With audio provided by Soundworks, the concert featuring the full 40-piece orchestra playing a varied selection of American originals and patriotic tunes presented quite a challenge. As Steve Payne, company head and chief engineer describes it, "It was tough because of the number of instruments and a very large, very discerning audience. The biggest challenge was covering 6.000 people outside so that everyone in the back could hear without crushing the people up front.
The system required to capture all of the subtlety and power of the Symphony's performance started with an APB-DynaSonics Spectra Series Ti 48 console and ended with two hangs of Turbosound Aspect speakers. In between, there Lab Gruppen amps, XTA system processors, BSS EQs and dynamics processing, Yamaha, Lexicon and TC effects processors and Shure, Audix and EV microphones.
Asked about the APB console, a fairly recent addition to the Soundworks arsenal, Payne recalls, "The first thing we had to do was ring the system out so we could get maximum gain before feedback. Once we'd done that, it was all about the tone from those instruments and the APB board is absolutely phenomenal for that. It's a really terrific tool.
"The orchestra had their own engineer who'd never used one of these consoles and he was thrilled with it. He didn't feel hampered in any way compared to the consoles he's used to. "This board needs less EQ because the mic pres sound so good," Steve continues. "And when you need to use the EQ, it's really responsive. On our rock and pop music shows we'll use plenty of outboard gear like BSS comps and gates and, for 'the melted butter to dip your lobster in,' we use tube gear like Summit or the vintage-designed Universal Audio 1176. On this show it was all done from the channel strip. The only outboard the engineer used was a touch of reverb from a Lexicon PCM 90."
The actual site for the event was in Richmond's Intermediate Terminal, which is as far up the James River as one can navigate before hitting the rapids. On the water's edge, the site faces up the river and looks onto Richmond. Founded in 1976, Soundworks is a full service entertainment production service provider located in Richmond. The crew for "Rock The Boat" included Grant Howard (system tech); Bob Lipford (monitor engineer); Erin-Noe Payne (stage tech) and, of course, Steve Payne as FOH engineer.
As Payne tells the story, "We went in on a Wednesday and were in there for four days. The first two days, we went in with small systems and the new APB ProRack-House mixer for those ceremonies, which included speeches, Native American music and dance, all on one stage.
"Friday morning we went in with the Spectra Series console and Turbosound speakers for a show that night with The Roots, plus a variety of multi-cultural performances on Saturday topped off by performance by the Richmond Symphony Orchestra that evening. I'd guess there were about 6.000 people there. "Everything came off really well. As I said, the Symphony's engineer really appreciated the console and, best of all, the audience really loved the audio. A lot of them came up to us say how great it sounded, which is the best compliment because, while the client's the one handing you a check, you're working for the band and the audience."