SSL L500 on song for André Rieu tour

Monday, 20 March 2017
sslandrerieufohprFront of House at Wembley Arena - Wim Van Der Molen (André Rieu’s FOH engineer) and Alexandre Dugas (systems tech for the tour)
Europe - André Rieu is a Dutch violinist and conductor who has consistently made it into the world's top ten grossing tours lists with his exposition of the popular classical canon. His Johann Strauss Orchestra entertains and involves audiences worldwide by mixing exceptional musicianship with immersive, light-hearted, and energetic performances.
Front of House engineer Wim Van Der Molen, who has been touring with Rieu for about 24 years is considered as much as part of the orchestra as the musicians. Rieu himself told Van Der Molen early in their partnership that the mixing console was to be his instrument – an instrument that has recently been upgraded to an SSL Live L500. The console, supplied supported on tour by Solotech, now mixes up to 128 inputs from stage for both the PA and monitors, from the FOH position. Also touring with the show is Solotech project manager and systems tech Alexandre Dugas.
The tour's previous digital console had been in service for 12 years when Van Der Molen decided to look for new blood. The old console was large, heavy, required a lot of flight case real estate, and the evolving show deserved a new generation of technology - a step up in flexibility, power, and quality. Solotech suggested he look at the SSL L500.
"I met with Roland Mattijsen of AEM in The Netherlands," he says. "Who introduced us to the SSL team. Of course, we know SSL by name and by reputation, and we had long chat and a demo there . . . Later we visited the SSL HQ in Oxford, UK, with audio tracks from the show, and after that we moved on to running an L500 at some of our shows from an analogue split alongside our existing console."
The show travels with 128 preamps via a rack of SSL Stageboxes with SuperAnalogue inputs. The show does not always use all 128 inputs, but it does expand regularly for special events when the addition of a choir, various regular guests, and a larger orchestra bumps up the count. The console show file is set-up and ready for those expansions, so the team doesn't have to re-make anything.
Rieu has two lavalier mics for his voice. The mutes and fader timing on these are an important performance aspect for Van Der Molen as a heavy violin stroke into an active vocal microphone can be an alarming experience for the audience. "André can take the violin off his shoulder and say something even when the orchestra is still playing," he says. "The timing has to be precise . . . It's probably because I've been working with him for so long that I can predict these movements and mix accordingly."
This potentially complex show set-up is simplified considerably by the SSL approach of unrestricted, drag-and-drop bank and layer assignment to independent channel tiles, with simply managed colour-coding and the graphic Eyeconix labelling system. The Super-Query forward and reverse interrogation technology (the famous 'Q' button) means that any input or output is always just a single button push away.
And as any Conductor should be, André Rieu is directly involved with every aspect of the show, including the sound reinforcement. When it came to the final stamp of approval on the SSL, Van Der Molen recalls a playback of Ravel's Bolero to Rieu after one of the 'test' shows. "It's a piece of music big on dynamics," he says. "We played it back for Rieu and he was very impressed. All he said was 'Okay . . . It's all yours!'"
(Jim Evans)

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