REFLECTIONS ON WORLD WAR II
Two of the biggest World War II commemorative events in London this year - respectively celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Victory in Europe and the subsequent conclusion of the war - both broadcast the entertainment to crowds around Trafalgar Square and Horseguards Parade via Martin Audio W8LC Compact line array systems.
In the first of these major Heritage festivals, in which the entertainment turned back the clock to the 1940's, System Sound were contracted to production company, Mantaplan, while for the larger Festival of Commemoration in July, Wigwam Hire, working through Unusual Services, supplied their own Martin Audio W8LC system to a design by John Del' Nero.
July 10 saw the culmination of a week-long festival of events, when the Queen was joined by the prime minister and 12,000 others at Horseguards Parade for the World War II 60th Anniversary Festival of Commemoration and address to the nation.
With a speech by Her Majesty, the event was hosted by Simon Callow and featured readings, humour and music from World War II. The cast included a choir of 184, a 157-piece orchestra and a host of celebrities including TV host Bruce Forsyth, singer Petula Clark and actors Simon Callow, Jane Horrocks, Robert Hardy and Clare Sweeney. There was also a special appearance by Dame Vera Lynn, while in a symbolic gesture, veterans' groups handed over their standards to the younger generation.
Working for Unusual Services to a sound system design by Imagination's John Del' Nero, Wigwam Hire provided four Martin Audio line array hangs (two for Main and two for Outer coverage) each comprising 12 x W8LC's, with four W8LM (Minis) taking care of the nearfield. All W8LC/W8LM columns were controlled using a combination of Martin Audio DX1 and XTA DP226 controllers.
Wigwam project manager Chris Hill was on hand throughout, supervising the set-up, and was delighted with the sound clarity and coverage across the make-shift arena.
The main sound mix was handled on a pair of 96-channel Digico D5's by Paul Stannering, with Kevin Pruce sub-mixing the orchestra and sending stereo mixes to the main desk where vocals and effects were processed and VT's and OB's flown in. Live feeds were taken from The Mall and also Buckingham Palace, with the FX hot-keyed at FOH using 360 Systems' Instant Replay and Short Cut machines. Stage sound was handled by Mark Ballard.
Said Stannering, 'I have used the Martin Audio line array a couple of times in the past and it's a really nice system. For this kind of full-range work it's very smooth and warm, and lends itself to the strings and brass of the tri-Service orchestra.'
Providing loudspeaker system technical support was Martin Audio's Jim Cousins, who optimised the hangs using the company's ViewPoint™ software, and checked the overall vertical and horizontal coverage using Martin Audio's DISPLAY™ predictive software. 'I wanted to get clean, powerful, broadband coverage without having to resort to delays. DISPLAY™ confirmed that all would be well – even in the very dry conditions that prevailed on the day.
'Our other concern was the buildings on the side; had we not tilted the system down we would have risked slap-back.' To compensate, they set the system so that it narrowly skimmed the seats, using the mix position as the highest point the sound would project to.
As a result the entire 180° audience seating area was evenly covered by the
Other Wigwam crew involved in the production included system technicians Simon Hall, Sid Rogerson and Gary Kenyon, monitor tech Vince Sharpe, Tracy Campbell on radio with PJ and Tom Asby (comms) and Freddo (RF engineer). Aside from Jim Cousins, further technical support was provided by Roger Wood (Digico) and Stu Cheney of Plus 4 Audio (RF system).
Two months earlier, a near-capacity 15,000 crowd had thronged Trafalgar Square for A Party To Remember Live - a two-hour concert celebrating the 60th anniversary of VE Day.
Presented by Eamonn Holmes and Natasha Kaplinsky, the event saw appearances by Will Young, Katie Melua, Katherine Jenkins, Sir Cliff Richard, Dame Vera Lynn and more. With a strong presence by the Royal British Legion, and the event televised live on BBC One, memories of victory in Europe 60 years ago were strongly rekindled.
With Martin Vanstone as site manager, System Sound director and event sound designer, Simon Biddulph, said that the Martin line array system was always in his mind when the classical event specialists - no strangers to working at Trafalgar Square - were awarded the contract by Mantaplan.
However, the originally projected sound-field - designed to carry the concert down the Mall - was reduced to a barrier point between the Mall and Trafalgar Square, set at a distance of 110 metres from the stage.
'Fortunately this was set at low level, so there was no bounce-back,' reports Simon. 'There was no scope for delays and I was initially concerned about fielding a straight Left/Right PA. But we rigged ten W8L's per side, with a pair of W8LC's at the bottom of the hangs for downfills - and the sound carried without difficulty.'
The PA was set up using the BSS Soundweb, which resided in a mixing position, oddly set at 5m in the air.
'I controlled everything through Soundweb, which gave me easy remote access, and modified the rig, putting a computer under the seating block,' says Simon. 'The sound had to be carefully directed to keep it away from as many buildings as possible.'
Summarising the production, Simon Biddulph said, 'Because of the wide sweep of the BBC's Jimmy Jib (camera crane system) the rig had to be trimmed higher than we had hoped - but thanks to the downfills it worked tremendously well.
'Also, because there was a big band playing throughout I wanted to avoid lots of subs - and the Martin system really showed its capability as a full range system.
'Finally, the system went up and down in seconds - Shirley's put us some great rigging points in, which made it simple.'
Simon praised his system technician, Chris Coxhead, backstage co-ordinator Pete McGlynn and the support given by Martin Audio's senior project engineer, Jim Cousins - while the experienced FOH engineer Richard Sharratt ensured a consistent mix throughout, despite some turbulent winds, and Chris Vass looked after monitors.