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Sennheiser supplies George Michael’s Symphonica tour

A range of Sennheiser microphones and receivers will be deployed for George Michael's first ever orchestral tour which kicks off this month, writes Paul Watson.

George Michael will tour with an orchestra for the first time ever for Symphonica: The Orchestra Tour, from November 2011. The show features many of his best-loved hits, plus a carefully chosen selection of covers that have been re-worked for orchestral accompaniment. Michael will perform at a host of historic venues, including the State Opera House in Prague, Arena di Verona in Italy, London’s Royal Albert Hall and Royal Opera House, and arenas such as Rotterdam’s Ahoy and Manchester’s MEN, all of which will be engendered with the sense of intimacy that such a show demands. Michael uses a Sennheiser SKM 5200 microphone with a Neumann KK 105 capsule, straight off the shelf, and EM 3732-II dual receivers. The backing singers are all using the SKM 5200, but with the MD 5235 capsule, specifically chosen because the singers sit in amongst the band and the 5235 has less spill. Andy ‘Baggy’ Robinson, Michael’s long-time monitor engineer and head of sound on the tour, uses Sennheiser microphones and RF equipment. “Everything came together very quickly and it sounds amazing,” says Robinson. “On the 25 Live tour, we used the KK 104 capsule for George. We moved to the 105 here because again, we get less spill. This is vitally important as some of the live shows are going to be captured for his new album. I actually haven’t noticed too much difference between the 104 and the 105, but then I don’t get much noise from the stage – George holds the mic close to his mouth and I simply ride the dynamic for him.” Alongside Robinson, Simon Hall mans a second position for the band and orchestra, which comprise 10 and 35 members respectively. The system utilises a considerable amount of wireless equipment, with Robinson carrying two mains and a spare for Michael for both mic and in-ear monitors. Backing vocals are entirely wireless, whilst the band changes to wireless systems when they appear at front of stage at the end of the show. All wireless in-ear monitoring is via Sennheiser’s 2000 Series. Although Hall has around 100 mixes, he says he has the easier of the two monitor duties.

“We have a whole shout and talk system, so the band musicians can all talk to me, but Baggy has a lot more pressure,” he explains. “Sennheiser equipment would always be my preferred choice and the support from Mark Saunders and the Sennheiser UK team is fabulous. Since 25 Live, they have provided us with a lot of equipment and it’s always been very good.” The considerable amount of radio equipment brings to the fore the issue of RF management, for which George Hogan faces local restrictions on power at every new venue, fitting round what is an extremely noisy environment with the use of LED screens and moving lights. Hogan also accounts for the implications of the Digital Dividend. “It’s a pain, because everything is closer together in practical terms,” he says. “The manufacturers are keeping up, but for big shows it does make things more difficult. “It used to be possible to put a load of equipment one end of a venue, a load of equipment another end and effectively you could ignore them merging with each other. But now all of the equipment is capable of ‘breaking’ its neighbours, because it’s all packed much tighter together. On a small stage that’s quite a big problem.

“For example, in a theatre you may have twice as much radio and only about a third of the physical area. In larger venues, it’s fine because we can use various bits of spectrum that are reasonably well isolated from each other. This is done mechanically by putting antennas some distance away from each other, so it requires a bit of three-dimensional thinking.” The Symphonica crew has also put together a team to grow moustaches in aid of men’s cancer as a part of the annual, worldwide, Movember campaign. You can support their efforts by making a donation to help them change the face of men’s health.