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Outline spreads the word in Naples

Pope Francis preaches to 60,000 in Naples with a Dee Jay Service-supplied sound system. Mike Clark reflects and genuflects

During a recent pastoral visit to Naples, His Holiness Pope Francis celebrated mass in Piazza del Plebiscito, the city’s main square, with a reported “congregation” of 60,000. Sound reinforcement for the Pope’s sermon, during which he spoke out against crime and corruption, and the rest of the celebration (which featured a 200-strong choir and a 35-member orchestra) was provided by Dee Jay Service and featured an all-Outline rig.

The system comprised 40 Butterfly modules (a main system of two eight-module hangs and two delay towers each with twelve enclosures). Two DBS 18-2 subwoofers were installed under each of the four hangs, and four Doppia systems were deployed on frontfill and outfill chores. On stage, two DVS8 were positioned alongside the Pope’s chair and a H.A.R.D. 115 used on sidefill duty at each of the four corners of the stage. The audio contractor, from Rende, Cosenza, had already worked on several events with the Pope in the past and also provides audio, lighting and backline facilities to clients in the concert, theatre, broadcast, conference and corporate event fields. The firm, which also has an installation division, fielded a four-man team for the event in Naples, led by company owner Remo Florio; PA manager and FOH engineer Francesco Spadaccino; and PA men Gianfranco Mastroianni and Perri Paolino (the latter also responsible for the monitors).

Before flying off to Canada after the event for a concert by Albano and Romina Power – with whom he is regular FOH engineer – Spadaccino gave an insight into the project and how Dee Jay Service and Vatican Radio got the word over loud and clear to the huge crowd.

“The square is a pedestrian zone, so move-in and set-up proceeded smoothly two days before the event, as did calibration, fine-tuning and soundchecks the following day,” says Spadaccino. “Almost completely surrounded by buildings, Piazza del Plebiscito is in fact an oval ‘square’, and is 180m long and 250m wide. Using Outline’s OpenArray 3D simulation software, we managed to solve the problem of coverage and reflections from the buildings and ensure the intelligibility of the sermon, obviously of fundamental importance for events of this nature.

“The console was a Yamaha CL5, which we manned two-up; Vatican Radio sound engineer Masssimiliano D’Angelo was responsible for the speech mics and I mixed the orchestra and choir. After completing the system configuration to ensure optimum audience coverage, I went onstage and personally fine-tuned the stage monitors for the Pope.”

As well as broadcasting in 39 languages, serving pilgrims and visitors to Rome from all over the world, Vatican Radio’s medium- and short-wave transmissions are heard worldwide. The broadcaster is always involved in events in which the Pope participates, but relies on the support of the rental companies involved.

“The person in charge of the technical aspects in Naples on behalf of Vatican Radio was Roberto Bellino,” Spadaccino continues, “with whom I interact on these events, and with whom we have an excellent working relationship.”

As well as having been a sound engineer with Vatican Radio for over 37 years, Bellino is assistant director of the radio’s ceremony section.

He explains exactly what this role involves: “In Italy, my work consists of organising all the technical aspects of the Pope’s journeys. This includes the press room for Vatican Radio, collaboration with the rental companies involved in the coverage and amplification of the events such as the Masses celebrated by the Pope. Things are organised differently abroad, when we travel with the Pope’s entourage to the events, collaborate with the local rental companies and record the events.”As well as Bellino and D’Angelo, the Vatican Radio audio team in Naples was made up of the broadcaster’s team of microphone techs and second sound engineer Vittorio Rossi.

Bellini adds: “For the liturgical part of this type of event, the Pope and other celebrants normally have from six to eight microphones at their disposal: these include three on the altar, one for the ambone and two portable mics: one for the Pope and one for the local Bishop, for greeting speeches, etc. We carry the mics and silver-coloured flexible stands with us. In the Piazza del Plebiscito, we used Shure Beta 58 mics and Sennheiser MEG 14-40 B gooseneck models.” After the event, Bellino stated: “We’ve worked with Francesco Spadaccini for a long time and on a lot of events, and I’ve always appreciated the work he and the Dee Jay Service team put into ensuring a good sound. The Naples event was another excellent experience, with great audio quality and intelligibility.”

Spadaccino (pictured right) was also enthusiastic: “A lot of ‘experts’ are sceptical when they discover we intend to use the Butterfly system, which they imagine to be too small, with its four 8” mid-range speakers, expecting to see twin 12” or twin 16” to ensure good coverage of large areas – they expect heavyweight systems and are always surprised by the results.”

Luigi Lombardi of Outline’s Italian distributor, Mods Art, adds: “Dee Jay Service was one of the first rental firms to believe in the idea of a network formed to facilitate the process of ‘pooling’ hardware, in order to enable companies to handle events that require more equipment than they normally have in stock or in the event of some of their equipment being out on other gigs. The network’s technicians also have the advantage of being able to participate in our regular training courses for PA techs and other specialist skills.”