Lost & Found Orchestra Sounds Amazing
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With a set that is four storeys high and fills the auditorium of the Royal Festival Hall, this is a huge production. Star Events provided the set structure, PRG supplied the lighting rig and SSE Hire were given the challenge to make sure this orchestral ensemble could be heard by the 2,900 audience in all its subtlety and splendour.
The Lost and Found Orchestra - the LFO - is the brainchild of Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas most renowned for their high energy dance and percussion show Stomp - a show that SSE Audio has has been involved with for over a decade. SSE continues to provide rental systems for Stomp's European shows as well as supporting installations in London's West End.
The LFO was an idea that Creswell and McNicholas had many years ago but they were only able to make those ideas a reality more recently. The show was first presented at Sydney Opera House on New Year's Eve 2007. It subsequently broke all box office records, adding extra shows to cope with the demand.
Essentially the LFO is an Orchestra with instruments made from junk. Instruments include:
- Squonkaphone: a drainpipe, gate latch, crocodile clips and a balloon
- Plumpets - two traffic cones with long hose pipes fixed to trolleys
- Water Bellows - a variety of bottles fixed to a frame each with its own bellow and a specific amount of water in order to create the right note.
Other larger instruments include a Merimba
made from a rope ladder and some water fountain bottles and timpani provided by industrial cooking vats with sailcloth stretched across them. Violins & cellos are bent saws played with bows and the horn section is made up of funnels with varying lengths of hose attached to them.
The instruments are played by a mixture of classically trained musicians and performers from Stomp.
Don't be fooled into thinking it sounds like junk. Each piece of music is properly scored and very musical.
Such an array of unconventional musical instruments provided some interesting demands for audio production. Over 160 microphones are used in the show, positioned with precision and multiple radio microphone channels are utilised.
For the performers, over 28 monitor mixes are provided across the four storey set.
Digico D5 mixing consoles
were chosen for both front-of-house and monitors, giving Sound Designer and Operator, Mike Roberts
the ability to control all the channels at his finger tips. Its enormous channel capacity has provided a reliable and easy to use solution.
Due to the size of production and short set-up schedule, System Technician Dave Bigg
programmed the D5's a week in advance, updating the consoles as information was fed through from Nick and Mke, who were rehearsing in Brighton.
This gave the team a head start and meant they could concentrate on refining the scenes for each piece once in the Festival Hall. Having said that, it took the best part of 48 hours to install and cable all the microphone positions.
The type and positioning of each microphone in relation to these unconventional instruments has been just as important as having skilled musicians play them. It was a long process and several revisions were made during rehearsals in order to get it just right. Mike Roberts - who helped design and construct many of the instruments - is a perfectionist, so there was no cutting corners.
Having worked with SSE Hire
for many years on Stomp
, Mike has confidence in the Nexo Alpha
and Alpha E
systems as they tick all the boxes for theatre shows: they sound good and they are compact.
The main PA consists of 16 flown M3s and B1s
with 4 x S2s
on the floor. Infills are provided by stacks of Alpha
on the L & R corners of the stage and PS15s
cover the side seats. If you weren't looking you wouldn't know the system was there yet it's possible to distinguish all the individual instruments and their unique sounds.
One of SSE Hire's
strengths is in the packaging of its equipment. This proved to be very beneficial on this production.
Compact amplifier racks can be stacked easily in small places. Each has a purpose-built Input/Output panel, avoiding the need to ferret constantly in the back of the racks and enabling System Tec, Dave to see exactly what is happening with the PA and amplifiers at any time.
The adaptable, Pyle-based line-system has also proved crucial in keeping the audio channels manageable and at the same time flexible - essential when musical pieces are being refined every day.
The great thing is that everyone in the audience, from grannies to kids, leaves with a big smile on their face, while the critics have given the show rave reviews.
Following success at the Royal Festival Hall, the LFO is off to Amsterdam for a two-week run.
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