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30 years in 30 songs at Les Francofolies festival

To celebrate the 30th Les Francofolies festival, 30 of France’s leading musicians took to the stage supported by rental company Fa Musique

This summer saw the 30th edition of the Les Francofolies de La Rochelle, the music festival founded in 1985 by Jean-Louis Foulquier in 1985 to promote francophone music.

Held in La Rochelle on the west coast of France, Les Francofolies attracted an audience of 130,000 to its eight concert halls and a number of venues throughout the city between 10–14 July.

On the first night, 30 top French acts took to the main stage, La Grande Scène de Saint-Jean d’Acre (the Main Stage of St John of Acre), to celebrate La Francofolies’ “30 years of craziness” and pay tribute to Foulquier, who died in December. France Télévisions, the French public TV broadcaster, recorded the concert for a programme called Les copains d’abord, 30 ans, 30 chansons (Friends at First, 30 years, 30 songs) presented by film actor Omar Sy and shown on France 2 on 6 September. Artists performing included Véronique Sanson, Bernard Lavilliers, Jacques Higelin and Yannick Noah.

Since 2006, most of the audio equipment for Les Francofolies has been supplied by Fa Musique. Fabrice Leblanc, the company’s technical director, explains: “We are in charge of the sound system for La Grande Scène de Saint-Jean d’Acre [and other venues] Le Grand Théâtre, La Salle Bleue at La Coursive and Le Diane’s at the Casino Barrière La Rochelle.”

“[The organisers of] Les Francofolies [push our development] by both their demands and experience. An evening like 10 July helps us to improve technically and concerning the organisation of the different team jobs. All year long, we work out ideas that came from real-life experiences, whether it is at the Francofolies or during other festivals.

All these experiences help us to improve. We are lucky at Fa Musique to have a team of permanent sound technicians who are as much involved in performance production as in equipment ergonomics…”

Fa Musique usually makes uses of a Midas Heritage 2000 and PRO6 consoles for front-of-house, but for the 10 July celebrations it deployed a Soundcraft Vi6. “It was the choice of Jean-Christophe Bourgeois, the FOH engineer who mixed that special night [pictured right],” explains Leblanc. “This choice was dictated by the fact that he knows this control surface very well. It was necessary that he felt comfortable with the gear because he was only there for the last rehearsal, knowing that there was a full week of rehearsing in Paris for the musicians and Benjamin Rico, the monitoring engineer.”

On the monitoring side, a Midas H3000 and Midas XL8 were supplied by Fa Musique – “We kept the XL8 board because we had [more] space on stage and it is more user-friendly for controlling both audio and distribution systems,” says Leblanc – and a Midas Pro2C digital console was used as a mix matrix, taking the signals from the FOH consoles and rerouting them to the front diffusion, press room, Radio France station mobile and Morgane Production’s Pro Tools. (Morgane Production acquired Francofolies in 2004.)

The sound reinforcement system consisted of L-R clusters of 12 d&b audiotechnik J8 Series loudspeakers, plus two d&b J12 and eight d&b J-SUBs suspended behind the J8. For extra low-end, 10 d&b J-INFRA cardioids were arranged under the proscenium. The entire system was driven by no less than 20 d&b D80 amplifiers. “[With] the first members of the audience […] relatively far away from the stage, the need for front-fills was reduced to four spots of one d&b V8 speaker,” says Leblanc.

“Linking thirty artists within two hours, with one sole rehearsal, was already a brilliant feat,” Leblanc concludes. “The technicians of Fa Musique went through this adventure with seriousness but in a great atmosphere and serenity, which […] is essential for the team, as well as for the guest artists and engineers.

“This evening was the first one of the festival, and ensuring [we face] the following days with the same level of reliability, cheerfulness and equanimity [will also] be a real challenge.”