December 2014 marks the 8th year in a row that I have mixed the Tulsa Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker. I started in December 2007 (and a full year before I was employed full time by the Tulsa PAC), just after returning from working for six months as the Lead Audio Tech for the Utah Shakespeare Festival. The then current house sound technician took off in December to go work another freelance job out of state, and I was brought in to sub for him and mix the show.
Over the past eight years (and more than 70 shows now) and four different stage managers, I have mixed this show on a variety of consoles: Innovason Live Serie SY80, Soundcraft K3, Yamaha PM5D-RH and Yamaha CL5. I have used as few as six mics, and as many as eighteen for the pit orchestra. The current mic set up is thirteen on the orchestra and four additional tech support mics. Unlike opera, the orchestra for the Ballet gets fully reinforced for both on stage foldback and the audience. My goal is to provide subtle reinforcement to just raise the levels slightly but still allow the orchestra to sound as acoustic and natural as possible. Gentle use of Yamaha’s Rev-X Hall reverb and Symphonic chorus effects help to give the illusion of a larger and more lush orchestra without being overbearing.
Also this year, the Tulsa Symphony decided to program Selections from the Nutcracker for their December concert; the recording of which I am now in the process of mixing for broadcast in January. So, I guess that counts as nine separate productions of The Nutcracker that I have now mixed. I think it’s pretty safe to say that The Nutcracker is part of my standard repertoire of mixes and I think I could almost mix it in my sleep by now (in fact some nights I do!) Although, I’m not sure how well it would turn out if I had to do it in another hall, with a different orchestra and a mic package that is not nearly as nice as the one we have here.
This year’s mic plot and input list:
- 1st Violin – Neumann KM184
- 2nd Violin – Neuman KM184
- Viola – Neumann KM184
- Cello – Audio-Technica AT4050
- Bass – Audio-Technica AT4050
- Woodwinds 1 – Neumann KM184
- Woodwinds 2 – Neumann KM184
- Brass 1 – Sennheiser MD421
- Brass 2 – Sennheiser MD421
- Harp – AKG C414-XLII
- Celest – AKG C3000B
- Timpani – AKG C414-XLII
- Percussion – Shure SM81
- SM ANNC – Shure SM58 w/switch
- Tech Table – Sennheiser E835 w/switch
- Wireless Handheld – Shure SLX2
- Rehearsal Piano – Shure Beta 57
Stage foldback is a pair of Meyer UPJ-1Ps down stage right and left and a pair of Meyer UPM-1Ps upstage right and left. Load-in took about four hours. Load-out will take about an hour and a half Sunday night, after a two show day.
Upcoming highlights for 2015: three more symphony concerts to record and mix, two operas to record and mix, a youth opera, a five week straight run with no days off in March and April, at least three consulting jobs, a long dry summer with no big shows, and rumors of some possible summer theatre design/mixing work. Also, I may start taking saxophone lessons again (if I can find the free time in my schedule) and hopefully I will start building my recording studio.