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Capturing the Celtic sound

The Festival Interceltique de Lorient in France was a massive set up - being held over 17 locations

With 17 different locations – from stadiums to a fishing harbour – Guillaume Schouker reports on setting up the audio systems at the Festiavl Interceltique de Lorient

No other festival in France has an identity as strong as the Festival Interceltique de Lorient (FIL – Lorient Interceltic Festival) in Brittany, featuring Celtic culture, arts and music.

Ten years after first hosting them as guests of honour, the FIL invited Australia back this year, with the festival’s poster mixing Celtic and Australian symbols, such as the boomerang, as well as honouring Aboriginal art. Around 40 per cent of Australians have Celtic roots and the Australian diaspora – the furthest in the Celtic population – is also one of the richest in terms of history and cultural diversity. The festival’s 46th edition saw 750,000 visitors during the ten summer days, from 5 -14 August, and was the perfect occasion to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Lorient city being founded.

The five fantastic Interceltic Nights, which happened within the Stade du Moustoir, made the 2016 edition a very special one – turning a 15,000-seat stadium into a gigantic stage area with an incredible sound installation, video projections on huge outdoor LED screens displays, as well as special effects and splendid fireworks.

Celtic music at FIL is offered at over seventeen different locations, with concert venues hosting from 200 to 15,000 people. Apart from the Moustoir Stadium, the main concert venues include: the fishing harbour where 9,000 people attended the outdoor closure concert with The Corrs; the 5,000-seat Espace Marine where Joan Baez, Alan Stivell and Dan Ar Braz, to name a few, performed; the 2,500-person capacity Espace Bretagne; Le Grand Théâtre and its 850 seats and the 800-person capacity Palais des Congrès.

José Nedelec, FIL technical production director and technical consultant, says, there are several audio rental companies used for FIL, but for small venues, they recommend local companies.

Paris-based Potar Hurlant rental company provided all the audio equipment for the Stade du Moustoir and Espace Marine. Siwa rental in Quimper brought the sound installation for Espace Bretagne, Lorient Palais des Congrès and extra gear at Le Grand Théâtre. Galloud Sonorisation handled the smaller venues in town. With headquarters in Landerneau, Audiolite Sonorisation rental company was in charge of the closure concert at the fishing harbour this year.

At the Stade du Moustoir, the SR installation consisted of no less than 24 L-Acoustics K2 enclosures, 10 KARA and 12 KUDO. The FOH design included systems distributed in three different areas: the corporate box was made up of 4×4 K2 and 2×2 KARA, the North side stand consisted of 2×4 K2 and 1×3 KARA for the angle, while the South side stand incorporated 3×4 KUDO and 1×3 KARA for the angle.

Nedelec explains: “The stadium configuration consists of a mono diffusion on three sides, with stacks of four K2’s regularly spaced and smaller KARA stacks to fill in the gaps in between the K2 stacks.”

He continues: “The great surprise was the extremely soft and natural K2 system in the stadium, which, coupled with the SSL L500 console, rendered an exceptional sound that left me stunned during the rehearsals and up until the first evening show.”

“Several challenges were presented at the stadium. We first needed to obtain a natural and homogenous sound when more than 40 condenser microphones were simultaneously opened on the stadium. Furthermore, the public attending the Celtic Nights do not come for a rock concert and cascades of decibels. Yet, bagpipes and bombards are incredibly powerful music instruments, with direct sound that comes in to interfere with the diffused sound. The major challenge, in fact, is trying to blend this with natural sound, along with other constraints, due to the distances in the stadium.“

Live sound engineer Fred Lucas was at the front-of-house position with a SSL L500 Plus console. Nedelec reveals that: “The choice of SSL is essentially due to its sound quality. The reliability of remote locating via fibre cable, when compared with Dante for example, for the racks remote system, and especially its open architecture, enables us to optimise its ergonomics for this uncommon show and thus to get more in fluidity on the different sequences.”

He adds: “We have lots of contrast between a pipe band and a bagad band, whose acoustic sound is close to 110dB, and acoustic instruments such as violins and flute that do not generate a lot of power.“

Capturing the sound of a bagpipe is not an easy task, but Nedelec recalls: “The bagpipes sound is omnidirectional. It consists of a chanter (a melody pipe), with a levriad (a double-reeded chanter), and drones above the musicians. Drones generate low frequencies and are captured with condenser microphones, such as a Neumann or AKG C414. The chanter is often captured on the desk together with Neumann KM 184 condenser microphones.”

The sound reinforcement installation at the fishing harbour for The Corrs gig consisted of an Adamson system: two 3-way line arrays with sixteen E15, six SpekTrix 5, eight T21 subs and four MH121, along with Lab.Gruppen PLM10000Q (x3) and PLM20000Q (x3) amplifiers. While two delay clusters were placed behind the FOH position to cover the public in the rear, a DiGiCo SD10 console was the centrepiece, situated 35m away from the front stage. A second SD10 was standing on the monitoring side. Members of The Corrs band used in-ear monitoring along with L-Acoustics 115XT HiQ stage monitors.

In the Espace Marine, live engineer Nicolas Rouvière was behind a SSL L500 Plus console. Diffusion was made through L-Acoustics K2 systems, with no less than 24 modules and with the addition of four SB28 subwoofers, ass well as Twelve KARA for the delays.

When asked about how the live industry is doing right now, Nedelec states: “(It’s) doing well, the digital tools allow live recording and people prefer the concerts, so they can look back on a recording, which they heard and lived.”

This year’s edition of Festival Interceltique de Lorient also highlighted artists from Australia such as Archie Roach, Eric Bogle, Jane Rutter, Tommy Emmanuel, The Claymore and Saoirse big band.

Cheers to the King Arthur and Merlin the magician, with a Celt hic cup….!

Pictures: Top: The Corrs closed the festival at the fishing habour. Credit: Michel Renac. Second: Aussie artists including Archie Roach featured, as Australia was the guest country of honour this year. Third: Tommy Emmanuel was another Australian artist on the bill. Fourth: So many screens! Fifth: Rehearsals produced some stunning sound. Sixth: Main stage set-up.