- by David Morgan
in On the Digital Edge
How far would you go to work a show with one of your favorite artists? When I was first contacted about traveling to Moscow to participate in a performance with Cher, my internalized answer was, “Really?” but my externalized answer was, “Oh yeah!”
The show was a private party held by Russian businessman Suleiman Kerimov and would take place at Eurohall, a large upscale restaurant in Moscow. Initially, it was a bit difficult to believe that an individual would actually have the means to make this event happen. However, as days went on, it became apparent that we would definitely be heading to Russia just before Christmas. Production manager Greg Bogart, monitor engineer Brian Hendry and I soon began earnest discussions regarding the audio requirements for this venture.
Big Production, Little Time
The production concept presented to us included Cher, singers Patti Russo and Nikki Tillman, plus eight dancers (Suzanne Easter, Sumayah McCrae, Jackie Dowsett Ballinger, Mikaela Arneson, Jamal Story, Scott Fowler, Marlon Pelayo and William Wingfield) choreographed by Dori Sanchez. Music tracks would be created by musical director Ollie Marland and played back using a Pro Tools rig operated by Pablo Minguia. As is customary in Cher’s performances, video clips would also punctuate and highlight the show. The show was going to be only 45 minutes in duration, but many elements had to brought together in a short time to make this project work. (For a set list, see sidebar, this page).
The show was to be presented in a rapid fire, no-break format so coordination between all departments needed to be flawless. There were four Los Angeles rehearsal days booked at Le Studio, a dance facility in Culver City. Eleven of the 12 songs in the set included the dancers. Four of the songs were not in the set we performed at our last shows in Las Vegas. We had a lot to do, with only had a short time to get it all done.
Both Brian Hendry (monitor engineer) and I felt it was important to work on the same basic equipment we had employed during the last Cher shows in January 2011. On our equipment spec, we both opted for Avid VENUE Profile consoles. Cher, Patti and Nikki would be singing into the Shure UHR-R wireless systems and KSM9 capsules that they had last used during our three-year run at Caesars Palace. We also requested that another two wireless systems with DPA 4088 headsets be available if Cher decided to use them, as she had in Las Vegas.
In communication with our production, the specific equipment requests were forwarded to our contacts in Moscow. We soon received a detailed equipment specification from the sound vendor in Russia. (See Gear List sidebar, this page).
Brian and I were extremely pleased to see that all speaker systems were top-end gear from L-Acoustics. The only foreseeable problem we needed to address was the choice of console systems.
Neither Brian nor I had applicable files for the Yamaha PM5D, and we had a very short setup window for rehearsals in Los Angeles and at the venue in Moscow. We had initially expected having a rehearsal day in the performance room in Moscow but we were subsequently informed that this was no longer possible, as a conflicting event was now scheduled for that particular venue. The constraint of time made it imperative that we find Avid consoles over there.
My first call was to Sheldon Radford at Avid in Daly City, CA. I inquired about the availability of VENUE Profile systems in Moscow. Sheldon advised me that Profiles did exist there, and he would start networking immediately to find the right contact person in Russia. The first email response came from Ravisankar Nadiyam, the sales rep for Avid in Dubai. He asked me for the specific show/console details and told me to stand by. The next communication came from Moscow-based Anastacia Moguchaya, the territory account manager for Avid’s EMEA sales.
Moguchaya gave me contact information for two sound vendors in Moscow who would be able to furnish us with the Avid VENUE Profile systems we were seeking. I love networking! Just two days after my first phone call to Sheldon Radford, Avid had found exactly what we were looking for in Moscow. This example of superb customer service from the manufacturer is exactly what engenders such fierce product loyalty among those of us who are end-users.
Things started trending in an upward direction as soon as it was confirmed that our choice of consoles would be provided in Moscow. Clair Soundworx (Cerritos, CA) duplicated our chosen gear for the L.A. rehearsals. I used the saved data from our last Las Vegas shows to restore input and plug-in parameters for this modified setup. The first two days were dedicated to dance rehearsals. This gave Brian Hendry and myself the time to fine-tune the stems we were receiving from Pro Tools and to build the snapshots for the individual songs. It was soon determined that we needed to add two more rehearsal days, and that positive development took a lot of pressure off everyone.
Good News and Bad
The next bit of good news came from Russia. The producers had found a rehearsal venue in Moscow that would allow us to simulate show conditions. However, that bit of good news was tempered somewhat by the announcement that our consoles for the show day would not be available for this rehearsal. This fact made those two extra L.A. rehearsal days even more valuable to our preparations.
Cher/Eurohall Moscow Show
“All or Nothing”
“I Found Someone”
“The Beat Goes On”
“All I Really Want To Do”
“The Shoop Song”
Gypsy Dance/”Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves”
Eagle Dance/“Half Breed”
Burlesque Dance/“Welcome To Burlesque”
“Take Me Home”
“Heart of Stone”
“Turn Back Time”
Cher/Eurohall Moscow Show
Console: Yamaha PM5D-RH w/Big Ben clock
Speakers: Main PA: L-Acoustics KUDO (6 per side), SB 118 subs (4 per side), SB 28 subs (2 per side); Front Fills: L-Acoustics 112 XT (4); Out Fills: L-Acoustics ARCS (3 per side)
Amps: L-Acoustics LA 8 (11)
Console: Yamaha PM5D-RH w/Black Lion clock
Speakers: L-Acoustics 112 XT (8); Stage Front Speakers: L-Acoustics 112 XT (1 per side), SB 118 sub (1 per side)
PMs: Sennheiser 2000 Series (6 channels); Sennheiser 2000 Series (16 bodypacks)
Amps: L-Acoustics LA 8 (4)
Mics: Wireless: Shure UR2 systems with KSM 9 heads (4); Sennheiser 5000 Series with DPA cardioid headsets (2)
End of Part 1. Stay tuned for next month’s On the Digital Edge column, where David Morgan’s Russian one-off adventure continues, with a few more hitches and difficulties. Don’t miss it!