WAVEFRONT RENEWS ITS LOVE AFFAIR WITH HISTORIC OPE
Back in the heyday of club culture, when Richard Carr's dance brand Slinky was riding high on the hog down at the Bournemouth Opera House, Nathan Owen arrived at the venue to join forces with house technician, Lee Price.
Price was a devotee of Martin Audio's signature Wavefront system and Nathan was immediately won over by the sound generated from the two stacks of three Wavefront W8C's.
Fast forward eight years to 2006. With the days of Slinky long gone and the venue now operated by its landlord for the past 80 years, the Solent Leisure Group, Nathan Owen found himself the sole survivor of that idiom.
And when Solent Leisure MD John Butterworth decided to restore the grandeur of this famous edifice, originally constructed in 1895 as Boscombe Grand Theatre, the venue's new stage manager decided that the Martin Audio heritage should likewise be restored.
Mindful of the venue's origins as an indoor circus and Victorian theatre, Mr. Butterworth pledged a multi-million investment to restore the architecture from the ground up. This included reconditioning the Royal Boxes, revealing the Upper Balcony (The Gods) for the first time in many years, restoring the original Victorian pews and uncladding some of the stained glass features.
At the same time, Nathan Owen saw his opportunity to tell the venue's sound and lighting consultants, Production Hire, exactly what he wanted - and that was the new generation of Martin Audio line arrays.
'You could say I was influential in restoring Martin Audio to the Opera House,' he admitted, at the same time recognising that the system would now need to show a new versatility. 'For the live route we wanted to go down we needed something that would cater for everything from dance events to indie rock and pure theatre, as well as corporate hire and weddings.' And so he and Production Hire's Mark 'Knocker' Neal put their heads together.
The result was that when the Grade II-listed Opera House reopened at the beginning of June following a magnificent refurbishment - undertaken by local company o@tes construction under the guidance of the of the Local Authority Conservation Department - it revealed two hangs of five Martin Audio W8LC Compact line arrays, suspended over the ornate proscenium arch.
The system was carefully optimised using Martin Audio's DISPLAY predictive software so that the sound could be projected evenly to the upper tiers without falling victim to the letterbox effect. 'In fact the sound in the Gods is as crisp and clear as in any part of the theatre,' acknowledges Nathan.
Groundstacked underneath on either stage wing are Martin Audio W8LCD Downfill enclosures on top of three WS218X subs.
But that's not all; Nathan Owen was so captivated by the original Wavefront sound that he nostalgically asked for two pairs of W8C/WLS combos to be returned as stage sidefills - and had Production Hire provide ten Martin Audio LE12J stage wedges, with options for LE700s for any incoming bands.
Finally, in the separate 400-capacity first floor Gallery lounge (formerly Benedict's), Production Hire have followed the lead of other top dance clubs by providing a pair of Martin Audio Blackline F12's for DJ monitoring in a booth which will generally be populated by residents, Pedigree Funk. The room has been cabled with concealed multicore, and so aside from private hire it can also be used for intimate acoustic sets and as a jazz lounge.
The main auditorium has a capacity for 1,800 people across three floors with 1,100 on the ground floor (500 theatre style). But for the elite and corporate clients there are also 12 private first floor booths, ten of which hold up to six guests and two accommodating up to ten guests. In addition, there are the two opulent 20-seat Royal Boxes, with swipe card access, which like the booths, enjoy the privilege of waitress service and VIP entrance - as well as a fully stocked private bar.
The Gods can accommodate a further 200 people where the audience can enjoy magnificent sightlines through the magnificent ornate patterned ironwork, from the reconditioned pews.
The high level of Martin Audio production is matched throughout the technology chain, with industry standard mixing and lighting desks - the latter controlling the combination of generic and moving lights, with ACL's on the back truss, all cleverly designed by Mikey Howard, the former Oasis LD.
A further large investment was also committed to washing the venue throughout with LED lighting; an infinite number of colour combinations are available at the touch of a button, to accentuate the theatre's grandeur - and along with the art deco bars, this has become a central feature of Stuart Jones' interior design theme.
The necessity for a high-pedigree technology infrastructure was also recognised by the venue's Group Entertainments Manager, Ester Gill, who was formerly tour manager for Jamiroquai. She said, 'The new identity captures the spirit of this amazing historical building, with its art-deco style interior, grand open spaces and period features.' These also include the original circus doors and stage flybar, which while no longer functional, have both been preserved.
But the final word comes from Events Producer, James Brennan, who has researched the history of the building avidly since his arrival from London as the venue's main booker. He has already presented acts like the Young Knives, the Alabama 3 and the Delays, and next month the Opera House will host Sly & The Family Stone.
'This venue had been badly neglected,' he said. 'We needed to respect its history, sensitively restore it and give it back to the community - and that's precisely what we have done.'
About The Opera House
Built by Archibald Beckett, the Victorian venue prospered during the era of Victorian theatre and Edwardian music hall and ballroom. By the 1960's many famous bands played the venue including Pink Floyd and Status Quo in 1968, Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy in 1971 and David Bowie in 1972. Other acts known to have held concerts at the venue include, Deep Purple, The Faces, Canned Heat, T-Rex, Hawkwind, Colosseum, Freedom, Joe Jammer and Slade. In the 1980's it acieved notoriety as the groundbreaking (and award-winning) Academy Disco, operated by David Read, Dudley Winter and Kelly Kalyan
Further information from:
Maureen Hayes, Martin Audio Jerry Gilbert, JGP Public Relations
Tel: +44 (0)1494 535312 Tel: +44 (0)1707 258525
Fax: +44 (0)1494 438669 Fax: +44 (0)1707 267140
Pics: The spectacular stage – with Martin Audio W8LC and LED architectural washes