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SSE and Britannia Row supply gear for Papal Masses

SSE Audio Group and Britannia Row provided an array of sound equipment for both Pope Benedict XVI’s historic open-air Papal Masses in Glasgow and London respectively, writes Paul Watson

SSE provided a pair of Soundcraft Vi6s and a Vi1 to accommodate the landmark sermon to 65,000 pilgrims at Bellahouston Park in Glasgow last month; and Britannia Row kitted out London’s Hyde Park event with an L-Acoustics sound system and Midas and DiGiCo consoles. This was the first time a pontiff has visited the UK since Pope John Paul II in 1982; and also the first to be designated a state visit due to the Pope being invited by the Queen rather than the Church. The Glasgow event (pictured) featured a two-and-a-half-hour long mass, an 800-piece choir, a 35-piece brass band; and even pre- and post-show performances from Britain’s Got Talent star Susan Boyle. A total of 130 digital channels were in use to project the audio across the half-a-square-kilometre seating area in Bellahouston Park using the main FOH Vi6 (running in 96-channel mode using stage racks and an additional DSP card); and a Vi1, which was brought in at the last minute to deal with sub-mixing. Feeds from the Vi1 were then sent back to the FOH console and sent as a L/R monitor feed to the second Vi6, positioned next to the stage. SSE’s project manager, Dan Bennett, says he rates the Vi6 highly, favouring it over many other consoles because of its audio quality and interface; and FOH engineer Craig Pryde (who along with monitor engineer Kevin Sparkes found the event to be ‘the most surreal show he’d ever done’) says having access to a Vi1 at such short notice was very handy. “Once we learned of the brass band, we were fortunate that the size of SSE meant that there was a Vi1 available in the warehouse — it just required a bit more work on the day,” Pryde reveals. “We set up a quick generic patch for around 108 channels; and it was very much a high-speed playback show.” Britannia Row sub-hired in London headquartered System Sound as the principal audio contractor for the London Mass, which was attended by tens of thousands of people and included a post-event solo performance by fourteen-year-old Britain’s Got Talent 2010 finalist Liam NcNally. The main PA system consisted of 12 boxes per side of L-Acoustics K1 and three dV-DOSC boxes per side; eight boxes per side of KUDO for the outer hangs; and K1 and V-DOSC for the four delays. The consoles were by Midas and DiGiCo: two XL8s and a D5. Simon Biddulph, System Sound’s managing director, says putting on an event like this is not as easy as it might look. “They’re very demanding in terms of dynamics,” he explains, “so we like to control as much of what happens in the audio world as possible: installation design; system set-up; delays, EQ; everything,” Pryde and Sparkes spent the two load-in days building up their desk templates so that by the time it came to rehearsal day in Glasgow they were fully prepared for anything the production might throw at them, which included renditions of I Dreamed a Dream and the hymn How Great Thou Art by Susan Boyle; and an appearance from the Pop Idol 2003 winner, Glaswegian-born Michelle McManus. All Glasgow’s pre- and post-event entertainment was fully sound-checked, and during the Mass (which was delivered in part-English, part-Latin from seven mic positions) Pryde took cues from an interpreter from the Vatican, who accompanied him at mix position. In total, Pryde says he spent an astonishing eleven-and-a-half hours solid at FOH; thankfully, he only had to endure McManus and Boyle for a matter of minutes.