NILES, Ill. Sept. 23, 2013—The Hot Springs Music Festival, which brings together more than 200 international musicians to Hot Springs, Arkansas, each June, is a one-of-a-kind event that pairs world-class mentor musicians—from major orchestra, chamber ensembles, and conservatory faculties—with talented apprentices. For a two-week span, musicians collaborate on more than 20 concerts for approximately 10,000 members of the Hot Springs National Park community, delivering musical compositions and popular scores from around the world.
After seven successful seasons of being hosted in a historic downtown performance venue, while preparing for the 2013 event, festival recording engineer Jamie Tagg learned that the building was going to be shut down for structural repairs, forcing the festival to move locations for its indoor concert facility. This location shift made for a variety of logistical challenges, including the need to find new audio gear that could accommodate the new performance site—the Summit Arena.
Tagg explains, “The Summit Arena is a large space that presents an extremely difficult acoustical environment for a symphony orchestra. With 50-foot ceilings and a lack of proper stage shell, the room is far less reflective, with a much higher noise floor than the previous concert hall. We needed new microphones and gear that could face this environment and deliver quality sound from over 100 instruments playing simultaneously to the more than 450 people who attend each performance.”
Tagg’s team opted for Shure microphones.
“Product quality is critical in this type of arena setting, where the sound reflection isn’t very good and the performances can be very dynamic,” Tagg continued. “Given my experience with Shure gear in the past, I knew I could trust the microphones to produce an open, natural sounding reproduction of the musicians’ instruments. The Shure KSM32, KSM44, KSM313, Beta 181, Beta 27, and VP82 were integrated into our set-up, helping us achieve the sound we were hoping for, while keeping the audience happy and our engineering team’s stress level down.”
Tagg used Shure KSM32s to enhance the sound of woodwinds, violins, and the French horn, delivering even off-axis response at high frequencies. The KSM44 also stood out as the go-to mic for harps, which typically perform in pairs. Using the KSM44s’ bi-directional pattern, a single mic was able to pick up the full sound of each instrument with just enough detail to be emphasized in the mix. The Beta 181, an ultra-compact side-address microphone, was used to capture choir voices, which tend to get lost when performing with an orchestra. By using a pair of supercardioid capsules that widen around 6 kHz, both the large area of the choir, and the sibilant detail of the voices could be captured while isolating the choir from noise and unpleasant reflections.
Highlighting the Beta 27, Tagg added, “For the live archiving application, the Beta 27 microphone was an excellent tool that allowed me to get an upper, mid-range sound and a tight pattern, enabling us to focus on the timpani, providing great off-axis rejection. We tried several other microphones for this application and the Beta 27 turned out to be the clear winner, helping to reject the loud, closely-placed brass section, and emphasize timbral detail in the attack of the notes,” says Tagg.
In addition to outfitting the new indoor venue, the festival’s outdoor concert venues—used for rehearsals and concerts—are also equipped with Shure gear. Required to withstand the Arkansas heat and humidity levels, Tagg can confidently rely on Shure microphones to survive the climate’s high temperatures and moisture.
Aside from microphones, Shure SRH940 professional headphones were relied upon by the Hot Springs Festival engineering crew for their accurate frequency response, accurate audio production, and superior comfort.
Reflecting on this year’s festival, Jamie Tagg credits Shure for making the event successful and rewarding. “Shure microphones and headphones were invaluable to us. We had no audio problems and no complaints from any musicians or other supporting engineers. It made my job easy.”