Created in 1982 by Thierry Giard and Gérard Houssin, the Jazz Sous Les Pommiers (Jazz Under the Apple Trees) festival takes place every year in the city of Coutances in southern Normandy.
An audience of 75,000 attended the 34th festival, from 8–16 May, which comprised no less than nine different concert venues of various sizes throughout the city. Performers included new talents and jazz greats such as Manu Katché, Richard Bona, Stefano Di Battista, Eric Legnini, Pharoah Sanders, Didier Lockwood, Jacky Terrasson, Kenny Garrett, Lizz Wright, Kyle Eastwood and Ester Rada.
Denis Le Bas, who has been managing director of Coutances Municipal Theatre since 1985 and director of Jazz Sous Les Pommiers (JSLP) for the past 30 years, explains the festival’s choice of audio equipment: “The [programme of music] can not stand vague approximation.
“[Our audio providers enter into a] partnership with the festival […] and not [just] a simple financial [one]: “We have a trustworthy relationship with Jean-Marie Roussel, sound and technical manager, high-tech, at Atech, and Gérard Marie, technical director of the festival, for the [choice of] equipment and crew…”
Roussel reveals: “The audio equipment is provided by Atech SARL, based in Verson, near the city of Caen. [Our] partners help us to discover new products by supplying us throughout the festival: Sennheiser digital microphones, a Yamaha QL-series console and DBR-series powered loudspeakers, Coda Audio three-way active ultra-low-profile stage monitors, a Roland M-5000 console, Nexo STM S118 sub-bass modules, Freevox Audio preamps…”
During this year’s nine-day event, concerts unfolded in three main concert venues: Salle Marcel Hélie, a gymnasium converted into a 1,350-seat concert hall; the 600-seat Théâtre Municipal de Coutances; and Magic Mirrors, a 1920s-styled marquee-like circus tent with a capacity of 350 in the square around Coutances Cathedral.
Audio constraints consist mostly of “respecting legislation regarding sound levels”, says Le Bas, and the scalability and configuration of the three different set-ups. He also stresses the importance of “offering state-of-the art equipment where and when it’s imperative. Work on sound and on the technical environment in general is a big component of the success of a festival.”
The Salle Marcel Hélie was equipped with a Soundcraft Vi6 64/24 FOH console with a Yamaha PM5D-RH console for monitoring, while the Municipal Theatre was serviced by a 48-channel Soundcraft Vi4 at FOH and Soundcraft Vi3000 for monitoring. Magic Mirrors deployed a 40-channel Yamaha CL5 board and Rio3224-D rack at FOH and Yamaha M7CL on monitoring.
Roussel says: “The choice of which console mostly depends on the specification sheets from artists. Vi series are the most in-demand, considering the countries from where the productions come: The UK, USA, Netherlands, Brazil, Asia…
“The PM5D [still] offers great versatility for controlling live sound monitoring on large stages, and it’s more ergonomic than the Vi.
The Soundcraft Vi3000 handled the stage monitoring in Coutances Municipal Theater. “This control surface is a compromise between the number of inputs and buses, its size, its ergonomics and the remote-control iPad app.”
Sound reinforcement in the Salle Marcel Hélie comprised two line-array clusters consisting of 14 Nexo GEO D10s and six GEO D SUBs with Nexo NXAMP4x4 amplification, plus six Nexo PS10-R2 for frontfill and sidefill and five Meyer Sound UPM as nearfield. At Coutances Municipal Theater, the usual sound system was replaced for the festival by two clusters with six Nexo GEO S1210s, two GEO S1230s and two sub-bass STM118s, four Nexo GEO S830 frontfills and four PS8 nearfields, while Magic Mirrors’ d&b audiotechnik system consisted of 12 T10 speakers, six Q-SUBs with four D12 amplifiers, four E6s and a D6 amplifier for side diffusion.
Regarding microphones, “the demand is steady”, says Roussel. Most are Shure, Sennheiser, Neumann, Audio-Technica, AKG, DPA and Schoeps. “The references are more or less the same ones,” he continues, “except Audix, which is more and more requested. We also noticed that certain productions provide a Yamahiko piano pickup system.”
Jean-Marie Roussel expresses his satisfaction with the work accomplished by the “tight-knit” sound crew behind the 34th JSPL: “Yes, the tech team has got the hang [of it]!”
Main photo: Pierre-Yves Le Meur