Sting, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Tour Profile

Jul 27, 2010 3:45 PM, By Sarah Benzuly



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From left: audio techs Charlie Hernandez, Sean Prickett and Stephen Carter; Clair stage engineer Pete Buess; monitor engineer Ian Newton.

From left: audio techs Charlie Hernandez, Sean Prickett and Stephen Carter; Clair stage engineer Pete Buess; monitor engineer Ian Newton.

Dynamics are key in this show, and Page is continually cognizant of the overall level and dynamics for each song by mixing live (i.e., no snapshots). “Sting is performing some of the most contrasting dynamic songs he has ever sung live for this tour,” he explains. “He is playing songs that he has written for albums but would never really work on the live pure-rock shows. With the orchestra, he is free to go into dynamic and emotional areas as never before. I mix the show to try to deliver each and every nuance of each and every song as Sting is creating it. This means we go whisper-quiet for some beautiful ballads and then ‘up there’ when the orchestra plays a bit of rock ’n’ roll. I try to hit the magic point where the mix and the overall levels throughout the show are exactly what the audience had in their head when they purchased their tickets.”

And that paying audience member is also the Number One priority of monitor engineer Ian Newton. To keep both the crowd and the performers onstage happy, Newton continually strives to keep the stage volume low, which is no easy feat with a combination of in-ears and wedges. “Especially with an orchestra, we’re trying to keep it down as much as we can,” Newton explains. “Some of the musicians are on in-ears—Sting’s band. We’ve got some self-powered [Yamaha] Hot Spots—a self-powered monitor on a stick—dotted throughout the orchestra just to give them a little bit of something if they need anything. And then we’ve got some wedges out onstage, but they’re working at quite a low level. Everybody’s being quite sensible about it, really. Nobody’s trying to be really loud; everybody’s playing at quite a comfortable level. When it starts getting noisy, we just bring the level down. We’re at quite a dynamic range—the stage volume depends on where you’re standing in the orchestra and what type of song Sting is singing.”

Having previously worked with Sting and The Police reunion tour, as well as Sting’s showcasing a performer with an orchestra (namely, Barbra Streisand’s latest), Newton is no stranger to this type of monitor mixing. From his PM1D (using only the onboard reverb on vocals, acoustic guitar and a couple of the woodwinds), he is giving out select mixes: “Conductor Steven Mercurio has a ‘monitor on a stick’ at his music stand, which is mainly percussion and Sting’s vocal. He also has a wedge underneath his music stand with a mere taste of bass guitar. As he’s standing in the middle of woodwinds and brass, he hears those instruments acoustically. Sting just takes a bit of orchestra—mainly strings. Apart from my cues, I don’t change anything unless they ask for them. Since we’ve started the tour, things have changed a bit, evolved a bit, but no drastic changes. Once we’re done with soundcheck, I don’t change anything apart from my cues.”

The tour is carrying a Clair i3 line array system. With its lower Q due to the wider dispersion, it’s perfectly geared toward this type of outing. Driving the system are proprietary custom-designed crossovers that match the components within the cabs as they relate to the full array. “This gives us a very real advantage over store-bought systems in that phase alignment, shading and response results are constant and predictable ‘out of the box,’” Page explains.

“Sting is one of the most wonderful guys you could ever mix sound for,” Page says. “He has been a huge star for so long that he has nothing to prove to anyone and doesn’t surround himself with people who limit access to him personally. If I want a discussion about any aspect of the audio of this show, I can go straight to him and we discuss technical matters—all to the betterment of the sound of his show; a real pleasure.”

Sarah Benzuly is Mix’s managing editor.

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