, two-by-two, one on top of the other, laying on their side. On the bottom row, I'll put out the MSL-4's and DS-4Ps in a five-wide array, alternating between the two speaker types, with the MSL-4's in the end positions. Then on top, I'll stack all MSL-4's. "Church auditoriums are often very wide... The MSL-4's help a great deal because they're very directional so I can configure them to produce whatever coverage pattern I need without getting a lot of bleed-over or sound splashing off the walls. [The Meyer MSL-4's have a 40°H 35°V dispersion pattern.] But what I use for a particular show will fluctuate greatly. I may have a long throw in some venues, so I might stack three high, or in some instances, two high... "
In some instances, says Wright, he just won't have enough MSL-4's. "The show at Tulsa Mabee Center [on the campus of Oral Roberts University, Feb. 26th] sold out 2800 seats, so they opened it up to 4000. The center can be configured to hold up to 10,000. Now I'll probably have to tie into the cluster they have there... unfortunately. If I had my choice, I'd rather go with my Meyer PA alone."
Functionality, utility, ease-of-use. Yes, they are important. But they wouldn't stand up if sound quality wasn't there... "The manager for all three of the artists on The A Tour, Norman Miller, was standing behind the console the other night and said to me, 'I've never heard them sound better.' Norman's been in the business quite a long time, so coming from him, I have to take that as a real compliment."
Sound System Supplier - Blackhawk Audio, Inc. (Nashville, TN)
16 Meyer MSL-4s
1 MC-3 Ramsa WRS-840F 40x18 Mon.Con./Case
1 WB-2 Workbox
1. Jay Wright, Production Manager/FOH Engineer
2. Cumberland Civic Center in Portland, Maine site of the "A Tour"
3. Meyer Sound UPAs in use as front fill on the "A Tour"
4. Included in the "A Tour" PA configuration were 16 MSL-4s, 4 DS-4Ps, 10 650-Ps and 4 UPAs