Musicians at the 2013 Hot Springs Music Festival
The Hot Springs Music Festival takes place each June and brings together more than 200 international musicians to Hot Springs, Arkansas. It pairs world-class mentor musicians—from major orchestra, chamber ensembles, and conservatory faculties—with talented apprentices. Over a two-week span, musicians collaborate on more than 20 concerts for approximately 10,000 members of the Hot Springs National Park community, delivering musical compositions and popular scores from around the world.
While preparing for the 2013 event, festival recording engineer Jamie Tagg learned that after seven seasons in a historic downtown performance venue, the festival would have to move to the Summit Arena, as its original venue was going to be shut down for structural repairs.
The Hot Springs Music Festival recording team
“The Summit Arena is a large space that presents an extremely difficult acoustical environment for a symphony orchestra,” Tagg explains. “With 50-foot ceilings and a lack of proper stage shell, the room is far less reflective, with a much higher noise floor than the previous concert hall. We needed new microphones and gear that could face this environment and deliver quality sound from over 100 instruments playing simultaneously to the more than 450 people who attend each performance.”
The festival’s audio team opted for Shure microphones. “Product quality is critical in this type of arena setting, where the sound reflection isn’t very good and the performances can be very dynamic,” he says. “Given my experience with Shure gear in the past, I knew I could trust the microphones to produce an open, natural sounding reproduction of the musicians’ instruments. The Shure KSM32, KSM44, KSM313, Beta 181, Beta 27, and VP82 were integrated into our setup, helping us achieve the sound we were hoping for, while keeping the audience happy and our engineering team’s stress level down.”
A Shure KSM44 picks up the full sound of harps during the 2013 Hot Springs Music Festival
Tagg used Shure KSM32s to enhance the sound of woodwinds, violins, and the French horn, delivering even off-axis response at high frequencies. The KSM44 also stood out as the go-to mic for harps, which typically perform in pairs. Using the KSM44s’ bi-directional pattern, a single mic was able to pick up the full sound of each instrument with just enough detail to be emphasized in the mix. The Beta 181, an ultra compact side-address microphone, was used to capture choir voices, which tend to get lost when performing with an orchestra. By using a pair of supercardioid capsules that widen around 6 kHz, both the large area of the choir, and the sibilant detail of the voices could be captured while isolating the choir from noise and unpleasant reflections.
Tagg adds, “For the live archiving application, the Beta 27 microphone was an excellent tool that allowed me to get an upper, mid-range sound and a tight pattern, enabling us to focus on the timpani, providing great off-axis rejection. We tried several other microphones for this application and the Beta 27 turned out to be the clear winner, helping to reject the loud, closely-placed brass section, and emphasize timbral detail in the attack of the notes.”
In addition to outfitting the new indoor venue, the festival’s outdoor concert venues—used for rehearsals and concerts—are also equipped with Shure gear. Tagg says he can rely on Shure microphones to withstand Arkansas’ heat and humidity levels during the summer.
The Hot Springs Festival audio crew also used Shure SRH940 professional headphones.
“Shure microphones and headphones were invaluable to us,” Tagg concludes. “We had no audio problems and no complaints from any musicians or other supporting engineers. It made my job easy.”