All for one and one for all - The d&b Y-Series.

© Tristram Kenton 1/2
© Tristram Kenton 2/2

Positivity and joyfulness are central messages of many a musical production, conceived to uplift and entertain its audiences. These sentiments also ring true for Singing in the Rain and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Joseph for short), two productions that are well established and much-loved staples on the international musical circuit.
Currently running simultaneously in the UK, both shows are enjoying an expert sound design by Olivier Award winning sound designer Gareth Owen - with the d&b Y-Series at its heart.

Singing in the Rain, directed by Jonathan Church CBE is a homage to 1920s Hollywood, featuring dazzling dance moves and delightful orchestral music, while Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, directed by Laurence Connor, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber is a fun and energetic adventure boasting earworm worthy pop tunes and colourful costumes.

Despite completely different musical genres and storylines, Gareth Owen deployed “virtually identical sound designs” for both shows - to great effect. Each system consists of Y-Series line array L/R proscenium hangs with Y point source centre clusters, E6 delays and front fills, and V-SUBs. All powered by D20 amplifiers.

The Y-Series has all the hallmarks of a great d&b product,” he states. “It’s a powerful system delivering great audio quality in a compact box. It’s the power to size ratio that makes this such a versatile product. We proved this when, for Back to the Future, currently running at the Adelphi Theatre in London, we incorporated a couple of Y point sources into the iconic DeLorean. I didn’t think they’d deliver the necessary output for the sound effects, but they did. It’s incredible.Gareth Owen, Sound designer

Both Singing in the Rain and Joseph have their own special elements that Owen had to take into consideration with his sound design. 14000 litres of water pour onto the cast of Singing in the Rain, resulting in epic dance scenes - splashes, kicks and drips included – and not only soaking the cast and the first few rows of the audience, but the loudspeakers too. As Owen confirms: “During the water scenes the front fills and backs of the line arrays get their fair share of water on them, but thanks to the renowned d&b quality they are super robust, handling the ‘bad weather’ very well.” 

All standard Y-Series cabinets are constructed from marine plywood and have an impact and weather protected PCP (Polyurea Cabinet Protection) finish as standard, making them high quality, durable products. Expertly finished exterior housings and innovative sonic interiors makes the Y-Series a firm favourite for many musical applications. All cabinets house two 8” low frequency drivers for transferring a vibrant and transparent performance, while a 1.4” compression driver delivers precise and velvety high frequencies.

“It is those features that made the Y-Series well suited to reproduce the nuances and pureness of the voices of the 24 strong children’s choir in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat just as much as the subtle notes of the live orchestra for Singing in the Rain,” Owen explains.
Doing justice to the orchestral nature of Singing in the Rain was also a priority for Musical Director and Supervisor Robert Scott. “I wanted the show to sound authentic - 50’s orchestrations - a real ‘big band’ feel - it had to sound as acoustic as possible. This was made more difficult in where the band were situated - behind the action as they could not be in the pit as they would have got very wet!”

© Tristram Kenton
© Tristram Kenton

For David Andrew Wilson, Head of Music at The Really Useful Group, working with Gareth and using d&b is a trusted choice. “I have worked with Gareth many times over the years, including on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I work very closely with the sound department on any show to ensure that the music is delivered at the highest possible standard. Gareth's expertise in live sound is excellent and he always has various solutions to discuss with me to achieve the vision for what we are trying to do musically.”

Both Wilson and Scott are delighted with the audio results thanks to Owen’s Y-Series sound design, with the latter commenting: “All of the sound department were acutely aware of how I wanted it to sound and the end result was fantastic. So much great feedback from the audience too.”

In addition to the outstanding sonic qualities, the Y-Series is “extremely easy to deploy” according to Matt Peploe, associate for Singing in the Rain, making it practical and touring friendly. “As these two shows aren’t stopping anywhere for too long the practicality factor was important in the choice of sound design.”

For Andy Green, associate for Joseph, the Y-Series is a very attractive product: “It’s a great piece of kit to own. If I were a rental company, I’d buy loads of it.”

d&b rental partner and theatre experts Stage Sound Services agree. “The Y8s and Y12s are our most popular line array boxes that effortlessly deliver to the highest industry standard. We first purchased them in 2015 and hardly see them in our warehouse as they tend to be out on some tour or other all the time,” confirms Phil Hurley, Managing Director at Stage Sound Services.

Final thoughts from Owen:

I actually also used this system design for Bat out of Hell. Again, a totally different musical genre with heavy metal and rock and roll songs, yet the Y-Series managed to cope with all that ferocity beautifully. It really is a marvel of flexibility. I’m sure I’ll use it plenty more often in the future.
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