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Decca Tree used in anger Condenser Microphones
Old 15th June 2017
  #1
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Bruce Watson's Avatar
 

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Decca Tree used in anger

I had the good fortune to be in Chicago last Thursday. Managed to score a nice seat (row L on the main floor) to hear the Chicago Symphony play some Mozart. Imagine my surprise when I walked in and saw a full Decca Tree flying just behind the podium. Outriggers in line with the tree. A full complement of spots, some flying, some on stands. Those really looked like Schoeps mics with the 40mm APE spheres.

I just thought y'all might like to see a picture of it (and I apologize for the crappy cell phone picture).

The performance was from the chamber orchestra subset, as is appropriate for Mozart. This might have been the "B" team (no Riccardo Muti at the podium, no Robert Chen at Concertmaster, etc.) but I'll listen to this group any time. They were flat out excellent. Their version of Symphony No. 35, K.385 (Haffner) was one of the best I've heard, and I've heard a few.

The acoustics were equal to the ensemble. Stunningly clear, frequency response was seriously flat, gorgeous reverb. I knew it was good going in, but sometimes you just have to hear it for yourself. The proof of the hall is in the listening. I'm just sayin' that Chicago Symphony Hall lives up to its hype.

The only question I have is what's up with the two silver bodied (almost looked white) mics in the middle, right below the rail for the seats behind the stage? They looked like Sennheiser mkh 800s, maybe twins. But they were pointed at each other. They were side-address mics, I suppose you could make an ORTF or NOS pair that way, but it's an odd way to fly them. Any ideas?
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Decca Tree used in anger-chicago-1a.jpg  
Old 15th June 2017
  #2
Gear Maniac
 

Looks like a stereo overhead pair for percussion, to me.
Old 15th June 2017
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bixby View Post
Looks like a stereo overhead pair for percussion, to me.
I think they are over winds.
Old 15th June 2017
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

Ok, a stereo pair for something. Doesn't seem an odd way to hang a side address to me.
Old 15th June 2017
  #5
CSO has MKH800s in the mic locker.
Old 15th June 2017
  #6
You could always just ask Charlie Post...He's here on GS His screen name is "CharlieNYC".
All the best,
-mark
Old 16th June 2017
  #7
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Plush's Avatar
Glad you got to check it out. They can play the Mozart AND the Mahler / Bruckner. Hall underwent a complete rebuild in the mid 90's which greatly increased stage depth. However it also removed the plaster walls at the back near the trombones and trumpets. That plaster wall was very instrumental in giving the brass a boosted and hot sound--the Solti brass sound.

I consider the new hall a much better recording hall than a listening hall. It has very little ambience. The depth of the stage allows for nice separation when doing a mix.

Often when visiting, listeners see random mics left up from a former show or one coming up.
Chris Willis instituted Senn. 800 mics for woodwinds.

One fun fact about Orchestra Hall: of all the halls in the world, the audience sits closest to the stage in Orchestra Hall.
Old 16th June 2017
  #8
Hello.
Yes, those are Schoeps omnis, only with the 20mm spheres. I usually remove the spheres for chamber orchestra, but I was away last week.

You all are correct - those are MKH800 (non-twin) I've been using on the winds for an overall sound. I use these in addition to individual section spots. They work great for Fl/Ob/Cl/Bsn in the standard 2/2/2/2 config, but don't grab enough of the aux winds (Picc, EHn, Bcl, CBsn). I doubt the overheads were in use last week for the Mozart with its reduced winds.

Hudson is spot-on about the acoustics in the hall. Although I agree with the OP that you hear a very clear and balanced mix of the orchestra, there's very little in the way of ambience coming from surfaces in the house. Perhaps lesser known is how difficult is it for the musicians to hear one another on stage. It's extremely isolating, so as a player you'll always sound too loud to yourself. It's also near impossible to play together with sections across stage without clear indications coming from the podium.

I'd be happy to address any other questions. BTW, no photos in Orchestra Hall

cheers,
-c
Old 16th June 2017
  #9
video

P.S. Here's a recent (last night!) video in which it may be easier to see the mics with a full orchestra configuration. You'll also hear some incredible playing by Branford Marsalis, Cynthia Yeh on vibes, Rob Kassinger on bass, and of course the CSO.

Last edited by charlienyc; 17th June 2017 at 04:17 AM.. Reason: youtube link updated
Old 17th June 2017
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charlienyc View Post
...those are MKH800 (non-twin) I've been using on the winds for an overall sound. I use these in addition to individual section spots.
Thanks for taking the time to post, and thanks for that explanation. I thought as much. What stereo array do you actually have there? It looks like it might be too wide for ORTF. NOS? Something else? And how does that mix in with the Decca Tree? I'm sure it's pretty far down in the mix, I'm more wondering how it lays in the stereo field in the mix. I'm just curious is all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by charlienyc View Post
Hudson is spot-on about the acoustics in the hall. Although I agree with the OP that you hear a very clear and balanced mix of the orchestra, there's very little in the way of ambience coming from surfaces in the house. Perhaps lesser known is how difficult is it for the musicians to hear one another on stage. It's extremely isolating, so as a player you'll always sound too loud to yourself. It's also near impossible to play together with sections across stage without clear indications coming from the podium.
I was really interested in CSO's main hall since the acoustics house (Kirkegaard Assoc.) that did the update in Chicago also did the acoustics design of the new Meymandi hall in Raleigh at the turn of the century. IIRC Raleigh was something like their next project after Chicago.

I remember hearing a little about the difficulty on the Chicago stage, and the work they did in Raleigh to make it easier for the musicians to hear each other on stage. It was, I think, the top priority in the design for Meymandi Hall here. And, it worked. The orchestra made a huge step up in their sound by moving to the new hall simply because they could do a better job playing together. By all accounts the orchestra members love this new hall, as does the audience.

The sound of Meymandi Hall in Raleigh for the audience isn't perhaps quite as good as Chicago. It's not quite as clear, the bottom end isn't quite as solid, but the acoustic is nicer. Where Chicago is a dryer hall, Meymandi is about ideal for an orchestra listening experience. Frequency response is nice and flat, t60 time is somewhat fatter on the bottom than the top, probably averages around 2 seconds. It's probably the best sounding hall on the east coast south of Carnegie Hall (which is a completely different design). Jacksonville FL has a very similar hall to Maymandi, but I've not experienced it yet.

As to the CSO itself, they are an impressive bunch. I've never heard a string section play that together. It really did sound like they moved as one. And the entire ensemble self balanced really well. For it's flaws they players seem to have mastered that hall. I'm just sorry I missed hearing Dale Clevenger in his prime. Sigh... Well, the records are great!
Old 18th June 2017
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
Thanks for taking the time to post, and thanks for that explanation. I thought as much. What stereo array do you actually have there? It looks like it might be too wide for ORTF. NOS? Something else? And how does that mix in with the Decca Tree? I'm sure it's pretty far down in the mix, I'm more wondering how it lays in the stereo field in the mix. I'm just curious is all.
My pleasure, Bruce! It's something like an NOS. The mics/capsules are rotated to favor the flute on the L and bassoon on the R, so it's not a strict pair in that sense. As far as balance they're down just above the breaking point from the mains. At that position I find I don't need those individual spot mics. I'm panning them 20-25% left and right.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
I was really interested in CSO's main hall since the acoustics house (Kirkegaard Assoc.) that did the update in Chicago also did the acoustics design of the new Meymandi hall in Raleigh at the turn of the century. IIRC Raleigh was something like their next project after Chicago.

I remember hearing a little about the difficulty on the Chicago stage, and the work they did in Raleigh to make it easier for the musicians to hear each other on stage. It was, I think, the top priority in the design for Meymandi Hall here. And, it worked. The orchestra made a huge step up in their sound by moving to the new hall simply because they could do a better job playing together. By all accounts the orchestra members love this new hall, as does the audience.

The sound of Meymandi Hall in Raleigh for the audience isn't perhaps quite as good as Chicago. It's not quite as clear, the bottom end isn't quite as solid, but the acoustic is nicer. Where Chicago is a dryer hall, Meymandi is about ideal for an orchestra listening experience. Frequency response is nice and flat, t60 time is somewhat fatter on the bottom than the top, probably averages around 2 seconds. It's probably the best sounding hall on the east coast south of Carnegie Hall (which is a completely different design). Jacksonville FL has a very similar hall to Maymandi, but I've not experienced it yet.

As to the CSO itself, they are an impressive bunch. I've never heard a string section play that together. It really did sound like they moved as one. And the entire ensemble self balanced really well. For it's flaws they players seem to have mastered that hall. I'm just sorry I missed hearing Dale Clevenger in his prime. Sigh... Well, the records are great!
Now I'm anxious to hear Meymandi! I have a lot of experience recording at Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood in western Mass. That's yet another one of Kirkegaard's designs, and also considered one of the best halls stateside. It's not fantastic for orchestra, but is designed for chamber music and excels at that. It's warm, balanced, and musicians don't struggle one bit to hear one another on stage. Add to that its back doors opening up onto a lush lawn which effectively doubles its seating capacity and you've got a recipe for a great summer venue!

Here in Orchestra Hall, I don't know what the renovations say about Kirkegaard as I wasn't around to hear it before 1997. I also don't know what sort of constraints they were working under. However, every musician who was around says it was better before. Some say the hall got a little worse (in terms of acoustics) with each successive renovation! Still, it's better than the things I've heard about Disney Hall in LA.

Yes, all of the CSO's musicians have played the how-to-play-in-this-hall game and won!
Old 18th June 2017
  #12
Gear Addict
 

I haven't liked the sound of orchestra hall since they renovated the original hall which had wonderful sound color no matter which seat you had. The hall was to dry and lacked warmth with the first changes, then they kept tweaking it and it got a bit better. The new/now hall is very bright almost brassy with great clarity of every instrument but no warmth and the sound doesn't blend like a single orchestra playing music, practically no reverb ambience to give the orchestra body and weight. When I heard the orchestra in the Reiner days play the Wagner Rienzi Overture every hair on your body would stand up, those were the days, what a sound.
Old 18th June 2017
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by sd270 View Post
When I heard the orchestra in the Reiner days play the Wagner Rienzi Overture every hair on your body would stand up, those were the days, what a sound.
I wish I had a time machine! I can only hope my mixes for the CSO radio broadcast do that for our listeners...
Old 18th June 2017
  #14
Gear Addict
 

Even a bigger sound than the Chicago Symphony to my surprise!

Hi Charlie, unfortunately I'm working during the Chicago broadcasts. The other great sound that I heard from the hall during the dry middle period was when Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic came to Orchestra hall and did the Bruckner 8th Symphony. I was with Don Tait from WFMT and Bob Wolf of WNIB and a couple of friends and we had near center first balcony seats. Even though the sound of the hall was dry the massive sound of the Berlin was riveting and you could sense the reserve power of the orchestra, don't think I've ever experienced that feeling before, the orchestra had a huge warm autumnal sound. Based on DG recordings I thought the orchestra had a brighter type of sound but the exact opposite was true, the sound was not bright at all but very mellow with a massive sound front. A thrilling concert that got fabulous reviews from all the critics.
Old 19th June 2017
  #15
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by charlienyc View Post
Still, it's better than the things I've heard about Disney Hall in LA.
The comment I heard from musician that just played in Disney Hall for the first time was something along the lines that the main problem is you hear everything from everybody on stage (and in the audience), which leads to the fact that crappy musicians complain that it's bad, and good ones enjoy playing there. I found last statement somewhat confirming over the years.
DH is not without problems, for sure, although I enjoy listening to the concerts there. But I've never been in the Symphony Hall in Chicago.
Old 19th June 2017
  #16
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Plush's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ifrit View Post
The comment I heard from musician that just played in Disney Hall for the first time was something along the lines that the main problem is you hear everything from everybody on stage (and in the audience), which leads to the fact that crappy musicians complain that it's bad, and good ones enjoy playing there. I found last statement somewhat confirming over the years.
DH is not without problems, for sure, although I enjoy listening to the concerts there. But I've never been in the Symphony Hall in Chicago.
It is Orchestra Hall in Chicago. It is housed in a complex known as "Symphony Center." It houses the world's greatest orchestra.
Old 19th June 2017
  #17
RPC
Gear Maniac
 

The fundamental problem with Orchestra Hall (is it still officially "Theodore Thomas Orchestra Hall"?) is that it's got to fit between Michigan Avenue and the parallel alley, so it's always going to be shallower than expected for the size of stage and audience. You can argue until the cows come home about which iteration of the hall is/was the best compromise (and people do!).
Old 19th June 2017
  #18
0VU
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
It is Orchestra Hall in Chicago. It is housed in a complex known as "Symphony Center." It houses the world's greatest orchestra.
How do they manage that? Don't the CSO take up too much space for one of the world's greatest orchestras to fit in there too?
Old 19th June 2017
  #19
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
It is Orchestra Hall in Chicago. It is housed in a complex known as "Symphony Center." It houses the world's greatest orchestra.
Very good, thank you. Then it is not Disney Hall, but Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, home to the world's second greatest orchestra. It is housed in a complex known as Music Center, aka Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County.
Old 20th June 2017
  #20
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I'm pretty sure they are a couple hundred miles away in a place called "Severance Hall"....



Quote:
Originally Posted by Plush View Post
It is Orchestra Hall in Chicago. It is housed in a complex known as "Symphony Center." It houses the world's greatest orchestra.
Old 20th June 2017
  #21
Most halls i know will just pick a setup and stick with it, regardless of the repertoire. Partly for the practical reasons of saving on union labor costs that frequent resets would impart, and partly for consistency of sound for radio programs and the like.

And lets face it, in this case, it is the CSO. They are not exactly know for their authentic interpretations of classical and baroque composers. Exciting, yes, but always with their specific and not-so-subtle Chicago sound that may not satisfy the purists in certain genres. We probably don't all agree on their ranking among all the world's orchestras, but for big, loud, brassy, and energetic, it doesn't get any more satisfying than the CSO.
Old 20th June 2017
  #22
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Plush's Avatar
World's greatest orchestra led by the world's greatest conductor. No question. We're No. 1.
Chicago Power! Come visit.
Old 20th June 2017
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charlienyc View Post
P.S. Here's a recent (last night!) video in which it may be easier to see the mics with a full orchestra configuration. You'll also hear some incredible playing by Branford Marsalis, Cynthia Yeh on vibes, Rob Kassinger on bass, and of course the CSO.
I love this stuff...

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