Switzerland’s Fête des Vignerons (“Festival of the Winegrowers”) was held this summer (July 18-August 11) in a 20,000 capacity arena in the small city of Vevey erected solely for this event, and it required a unique sound solution from Meyer Sound.
A Swiss cultural tradition that extends back to 1797, the Fête des Vignerons (“Festival of the Winegrowers”) is held no more than five times each century in Vevey. This summer’s edition attracted record attendance, drawing more than a million visitors.
The show had more than 5,000 local participants working under artistic director Daniele Finzi Pasca, who directed the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Olympics in Turin. The massive scale of the production required four stages: one on each of the four tribunes of the arena, and a fifth on an arena floor that was carpeted with LED panels. Because it was essential to localise the audio image to each stage, the venue was equipped with five discrete Meyer Sound reinforcement systems: four LEO Family line array systems, each flown on twin towers behind the side stages; and a distributed system of CALbeam-steering column array loudspeakers in two concentric rings around the centre stage. In addition to the localised stage sound, the system also accommodated 40 surround channels for effects such as birds and bells.
“I was presented with the requirement to play on all five stages at the same time,” explained veteran sound designer Martin Reich, who headed the team of 19 engineers and technicians required for the audio production. “After evaluating problems involved with propagation of sound over such distances, we developed simulation software that enabled us to make artistic decisions before entering the real world. Immersion also was a demand, but because of the size of the arena and the distances involved we had to stay realistic.”
The complete audio, video and lighting package for Fête des Vignerons was supplied by DUSHOW, an event technology company headquartered near Paris. In addition to the complement of 556 self-powered Meyer Sound loudspeakers, the audio system also encompassed nine Yamaha Rivage digital consoles, 324 wireless microphones and 70 wired microphones.
Each of the four side stages was equipped with LEO Family line arrays, with all the systems flown from twin towers behind the performance area to avoid any sightline obstructions. All four members of the LEO Family were represented, with totals of 128 LEO-M, 72 LYON-M, 24 LYON-W, 96 LEOPARD and 56 LINA loudspeakers deployed. For fills and surround, the system also comprised 16 UPQ-1P, 40 UPA-1P, and 20 UPJuniorloudspeakers, with 56 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements delivering deep bass impact. 20 Galileo GALAXY 816 network platforms handled signal processing and system drive, while 20 Amie near-field monitors were distributed for the production crews.
For the centre stage system, again to ensure full fidelity and image localisation with no interrupted sightlines, the design utilised 48 CAL 32 column array loudspeakers in two rings, one at ground level seating and a second at seating level 5.5.
“We specified the CAL loudspeakers because of their sonic qualities, not just for speech but also for music reproduction,” said Martin Reich. “We also extensively used the beam steering capabilities to adjust coverage as needed.”
“This was a complex and ambitious sound design,” continued Reich, “but we achieved all our goals and received a lot of positive comments. They liked the fact that the sound was powerful but did not seem too loud.”
Fête des Vignerons technical director François Mottier concurred: “The quality of sound was excellent. When we had choirs singing on all four stages simultaneously, the effect was very impressive. We could feel the power of the system.”
For more than two centuries, Fête des Vignerons has preserved and celebrated the culture of Switzerland’s Lavaux winegrowing region. Organised by the Confrérie des Vignerons (Brotherhood of Winemakers), the event has been recognised by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is estimated that up to 500,000 litres of the winemaker’s products were consumed during the festival.