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Best way for me to handle choirs

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Pete Bansen:
Mike - can you provide some more information on the setting (indoor/outdoor, church/hotel ballroom/concert hall/school gym), audience size, choir size(s) and some general idea of how the sound system is configured?

I work with choirs quite a bit and generally only reinforce the soloists (particularly those with smaller voices or who don't project well), but I'm usually working with live orchestras.  Part of the challenge with recorded music is making it so the choir can hear it - you probably need to provide some sidefills for the choir in addition to getting the recorded tracks in the FOH system.

Generally speaking, I agree with the suggestion to use the PG81's, but we can provide some more suggestions on placement with some additional information.

Mike Jenkins:
The event is going to be outdoors, it is a campus event at a university and there will be two stages. The choirs are going on the smaller stage which is going to be using a Roland digital mixer and the audio is going out through 4 HK Audio Stacks, 2 either side of the stage.

I have been told that one choir will be using music on MP3 which I will play out through 2 monitors on stage, most likely set up to side fill. The other choir will be using at least a keyboard although possible a singing with a big band (Saxes, Trumpets, Trombones, Guitar, Bass, Keys, Drums).

The issue I have more than anything with the two choirs is that they are students doing it for fun which means the ability of singers to project is very mixed. The choir singing to music is very quiet and do struggle to project.

The stage size is 4 x 3 m so I may get away with only using one or 2 mics plus extra for soloists.

Pete Bansen:
I think I'd try the PG81's on high stands and spread so that they are roughly 1/3 of the way in from each side of the choir grouping.  As described in the article referenced above, you want to separate the two mics a minimum of three times their distance to the performers.  

Use the third PG81 as a spot mic for the soloists - and have the soloists move prior to their solo so as to be in position for the mic to do some good.  The other thing to watch for is that the soloists don't block the mic with their sheet music...

Simpler is better.  Don't hesitate to assert yourself with the choir directors and/or soloists and don't assume that they will know to move to the mic before singing their solo.  I try to talk through each piece with the choir director so that we both know what is going to happen and so that they pause between pieces long enough to allow the soloist to move into position before starting.  I try to be there and set up prior to their pre-concert rehearsal or warm-up so I can get some idea of the varying volume of each soloist.  

Choirs are kind of a crap shoot - keep smiling, make them louder and they'll have a good time and be appreciative.

Dick Rees:

Given that the weak link in the chain is the initial volume level of the choir, be prepared to explain this:

Loudest sound at the mic wins.

This is just physics.  If the microphones "hear" the sound system over the choir it just won't work.  Trying to boost them will only result in feedback.  So regardless of which mics you use the make/break factors are:

1.  Choir volume/projection.
2.  Mic placement in relation to the choir AND in relation to the speakers.

Pete Bansen:
Dick Rees wrote on Wed, 02 March 2011 11:28

Loudest sound at the mic wins.

True that.  If the loudest thing at the mic isn't the choir, you're done before you begin...


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