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The gospel truth: 40,000 get the Butterflys in Milan with Outline and the Italian Big Orchestra

Mike Clark got into the spirit of things in Piazza del Duomo

In September a 40,000-strong crowd packed into Piazza del Duomo, the huge square in front of Milan cathedral, for a unique concert performance. The bringing together of a 500-strong Italian gospel choir, the 12-piece Italian Big Orchestra with guest director Donald Lawrence (pictured, below, leading the choir) and MC Nick the Nightfly, one of Italy’s best-known FM radio personalities and a recording artist in his own right, made the night special; the fact the concert was performed on the cathedral steps, for which obtaining permission is no easy job, just added to the magic.

Audio contractor Cipiesse, from Rezzato, Brescia, supplied audio, lighting and stage/support systems. To get the songs and Nick’s wisecracks over to the huge crowd, Cipiesse set up two main hangs of 12 Outline Butterfly each and a front fill system with 16 Outline Eidos positioned in pairs along the steps (used as a main stage).

Only four Outline Subtech 218 subwoofers were flown on either side, alongside the Butterflys, as the limit set on the towers’ height prevented more subs being deployed. (It was decided not to add others on the ground, as they would have been too close to the public and the band.) The entire rig was powered by Outline T-Seven amps and controlled by an XTA448, chosen by the rental firm for their quality and ease of use.

Cipiesse’s Marco Riva says: “This system allowed us to ensure even coverage up to a distance of approximately 50 metres. The main problem was that the towers were 50m apart, and we had to cover the area practically up to the front of the stage. Then there was also the fact that the ‘stage’ was only 80cm high, so the front fills’ contribution was useful, but not decisive. This compelled us to turn the main arrays in slightly towards the centre, ensuring good coverage of almost all the stagefront area, which was completed by the front fill enclosures in the central zone – but sacrificing the side areas, which would have ideally required additional side fill clusters.”

The end result was reportedly excellent coverage of the whole 50 x 50m zone in front of the stage, which gradually fell off in the stage-side areas.

PA manager and FOH engineer was globe-trotting veteran Carlo Gennaro, assisted by Raffaella Gatti (pictured), one of the very few female sound engineers on Italy’s live scene. Gennaro explains: “We used 108 channels for the event, divided between a Yamaha M7CL, used to create premixes, and a DiGiCo SD8, used as a master console. Of these channels, 33 were for the band and solo singers, and the others handled the 100 Shure SM58 microphones dedicated to the front rows of the choir and the Schoeps MK4 for the rest.”

Other difficulties were due to the tight schedule for move-in, set-up and rehearsals, and a limited budget, which resulted in a considerable part of the audio system being handled by a mixed analogue-digital set-up.

Gennaro states: “I’ve used various Outline products frequently in the past, and I’m particularly familiar with their Butterfly system, which I’ve used on high-profile events such as a celebration in Jordan with the Pope and a huge festival in Nigeria. As always, sound quality was very good and precise, with great intelligibility.”