Nantes (France), 10th November 2020 – When his international tour with the San Francisco symphonic orchestra got cancelled due to the spread of the pandemic, renowned French cellist, Gautier Capuçon, decided to bring music back to the towns and villages of France – all while respecting healthcare and social distancing measures – with a free tour entitled Un Été en France. And when his concert in Mansle got threatened by the weather on the 11th August, he was able to relay on a sound engineer and a sound equipmentthat could adapt to the various challenges that were bound to rear their heads on that day.
“When Gautier Capuçon’s team announced that he was going to tour France, the towns and villages wishing to host the shows were invited to contact him,” explained sound engineer Léopold Randon de Grolier. “He received well over 600 requests in 48 hours!”. Depending on the dates, the French virtuose was accompanied by either pianists Jérôme Ducros or Samuel Parent.
“During the exchanges with the artist, we received a technical sheet with expected references in terms of microphone placement and preferred sound systems,” he said. “The precision and fidelity of the sound required for classical music is extremely important, but thanks to APG and Radio Semnoz, we were able to supply a top-of-the-range sound recording and PA system that was perfectly adapted to the configuration and style of music.”
While APG’s Uniline Compact (UC) range is flexible enough to support a wide range of musical genres, it is particularly well suited for classical music, according to APG’s sales and support engineer Maxence Castelain: “APG’s embedded ISOTOP technology provides a more natural sound from the lower midrange level thanks to a coaxial arrangement of a paper cone loudspeaker and a compression chamber loaded by a phasing piece. This reduces distortion and offers a more natural sound”. A major advantage for sound reinforcement of classical musical instruments such as the cello.
“Classical music concerts are usually happening in venues that are acoustically adapted to this genre, so sound reinforcement isn’t the norm,” explained Randon de Grolier. “Therefore, you must be reasonable in your approach and try to support the acoustic sound, faithfully, without distorting the artists’ sound. This means having experience with classical instruments, knowing the qualities of particular microphones, and combining dynamic and static microphones to achieve accurate sound. The quality of sound expected by classical artist is close to the one they’ve used to when recording albums.
“I generally record the sound checks to broadcast them into the sound system, so that the artist can listen and give his opinion on the sound in the venue. The feeling of the artist is more important than anything else, because they know the sound of their instrument best, and the accoustic result they want to achieve.”
Although the sound system itself was perfectly reliable, the same could not be said for the conditions in which it was to be deployed; Because of high risks of thunderstorms in Mansle that day, the organisers decided to move to an indoor venue, thus reducing capacity from 3,000 to 800 people.
“We had to adapt ourselves and the sound system accordingly,” said Randon de Grolier. “The intended system for the racecourse consisted of two stacks of four APG UC206W on top of two UC115B bass speakers, per side. To this main system, two UC206N per side were to be added on stands to cover the crowd on the outside. Obviously, this would have been beyond overkill for the smaller town hall in Mansle.”
APG’s Uniline Compact system allowed him to set up a ‘distributed point source’ PA system in the town’s multipurpose hall, using two UC206Ns on stands on both ends to reach the audience at the back. In addition, a UC206W was stacked on top of a UC115B, per side, placed in the centre, which were used to cover the first half of the hall across its entire width.
“The Uniline Compact loudspeakers allowed easy adaptation from outside to inside, simply by reducing the number of boxes and distributing them in a thoughtful way in relation to the acoustic characteristics of the room,” said the sound engineer. “The combination of the W (wide) and N (narrow) m loudspeaker models makes the system truly adaptable, and the APG Uniline Compact range proved very well suited to classical music sound reinforcement, as it provides faithful sound reproduction in a musical style that is demanding at this level.”
The UC simplicity and speed of set up allowed the sound engineer to fine-tune the placement of microphones. He knew he could also count on the technical support of APG’s Maxence Castelain and Alexis Reymond who assisted him from the logistical planning phase through to the concert day.
“Mansle multipurpose hall’s concrete walls, ceiling, and floor made intelligibility a major issue,” said Randon de Grolier. “Thanks to APG Live Manager, it was fairly easy for me to set up the system quickly and obtain accurate and precise sound, with faithful rendering of the sound sources. On the amplification side, we had a DA:50 integrated DSP amplifier (for the UC206W and UC115B) per side and a DA:15 (for the UC206N). For the microphones, we kept the same configuration as for the outdoor show: DPA 4099 and AKG C414 on the cello, 2 DPA 4099 and 2 Schoeps MK4 (active booms) for the piano, plus a suspended pair of DPA 4015’s and a public ambience pair DPA 4006’s. For control, I used a Yamaha TF3 console with Dante, in conjunction with the Yamaha TIO1608-D stage box.”
Despite the last minute changes, the show was a resounding success; helping to give a glimpse into how the live production industry might be able to claw its way back from the brink in these most challenging unpredictable of times.
“I received wonderful feedback from the artist and his team on the sound of the concert, both during the sound check and afterwards,” said Randon de Grolier. “The artist’s wife, who is also a trained cellist, attended all the concerts on the tour and singled out the quality of the sound on the Mansle date. As for the audience and the press, there was excellent feedback. In short, everyone seems to have had a great time, and the adaptability of the APG system we chose had a lot to do with that.”
The concert was so successful in fact, that the city of Mansle decided to rename its multipurpose hall “Salle Gautier Capuçon” during a ceremony which will be held later this year.