Saying that Bryan Farina and Peter Skujins, sound engineers for legendary vocal group the Manhattan Transfer, travel light while on the road is quite an understatement. For the past year, Farina (front-of-house engineer) and Skujins (monitors) have delivered the smooth sounds of vocalists Tim Hauser, Janis Siegel, Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentyne to audiences across the United States with a dramatically different live rig for each date. While often challenging, they always make it work.
"We are completely at the mercy of each venue," offers Farina. "We don't carry our own system because we do a lot of fly dates. And since September 11, airline weight restrictions make it very expensive to carry lots of gear. We're working with a lot of local and regional sound companies, along with the venues. Obviously, what we get can run the gamut."
Because of this arrangement, Farina is most comfortable traveling with five Sennheiser EW345-G2 wireless handheld microphone systems—one for each vocalist and one spare—which acts as the front end to whatever sound system he encounters. "I have to be really specific with my advance work," he insists. "There are always places out there that try to mess you over, so it really helps to have the Sennheiser stuff. Day in and day out, I know that they are going to be solid. The Sennheiser wireless systems, along with a couple personal monitor systems and piano mics, is all that we carry. It's nice to have equipment that you know will always work for you."
As the Manhattan Transfer prepare for performances in Europe and Australia, they are especially happy about the EW345-G2's clean, interference-free operation, which will come in handy when working in unfamiliar frequency territories. "We haven't been out of the country with the Sennheiser systems yet, but we will be in the next couple of weeks," Farina explains. "We started our U.S. dates with them in Oklahoma and ended in Oregon. During that time, we passed through San Diego, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and so on. I don't think I changed the frequencies one time. I think we're well prepared for the international dates."
With equipment worries out of mind, Farina can concentrate on what he says is job number one: translating vocal harmonies to the audience. "The harmonies are what people are coming to hear," he says. "Getting those to sound tight as close to the album is the goal."
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