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A concert fit for the Queen

The success of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert owes as much to the pro-audio folks behind the scenes as the stars who performed on stage. PSNEurope reports on who made it all happen, and how.

More than 250,000 people crowded in front of Buckingham Palace to watch Tom Jones, Elton John, Kylie Minogue and more honour Her Majesty’s 60-year reign, and millions more watched on TV. Keeping the sound under control was one of the largest Midas console networks ever constructed, comprising a Midas PRO2C and two Midas PRO9 consoles at front of house – with XL8, PRO9 and PRO6 consoles on monitors. Feeding the consoles were 14 DL431 mic splitters, which carried 96 channels of house band plus 96 orchestra channels to FOH engineer and Britannia Row live audio specialist Josh Lloyd, who specified the system: “We chose Midas for a number of reasons,” said Lloyd. “Firstly, they sound amazing; arguably the best reason for choosing a console, and secondly, Midas consoles have proved themselves to be robust, reliable and ideal for meeting the challenges of working on an epic, multi band, fast turnaround show like this.”
Carrying the sound of the concert was a system of 96 Outline Butterfly enclosures with 48 Outline Subtech subwoofers. As Britannia Row’s MD Bryan Grant explained: “Our brief was to provide an ‘invisible’ PA – no towers, no flown arrays, but of course it had to sound perfect! We therefore decided on a small, powerful, distributed system and our Outline Butterfly was the obvious choice. We provided six inner Butterfly arrays each stacked four high in the moat to stage height, with a further eight units arranged as infills on and under the forestage. The main delays consisted of eight stacks, each six high on platforms in front of the bleachers, with another sixteen Butterfly located as secondary delays in the entrance of The Mall. A ring of Subtechs around the outside of the moat and beneath each delay stack provided the low end, which I have to say was very impressive. We’ve had many compliments on the quality of the live sound so I’m pleased to say the plan worked!” In addition to the PA system and consoles, Britannia Row also supplied an inventory of Sennheiser microphones and IEMs, including SKM 5200 MK II microphones with KK 105 heads for the presenters and 2000 series IEMs for all on stage. Artist microphones included SKM 5200s with MD 5235 for Gary Barlow, Cheryl Cole and Jessie J, with a custom version for Kylie Minogue, Will.I.Am’s SKM 2000 with 935 head, a KMS 105 wired Neumann for Annie Lennox, an SKM 2000 with 965 head for Renee Fleming, an e 935 wired mic for Ed Sheeran and Shirley Bassey’s custom ‘diamond’ SKM 5200 with KK 105 head. Despite the size of the event, and the number if wireless microphones and monitors on stage, Lloyd has no RF management issues to report: “All of the RF was handled by Tony Scaife alongside Tim (Sherratt) and Andrew (Lillywhite) from Sennheiser. Having Sennheiser onsite meant, as well having back up and support for their equipment, we also had a vast wealth of RF knowledge and backup, which is integral to the smooth running of a show like this with so much going – and they make it look so easy.” At the end of the signal chain, capturing the entire concert – all 416 channels of audio – was Pyramix, used in conjunction with a Smart AV Tango 2 controller provided by Floating Earth. The London-based production company is no stranger to high-pressure events, having previously been involved with last year’s Royal Wedding. “Our business depends on being able to handle anything without risk of failure,” said Floating Earth’s co-owner and chief engineer, Mike Hatch. “We have been using Pyramix for many years because, where high track counts are concerned, it is simply the most stable DAW platform available.” According to Merging Technologies there are ‘no immediate plans for a public release of the concert’ though the Queen did receive a gold disc for CD sales of her Golden Jubilee concert in 2002. Perhaps Her Majesty will be awarded a diamond disc next? Finally, keeping the entire show running smoothly was Clear-Com, who provided three Eclipse Median digital matrix intercoms and more than a dozen V-Series key-panels, supplied by UK rental company Delta Sound (who also provided the JBL VTX line arrays used along the Thames for the Jubilee Pageant) to facilitate communications between the event’s sound, lighting, pyrotechnics, security and stage-management production teams. A 112-port Eclipse Median with several V-Series panels was installed in the Jubilee’s event control room, while another system was used for the Diamond Jubilee concert. It was set up in the center of the traffic circle in front of the palace, on its roof and in its back garden. A third Eclipse Median, along with a dozen V-Series panels, were used by security operations during the Royal Family’s procession from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace. “We found the Clear-Com system to be very straightforward to use, which is important when it comes to coordinating an event of this size,” said Phil Kidd, Delta Sound’s project and comms manager.