Kirkstall Abbey hosts 14th Classical Fantasia
One of Britain's best preserved abbeys, Kirkstall Abbey was founded in 1152 by Cistercian monks from Fountains Abbey and was closed down in November 1539 in the Dissolution of religious houses ordered by Henry VIII. The monks were pensioned-off, the roofs stripped of lead and some buildings converted for agricultural use. Many famous artists such as JMW Turner, Thomas Girtin and Moses Griffith came to paint Kirkstall Abbey's picturesque ruins. Today it provides a spectacular backdrop to the Classical Fantasia concert marking the end of a series of events organised by Leeds City Council. 2006 being its fourteenth year, Classical Fantasia has firmly established itself as one of the highlights of the year in Leeds, attracting crowds of up to ten thousand people. Specially lit in a variety of different colours, the abbey is brought to life for an evening of music from the Northern Ballet Theatre orchestra. The event has also become renowned for its spectacular fireworks, the main display accompanies the electrifying finale of the event, a stunning performance of the 1812 Festival Overture by Tchaikovsky.
Roland Higham, irregular sound designer for Opera North, was tasked with providing FOH sound for the event. "This was an opportunity to use d&b audiotechnik's new J-Series line array," he said. "Balancing the sound of the orchestra while eliminating traffic noise from a nearby main road as well as a bunch of rowdy students at a pub just across the nearby River Aire proved quite challenging." Higham used a Digico D1 for mixing the live sound through the J-Series; The Music Company (TMC), well known as an installation house and now expanding its service side, supplied the equipment. Their Director, Miles Marsden explained the growing emphasis on service provision. "We are building a strong rental arm to the business and have invested heavily in the latest d&b audiotechnik and Digico products, as well as the latest radio microphone systems, to satisfy what is an increasing demand."
TMC flew the line arrays of d&b J8s and J12s either side of the stage using Summit Steel's SmartMasts, while a series of d&b Q1s were used for a delay point sixty five metres down this long relatively narrow audience area. Subwoofers in a cardioid array were positioned across the front of stage using settings supplied by d&b. Overall I found the J-Series very easy to rig, even with erecting the masts it only took around one hour for each side," he added.
Equally impressed was Roland Higham, "TMC has performed a first class job with what is a completely new system for them; top marks." Higham reflected after the event that he considers the J-Series to be one of the best line array systems around for working with orchestras. "The sound produced is distinctive, clear and articulate across the full spectrum, with virtually no EQ needed at all." Higham has a well-tuned ear and is highly regarded as an engineer from his days with Opera North, so he should know, but it was the twenty thousand other ears, sat spellbound in the grounds of an ancient place of contemplation that really got to immerse themselves in the music.