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Harmonius Convergence

by Karen Mitchell

  • Carmel, IN--Palladium is a rare element, a metallic often employed as a catalyst. It fits then that The Palladium, in the new Center for the Performing Arts, is a jewel in the crown for this upscale Midwestern community, near Indianapolis, and for the region beyond. The Palladium recently enjoyed its grand opening gala with a concert featuring singer/artistic director, Michael Feinstein, Cheyenne Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Neil Sedaka, and jazz trumpeter Chris Botti with the Carmel Symphony.

The domed 1,600-seat balconied hall, designed by David M. Schwarz Architects, and built under the tutelage of Carmel's visionary mayor, James Brainard, is a harmonious convergence where Indiana limestone meets the great European concert hall tradition, complete with a formidable organ facade (the instrument itself will not be installed for some time).

The center, home to the The Feinstein Foundation for the Preservation of the Great American Songbook, courtesy of center artistic director, Michael Feinstein, features systems design by Artec Consultants of New York, NY, and installation by All Pro Sound of Pensacola FL.

"The Mayor was interested in us for our concert hall acoustics consulting, and a colleague and I toured another of our projects, Symphony Hall in Birmingham (U.K.) with him in 2004," said Geoff Zink, principal consultant, Artec Consultants. "What they wanted was world-class acoustics for a symphony hall, and because of the nature of these halls, booked with a variety of programming, they needed a system for amplified events and one that would deliver a high degree of intelligibility to all seating areas."

The Palladium system features Meyer MICA line array components for left and right along with an MSL-4, CQ-1 and CQ-2 central cluster with UPA series fill speakers. There are also UPA effects speakers and d&b audiotechnik front fills. All of the main PA components can be lowered and removed completely from the performance space if desired. The All Pro team constructed a custom loudspeaker attachment frame to maintain the alignment of the center cluster if it is removed.

In addition, the system features a Yamaha PM5D FOH console and LS9-32 auxiliary console for smaller events. System processing is by Peavey MediaMatrix NION and Symetrix. Amplifiers are d&b audiotechnik and Lab.gruppen. There is a full CobraNet network and 48x16 channel E-Snake from Whirlwind. A complete Pro Tools recording package can be utilized when needed for digital recording of any event. Four Renkus-Heinz Iconyx columnar array loudspeakers that are used a part of the concert announce system. Because of the various types of events staged at the Palladium, the systems have an abundance of flexibility to allow the venue to be set up in many different fashions.

"Our team consisted of six to eight technicians from our offices along with three or four local technicians that we contracted to work with us," said All Pro vice president, John Fuqua. "Lead technicians are Victor Puddy, Dustin Price, and Chris Wickizer. Michael Murph and Dennis Ryan provided much of the system programming."

The nature of this venue, with 15 different colors required for ceiling speakers in the ancillary areas, and the general complexity of the project created many challenges, he said. "Miles of cable and fiber all had to be tested and terminated, there were unusual rigging requirements, and flexible signal routing, and all of this makes for a very unique project. Our entire team worked tireless hours to bring this system on line as designed."

Artec believes in a discrete center cluster, primarily to let the vocal information mix acoustically with instrumentation reinforcement from left and right portions, Zink said. "The concert announcement system, in play for symphonic events when the main system is not in use and is stored, provides a system for narration and announcements from the stage."

Asking performers to keep stage volume down in programming with amplified instruments and/or percussion that can achieve high sound levels is important in concert halls in general, he said. "The concert platform wants to reflect acoustic energy. While we design elements that allow you to alter the acoustics of room there is still a concert platform that wants to reflect a lot of acoustic energy. You can get too much sound from the stage such as from a loud guitar amp. It's a challenge to get a mix right if you have that going on. A main tenet is to start with a potentially loud source and try to get the artist to comply with a request to keep the level down on stage and still be comfortable. It's a unique situation as, again, the hall is designed for symphonic performance. In a hard-hat concert before the grand opening, the Wright Brothers Band, a regional rock and country band, mixed their own monitors and were able to minimize their stage output. An electronic drum kit kept stage volume down and this allowed for a nice mix to the audience."

Technology is changing so rapidly, Zink said. "For me, the main question right now is how to get the signal around a facility; it's the same old thing, no one has a standard. If the budget is large, you can go with Stagetec Nexus or Optocore that put all signals onto a fiber network. With limited budgets, the choices become broader because everyone has a different protocol."