Bernstein’s Mass performed in d&b Soundscape

Honouring the intentions of composer Leonard Bernstein, the artistic director of the Brevard Music Centre Summer Music Festival, Keith Lockhart, set himself a task: to capture the pioneering spirit of a classic performance in a contemporary environment. Composed for the 1971 inauguration of the Kennedy Centre, Bernstein’s Mass created an entirely new kind of liturgy in both its content and technology – using quadraphonic sound.

“Keith is a renowned conductor, not least as principal conductor of the Boston Pops. He had performed the Bernstein Mass once before and wanted the audience to have that quad sound experience as Bernstein had originally intended,” explains sound engineer Brady Hislop of Iris Design.

“That’s all very well but the Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium is a semi-outdoor space not designed for amplified music. Roofed to provide shelter from the elements, it’s open sided with 1,800 seats in three rectangular areas facing to stage, with further seating out in the open air on the lawns to the sides. There is a back wall with a resonator which helps a little, and they have invested in a performance shell for the stage which has made a positive improvement. As well as the issue of quad sound, what was really wanted was the sort of optimum acoustic properties for classical music found in contemporary concert halls. That’s why we elected to use Soundscape, the new tool from d&b audiotechnik.”

With support from Nick Malgieri of the d&b Education and Application Support (EAS) department, Hislop determined a full 360-degree Soundscape implementation; a frontline of seven equally spaced Y10P hung directly beneath the stage truss at approximately 20ft with a V-SUB to each side; E6 for front-fill; and E8s deployed around the sides and back.

“We also used a pair of V10P (one on each side) to cover the lawn areas and used the mono downmix function in the d&b DS100 as the source. The lawn area is not too big and holds 400 people total (200 per side); the V10P with their horn loaded mid-range did a great job covering the area.”

Bernstein’s intended form of Mass is quasi-theatrical in performance and features three choirs: formal, boys, and street singers. As well as an orchestra, it sees a marching band and rock band take part. Lead voices move physically about stage within the narrative, while a significant flute solo is moved around the listening environment; one of several poignant emotional highlights.

“The show starts with two singers almost shouting at each other, figuratively across the audience – we were able to create exactly that experience. We used the En-Scene function of Soundscape and adjusted different groups of mics, so inputs run through via console to R1 then the DS100 engine.

“The show moves very quickly through jazz, to rock, and choral, so we also used some room emulation signatures (En-Space) when the music source required it. Some needed a touch of reverb, elsewhere we needed something very clean to leave the voices distinct and discernible.”

Gislpo concludes: “Support from d&b was invaluable, particularly Nick Malgieri, who was helping move stuff in En-Space as I was engaging with the show. This was a big performance, approximately 250 people on stage: 125 in the adult choir, 25 in the children’s choir, 18 individual roaming singers on headset mics, and an 80-piece orchestra – so we ran a big Dante network with a lot of wireless mics going through it. Quite simply, Soundscape works from both a technical and artistic perspective.”


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