Venue Problems Part Deux

Discussion in 'Location Recording' started by Cucco, Feb 1, 2005.

  1. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Okay, different scenario here. Do any of you find that rather decent orchestras or ensembles wind up playing where they can and one of the large determining factors of that is the almighty dollar?

    I'm finding more and more orchestras nowadays that are performing in high school auditoriums and then I find out that most of these guys don't understand the compromises that go into one of these "all-in-one" auditoriums.

    For example:
    * The wings - when not properly closed off by either a shell or the fire curtains, sound builds up back here and gets lost, especially low brass, low strings and some percussion.
    * The way-too-high cielings back stage - see above; also, these were designed this high so props could be moved into place, not so the sound could reverberate onwards and upwards.
    * The acoustic shell - I witnessed an ensemble who put up a shell recently. All in all, this is not a bad thing. What was bad was, they only had 4 sections, so they spaced them out across the back. Can you say "nature's version of comb filtering"?

    What really frustrates me is, in this area, there are some magnificant halls that orchestras could play in (and a lot of crappy ones too). But, they price the rental of the hall so high, that no orchestra without a $1 mil/year budget could afford it. That's like building a church and charging the preacher to preach!

    What's wrong with the world today?

    I have an idea! Instead of going to see a concert, we could make 64 bps MP3s of orchestras, charge people a dollar for admission and let them come into a community center, put on walkmans and listen. That's the road we're headed down.
  2. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    This is an interesting post. Yes, our great halls are so expensive to hire that the venue operators would rather watch them sit there unused than reduce the price or have a price scale appropriate to the resources used.

    Some student auditions I have done in the Conservatorium Theatre have immmediately won the student a place in the final round, because the recording sounded real, but affording a good venue is beyond most of them.

    You would think the venue hirers would allow a student in for a different rate than the standard 4 or 8hr call rate, ie same as an orchestra.

    Re MP3's, I get frustrated hearing any recorded orchestral music, especially on the radio.

    Lets see, take a sound source that is 20m wide, 15m deep in an large volumed acoustic that holds 2500 people and now squeeze it out of a small car radio or Henry Klotz radio and you have a laughable situation.

    Our local community radio station thinks "classical" music is orchestral music. You know, in the morning, your clock radio goes off and you are catapulted into the world with a Bruckner Symphony. Lunacy at its finest.

    I would like to ban all listening to orchestral music from recorded sources and preach to people to go listen to it live. Its like the difference between canned fish and sashimi.

    End of another rant. :D
  3. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Well, I definitely empathize with your rant. However, if that were the case, I would be out of business. :cry:
  4. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I think we all should watch our backs re going out of business. Everyone is now a recording engineer, having graduated from the school of connecting up their Media Centre Edition and successfully getting PC sound to work, sometimes.

    But I love recording live chamber music, lieder recitals, and solo piano recitals. I think this stuff is ideal for radio delivery and wish our radio programmers played more in this country.

    Sorry, hijacked your thread Jeremy. Back to venue costs and selfish building managers.....
  5. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Nope, I don't think you hijacked it - natural evolution of the conversation.

    I agree, I much prefer to record chamber ensembles. It feels more intimate and correct. That being said, there's nothing like making your ears almost bleed recording Mahler 2! 8)
  6. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Ahhhhh, this continues to be one of my favorite places to post and read.....good points, all around.

    I'm trying to locate a very good recent NY Times article on why it costs so much to perform there, esp in Carnegie Hall. (Union Fees and all.) It's a staggering, jaw-dropping expose' on what it costs to put on a simple show, even a recital, and why it's often a one-shot deal for many. (And of course, why tickets cost so much...)

    It's the same here in Phila. for most union (IATSE) staffed halls, plus the rental of the hall itself. Even playing a pre-recorded "Turn off cell phones and pagers" requires a tech on call to power up the system (Which they'll charge you for) and then run the CD or MD (Which is what the tech is for) or power up a mic for a staffer to read the same thing about the cell phones.

    The costs for anyone below the level of the "Top Tier Professional" Orchestras, presenters and community groups is downright crippling. (Rental of the 650 seat recital/chamber orchestra/theater - The Perelman Theater - in the Kimmel Center is $7,000/per day for STARTERS. That rents the hall and puts the lights on. Union costs, piano tuners, food in the dressing rooms, etc. is all extra. The larger hall (Verizon) in the same building is much much more expensive as well. Ticket sales usually don't cover the costs, either. (Grants and fundraisers take care of some of the rest of the gap.)

    Meanwhile, two blocks away, say, an Episcopal Church (100 years old, etc.) is available for $700-1000 per event, much more affordable. So, there's a fairly big gap between the big kids and the second stringer (or simply smaller) organizations. It's really a shame, too, because there's a lot of missed opportunities due to the costs.

    Then there are often restrictions on recording in the bigger places too. Fortunately for all, the Kimmel Center here in Philadelphia drafted a fairly comprehensive agreement at the outset regarding archival recordings and "non-profit" recordings. (Which is MOST of what's done anyway...NO ONE makes a profit on them, for sure! :) ))) Even if the performance is going to be on the radio, it's OK if it's non-commerical (Public/NPR) radio. (Which is really all we do anyway.) Without that agreement, we'd all be sunk, and recording in there would be completely unaffordable. (There is STILL an extra charge to put a man on to "Assist" me when I record in there, and the client has to cover that, in addition to what "I" charge as well.)

    Many of my local semi-pro Choral groups (Auditioned positions, but made up of non-professional singers) use whatever churches they can rent for rehearsals & concerts. Some are good, some are horrible. Its' often a lesser of all evils scenario, between parking, location, costs and availability. Few could even THINK about renting the Academy of Music or the Kimmel Center. Often, the recording aspect is the last on the list; I'm often faced with making a silk purse out of a sow's ear with some crappy venues.

    And, I mentioned it in a different post, but I'm finding it's a never ending struggle to stay ahead of the "Doityourselfers". Fortunately, most don't have the budget and depth of knowledge to get all the gear involved in big recordings (let alone the software, mixing, editing and mastering expertise), but many still try. Some are happy with that, some call me when they've mucked it up, and some split it up: They do the cheapo, non-critical stuff when they can, and if they're smart enough (and budgeted enough) they call me in to do it right.

    So far, I"m still attracting enough of their attention to make it a go, career-wise. But it's a struggle many times, and I often watch "Glengary Glenn Ross" again to remind myself: A, B, C: Always Be Closing."

    You never know when an arts org is going to fold, run out of funding, stop using you (because their STUDENTS can do it now (!!!!) and so on.

    "First Prize....a Cadillac. Second Prize...a set o' steak knives! Third prize is: YOUR FIRED!"

    Good life lessons there. It's still a tough fight, even in the classical music world. :twisted:
  7. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I am so glad that, in the DC area, union is a 4 letter word. Most, if not all of our concert halls are non-union. (Thank God!)

    The only real exception to that is the Kennedy Center and the NSO has contracts for recording for the next 5 years at least!

    Oh well, I guess I'm doomed to churches and HS auditoriums for life. :twisted:
  8. hughesmr

    hughesmr Guest

    I record a regional orchestra that has historically used the local HS auditorium for years; the director also serves as a music educator in the district and their entire annual budget is $60K, so you know the reason why.

    Apart from the second-rate stigma attached to a fine arts ensemble performing in a high school auditorium (look, the gymnasium is right across the hall! and OH, those BATHROOMS :shock: ), this particular venue has one of the worst slap echoes I've ever heard. I'm also on the board of this orchestra and have tried in vain to get them to forge relationships with area churches, some of which have quite nice acoustics and are certainly better from an aesthetic viewpoint, but to no avail.
  9. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    One of the best "Cheapo" Places I've ever recorded in is a High School Auditorium just north/outside of New Hope, PA. It was the first time I ever recorded "Carmina Burana" with all the usual massed forces of choir, four soloists, dual pianos, orchestra, etc. etc. They threw quite a bit of stuff at me on that one!

    The choir hated the sound onstage, and the orchestra could hardly hear each other, but I lucked out and got a stunning recording, mostly due to the (Dry) acoustics onstage and the deflectors/reflectors overhead. There was a lot of drapery as well, and the stage was quite deep. What was bad for them (lots of physical separation) was good for me and my then-new multitrack setup. I got a good blend of the whole thing out in the house, plus all the spot-mics let me fill it all in and get quite a good mix. There were a few musical "Stumbles" (non-pro choral group) but WOW, what a sound.
  10. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    Here's a stupid idea. How about Masonic Temples.

    I've recorded several orchestras and choral groups at some of the larger Masonic halls. The Masons were very fair about the money thing and there were no "union" issues at all. The halls were all very well kept and sounded fantastic. The main issue was fitting into the schedule. Other than that, everything went swimmingly.

    Just a thought.

  11. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    The old Scottish Rite Cathedral here in Philadelphia (I think was a masonic hall, or something similar) was a wonderful place to record, until they tore it down in the late 70's.

    Now it's a multilevel parking garage. Ah, progress..... :cry:
  12. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Well, how are the acoustics in the parking garage??
  13. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    Now that's funny and a bit sad.

  14. John Stafford

    John Stafford Well-Known Member

    Talking about tearing things down in the name of 'progress', I think I live in the world's capital of architectural blasphemy. Still, I suppose in time those 70s monstrosities will be part of the architectural "heritage" -naah, they'll probably fall down first!

  15. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Here's an interesting one:

    I'll be recording here:

    tomorrow and Saturday night. How's that for an acoustic nightmare. The upside - relatively tall cielings (18'). The downside - everything else.

    Concert to include:

    Berlioz: Beatrice and Benedict Overture
    Bizet: Carmen Suite No.1
    Saint-Saƫns: Cello Concerto No. 2
    Rimsky-Korsakov: Capriccio Espagnol
    Tchaikovsky Variations on a Rococo Theme

    With apparently a world-class cellist (Zuill Bailey). I'll be using the MG M296s and Schoeps (probably MK21s) and the Oktava Tube mic on the cellist. I'll probably need to spot mic the winds and I'll try the new AT4040's on them.

    It should be interesting. I'll post samples on my web-page when all is complete.

  16. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    The downside - everything else.

    Ok, but remember the "2 hr Rule" will be in effect. (That means your onsite suffering will be over in 2 hrs - approx. the length of the concert), so try to put it in perspective while you're tearing your hair out trying to get a good sound. (Still, it's a GIG, right? :) And it sounds like you'll have a good cellist to record as well.

    I'm just curious where they'll put the stage...same place as the wedding ceremony area? Will they open the whole place up for 700 people, or will you have those lovely drapes in the back as well? (I always wanted to be draped in velvet...- George Costanza)

  17. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    The concert will be held only in the Grand Ball Room. The smaller areas will be reserved for pre-concert lectures and the "gala."

    Strangely enough, I actually enjoy these kinds of challenges, so I don't think I'll be pulling my hair out. It will be interesting to see what kinds of wonderful things I can (or can't do) with Sequoia.

    Actually, looking at these pictures, I'm reminded of a gig that I recording in a restaurant. It was Grainger's "17 Come Sunday" with brass section and 45 person chorus. The dimensions of the room were maybe 25'x 18' and there was a decorative fountain that was hard-wired into the electrical so there was no way to turn it off. To add to the problems, I was the lead horn player too. No matter how much I try, I just can't that recording sounding very nice

    I think this one will be quite manageable though and a fun challenge.

  18. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Holy Crap!!! The acoustics in that hall actually turned out to be GREAT!! I can't believe it.

    Even better - I get to record here:

    this weekend. The acoustics in this hall are some of the best in the nation! (And it's a non-union hall!!!!)

    I'm giddy and tweaking my nipples as I look at the pictures.

    Now, the other problem - I'm doing 2 other gigs at the same time over 50 miles away!!! When will they perfect human cloning?
  19. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Now thats a hall! Let us know what its like and also record some impulse responses so we can snaffle its reverb. :)
  20. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Man, that's one BEEEYOOTIFUL hall!

    (And it's not all THAT far from here....give me a shout if you need people or gear or whatever.... )

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