Nostalgia was the order of the day for RG Jones providing sound reinforcement for the Christ Church 2012 Jubilee Concerts in the Christchurch College’s Tom Quad.
The three day festival with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and the BBC Concert Orchestra, recreated a famous concert held there in 1961, when Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was also the centrepiece.
RG Jones return sixty-three years later. There was a special link as the company’s eponymous founder had mixed the sound for the first Polesden Lacey Operata performance in 1949, which had been organized by the father of the present Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Christopher Lewis.
There was nothing retrospective whatsoever about the next-generation PA technology on view. The new compact version of Martin Audio’s award-winning MLA (Multi-cellular Loudspeaker Array) was deployed — with 12 elements flown on each side of the stage. And with RG Jones’ highly experienced sound engineer Simon Honywill, who has mixed Te Kanawa’s performances many times, working alongside Martin Atkinson, the New Zealand opera star’s FOH engineer of 20 years, the system was in safe hands.
The MLA is the only secure platform that allows unwanted frequencies to be notched out in the dedicated optimisation software, and in this instance to prevent the otherwise inevitable reflections off the wall at the rear of the quadrangle. Martin Audio’s touring application support manager, Andy Davies, joined forces with Honywill to make this wish a reality.
Simon Honywill acknowledges, “With a conventional line array the system would need to have been rigged much higher and the practicalities would have been impossible.
“MLA was remarkably effective and you weren’t aware of back wall reflections at all. The system provided exceptional audio quality with very even coverage.”
Some low frequency extension was provided in the form of the MLA-C’s dedicated DSX subs, three ground stacked each side of the stage, while four of Martin Audio’s W8LMD Mini Downfill boxes each side on the top of the subs provided front fill — and a further six DD6 (Differential Dispersion) enclosures, fed off a separate matrix, were situated in the roof of the two grandstands, which had been erected for the occasion — designed to maintain even coverage over a wider field (with a potential to accommodate 5,000 people).
Simon Honywill set up the system to ease the transition from Martin Atkinson’s usual studio recording habitat to the live sound arena, ensuring that he would have little more to do than push faders on the mixing desk to get the best out of the system.
Atkinson, who has also mixed live concerts by Jose Carreras and Jessye Norman, admits he placed his trust in Honywill. After he had miked the orchestra any residual doubts about Martin Audio’s new generation system were immediately dispelled.
“Coming from a recording background I want to hear sound like I am mixing a record. Simon is an expert system tuner and when he played an orchestral record to introduce me to MLA I noticed how clean it sounded; the bottom end was tight, the evenness of coverage was remarkable and the perception of stereo was good wherever you went — which was very impressive.
“In fact it was reassuring to find the large amount of control the MLA system affords was not getting in the way of the audio.
“When we did the sound check it was probably the best system I had ever heard,” he continued. “There was no slapback from the quad wall whatsoever — and if I mixed the sound a bit louder than normal, that’s because the system sounded so good.”
The second and third nights of the Festival were respectively dedicated to 1961 Re-enactment Concert - Oxford Philomusica, engineered by Dave McEwan, and The Oxfordshire County Music Service.