Crews busy setting up before the Tree Lighting Ceremony at Rockefeller Center.

New York, NY (December 5, 2013)—In New York City, the Christmas season doesn’t officially start until the tree at Rockefeller Plaza is lit—an event that happened Wednesday night during the televised annual Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony. As always, Armonk, NY-based Production Resource Group (PRG) handled the event's audio, but sadly, this year's edition found the audio team remembering Jim Lovell of Cold Spring, NY, an audio crewmember who died only days earlier in a train derailment north of the city. NBC dedicated the broadcast to Lovell.

PRG used VUE Audiotechnik at the event for the first time this year.
Of course, the show must go on, and it did, with a strong list of performers for the event, including Mary J. Blige, the Goo Goo Dolls, Jewel and Mariah Carey. PRG has handled the event for more than two decades.

Beneath the 76-foot Norway spruce that was shipped to New York City back in early November sits the famous Rockefeller Center skating rink, which in turn holds one stage, along with a VIP area. A second, smaller stage is located on the east side of the skating rink to alternate performances during the broadcast special. For speakers on those areas, PRG used a VUE Audiotechnik al-4 line array system.

For the public audience, the set up for the event covers a four block area, spanning from 48th Street to 51st Street between 5th and 6th Avenues in the center of Manhattan. To help distribute the sound down the streets, PRG set up al-4 and L-Acoustics V-Dosc line array systems on stands that crank up above the crowds during the performance. “It’s a lot of area to cover, and we couldn’t do something like this without a quality speaker,” said Bob Rendon, vice president, Audio, at PRG

FOH Engineer Joe Turiczek at his Yamaha PM5D
Three Yamaha PM5D consoles controlled the stages, with two for monitors and a third for FOH, manned by engineer Joe Turiczek. All of the wireless systems and mics, including a bedazzled Shure UR2 mic for Mariah Carey, were provided by Clair’s Wireless division.

Four large LED video screens are set up on the 30 Rockefeller Plaza building to provide the public with a visual of the performances, and a few extra screens are mounted on trucks parked farther down the street. Rendon said these screens, along with the PA systems, are not only used for the performances, but to also provide tools in the case of an emergency.

“We don’t take down the PA until the NYPD says we can,” Rendon said.

Marah Carey’s mic
Unlike previous years, a team member was missing Wednesday. On Sunday, December 1, James Lovell, 58, was traveling into New York City on the Metro-North Hudson train line when the train derailed while taking a corner at nearly three times the track's speed limit. Lovell did not survive the crash—one of four passengers who died that day.

Lovell, a freelance audio engineer with PRG, had worked on the tree lighting ceremony for 18 years, Rendon said, and had been traveling into the city that morning to help set up for Wednesday’s event.

“Everyone knew him,” Rendon said. He described Lovell as a kind, dedicated worker, who always showed up early ready to work, rain or shine. He said that when Lovell didn’t show up for work on Sunday, the whole crew knew something was wrong. On December 2, Lovell’s absence was sensed, but the crew was happy to share stories and memories of working with Lovell.

Members of Lovell’s community have started an online fundraiser to help support Lovell’s family. To make a donation, visit At press time, the fundraiser, intended to raise $15,000, has already passed the $100,000 mark.