Queen Latifah and her long-time front-of-house engineer, Rob Treloar selected Yamaha’s CL5 digital mixing console for her summer tour with Boston Symphony Orchestra.
“When you think of a symphony gig, you probably think of a hoity-toity crowd,” Treloar said. “But that’s definitely changing, especially when you add in someone like Queen Latifah with such a larger-than-life personality and fun style. She’ll do a beautiful song that slows the audience, then turn it up and make everyone feel like they’re at home with their best friend. The crowds love it.”
Queen Latifah has played with the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the past two years and the response from those shows led to an invitation for the 2019 Independence Day extravaganza, as well as requests for tour dates from other major symphonies.
“We’ve done some wonderful jazz and R&B numbers and even her ’90s hits with these different symphonies,” Treloar commented. “Dontae Winslow [the tour’s musical director] surprised her last year with a beautiful, almost cinematic ending to the arrangement of her song ‘U.N.I.T.Y.’. It was a fun night and it’s opened up a new niche for her.”
Treloar’s audio engineering experience spans over two decades, and for most of his work he relies on some form of a Yamaha mixing console. Treloar’s last in-house stint led to his current work when a colleague mentioned that Queen Latifah was looking for an FOH engineer. “He recommended me and I made the jump,” he said, making his tour debut in support of her 2007 Trav’lin’ Light album.
Treloar and the Yamaha CL5 have been with Queen Latifah ever since. “With many consoles, you have to reach deep into menus and that takes up time and distracts you,” he explained. “On the CL5, I can make a change fast and then get back to where I need to be. The way the faders are laid out, you can have three banks of VCA faders controlling groups of drums, guitars or background vocals. I could have those all in front of me on one layer and then switch between working on each group really fast.”
The CL5 also has the right number of features for the work Treloar does. “On other popular consoles, even newer Yamaha models, there are features I just don’t need, like more outputs. I’m only mixing two speaker arrays, left/right sub and front fill. I don’t need 10,000 outputs.”
“Everything was super smooth and just a joy,” he said, also crediting the combined audio engineering and broadcast teams from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and their production companies Scorpio Sound and Capron Sound and Lighting: Kevin Delaney, Steve Colby, Clayton Young and Andy Vickery.
“They integrated the CL5 into their entire design, at our request, flawlessly. It was amazing considering the size and complexity of this event and the fact it was broadcast live.”
Treloar noted the CL5’s ability to save and easily recall file settings from show to show. “I gave them my file before set-up so they could load it and check everything,” he said. “When I arrived, everything was ready to go for rehearsal. The CL5 makes my job so much easier. It always translates perfectly from one venue to the next, with only minor adjustments needed each time. When the PA system is great like it was in Boston, it’s even that much better. Sometimes, a venue’s sound system might be so-so and I’ll have to EQ and tweak more. In this situation, the band was on stage for soundcheck, I got the faders up, made minor gain adjustments and I was instantly right where I wanted to be.”
Treloar has seen console trends change and evolve from analogue to digital and to a current focus on software and plugins. He described those as useful tools, but sound and ergonomics will always be his top considerations.
He also doesn’t feel the need to rely on many plugins, preferring to use the CL5 as is. “I’ve had this discussion with my production manager, Scott ‘7′ Hamilton, who will ask why I don’t use any of the newer plugins,” he said. “I simply haven’t felt the need to because the onboard capabilities of the CL5 are already enough for me to get my work done.”
“I don’t want to give it up,” Treloar concluded. “It’s like a really good car you know will always work. The CL5 sounds incredible. It makes my ears happy every time.”