Directed by Ivo van Hove and with Henry Hey as musical director and arranger/composer, David Bowie and Enda Walsh’s Lazarus wowed Dutch audiences at Amsterdam’s DeLaMar Theatre before the pandemic hit. Now, with reopening throughout Europe being discussed, hopes are high that the musical production can return in 2021.

Dutch rental company Events Light worked with production company Stage Entertainment Nederland (SEN) to deliver audio equipment for the show, which included 20 channels of Sennheiser Digital 6000 wireless microphone systems, featuring SK 6212 mini-bodypack transmitters.

LazarusWhen SEN contacted Events Light’s owner Jeroen Frijters about putting together an offer to supply the audio system for the show, Frijters contacted Sennheiser RF specialist Vincent Tilgenkamp to help put together a high-end system for the SEN sound design team.

‘Events Light has been going for more than 20 years, and all this time we have been using Sennheiser,’ Frijters says. ‘After meeting with Vincent, we felt it was the time to upgrade our stock with Digital 6000 wireless microphone systems so that we could accommodate the demands of such an acclaimed theatrical production.’

Before making the final investment decision on the system – which was delivered to Events Light by Sennheiser partner Audiobizz – Frijters and Tilgenkamp met the SEN team to demonstrate the system in action and explain its advantages. RF reliability, ease-of-use, a fast and intuitive interface, the compact size of the SK 6212 bodypack, and upwards of 12 hours’ operation were major points that convinced sound designers Dennis Slot and Erwin Sterk to go with the recommendation.

‘We worked closely with Henry Hey to re-create the original feel of the production and adapt it to the acoustically challenging room at DeLaMar, which was also much larger than the New York Theatre Workshop in Manhattan where Lazarus originally premiered,’ recalls Sterk.

‘Both Erwin and I were new to the creative team, whilst everyone else already had experience working on the NY and London shows,’ adds Slot. ‘It was challenging to start with, but it gave us an opportunity to approach the sound design with a fresh mindset and really experiment with what worked and what didn’t on the set. We also knew we wanted to use next generation audio equipment. Digital 6000 ticked all our boxes.’

Wireless system operator and microphone placement specialist, JoHaLee Glastra, was also happy with Digital 6000: ‘The biggest advantage for me was the bodypack’s exceptional battery life,’ he says. ‘This meant the batteries could be changed in the morning before the start of rehearsals, last the whole day including the evening live performance, and still have charge left.’

Glastra says that it was also less hassle for the actors, allowing them to concentrate on lighting and sound cues, having extra time to rehearse or even take a moment to relax. ‘My professional motto is that the less we have to interfere with a performer’s routine the better, so I always try to use good-quality systems like Sennheiser.’

Not having to change batteries on the actors’ bodypacks helped technical team and cast (Pic: Jan Versweyveld)

Sennheiser’s Wireless Systems Manager (WSM) professional software solution was another useful feature for Glastra. ‘The software is really intuitive,’ he notes. ‘All the most important parameters such as battery charging levels, RF status and LQI [Link Quality Indicator] are displayed on a single screen. This makes setting up and coordinating the frequencies much easier.’

Tilgenkamp explains that what Glastra refers to as ‘much cleaner sound’ is, among other things, due to the combination of the AD converters, the sophisticated signal processing and the proprietary codec. This ensures a high system audio dynamic range and the outstanding audio quality of the Digital 6000 system, where you hear the voice captured by the microphone and not the wireless system. ‘These elements are essential for how the system sounds and how the sound is experienced by the audience,’ he says.

After selling more than 50,000 tickets and extending its run, the production was stopped 10 weeks before its official end date in May 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.

Speaking about what made the production such a technical success, Frijters and Tilgenkamp agree that the existing relationship with the team, allowing open communication right from the start, along with the combination of good quality audio equipment were all great advantages.

‘I have known Vincent for many years and we have developed a good level of trust,’ says Frijters. ‘This makes a big difference as we know we can deliver a professional service throughout the entire production lifecycle.’

According to Slot, the primary job of the sound designer is to create a sound that fits the narrative vision of the director or producer. ‘But another important point is the need to create an overall solution that is workable from many different perspectives,’ he says. ‘An actor can wear one, or sometimes multiple, beltpacks so size and weight become crucially important; an RF expert will work with frequencies to ensure the system performs flawlessly; the FOH engineer needs all the right tools to control the sound the audience hears.

‘All these elements are like a puzzle – when the pieces fit together, we can deliver a great show. A system such as Sennheiser’s Digital 6000 not only meets its primary objective of reliably transmitting audio from one place to the other and delivering crystal clear sound, it also helps how you get to that point. It supports the cast by staying as invisible as possible with its 12-hour battery life and miniature size, and its intuitive interface saves precious time and delivers stress-free experience for the techs.’


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