BUENA PARK, Calif.—The Living Christmas Tree at Grace Bible Church in Oxnard, California recently added a Yamaha LS9-32 digital audio console to enhance its six annual performances. The church, built in 1970, began The Living Christmas Tree program in 1973. Housed in a tree-like structure designed and built by several church members, the set can hold over 70 singers.
The sanctuary was modified to accommodate 48 1,000-watt Leko theatrical lighting fixtures, two follow spots, associated dimmers, and a 24” mirror ball. Sadly, the modifications didn’t include permanently installed audio, so for The Living Tree and other special theater events, a large portable sound system was brought in. The earlier productions were accompanied by musicians with some very elaborate stage sets that included a ski slope, toboggan run, and ice rink. In 2003, the original “Tree” structure was replaced by a new commercially built structure that was easier to assemble and more convenient for the singers to climb into.
“Changing times meant that we had to handle production differently than in the past,” states Alan Hatmaker, Chairman of the Elder Board and lead audio tech. “For instance, with an all-volunteer production team, we cut costs and production complications by moving from a live orchestra to professional backup tracks.” Since Grace Bible Church is a small 100-member church, they opened up the cast to members of other churches in the area. This year, the member cast of over 60 singers is made up of members from 14 churches.
“Instead of purchasing tickets, we ask the audience to bring cans of food for Ventura County (CA) Food Share,” says Hatmaker. “For the last nine years, the audiences have given over 20,000 pounds of food (3,000 pounds last year alone), and enough offerings to keep the program going. We also asked the local Rescue Mission to provide support for help set up and dismantling of the Tree structure and portable staging.”
Hatmaker designed a sound system back in 1981 that consisted of a large portable system built around a Yamaha MQ Series console. “We chose the MQ for its many professional features and overall quality. In 1991, the church decided to upgrade the installed sound system. The centerpiece of the system was a Yamaha PM1200-32 console. Since the PM1200 was an “entry level” pro series console, it gave us great value with its high-quality construction (weighing in at around 150 pounds) and great features. The PM1200 served us well for the past 20+ years until this year when it was replaced by the Yamaha LS9-32. We chose the LS9 since it, like the PM1200, is an “entry level”, high-quality Yamaha professional series console, that will provide us the same long-term service we had with the PM1200.”
Hatmaker said that one of the biggest features of the Yamaha LS9 for his purpose is the console’s built-in effects, ‘more than I could have ever imagined.’ “This feature alone allows us to remove five pieces of outboard gear between the console and amplifiers, resulting in higher reliability of our overall system. The LS9 is great for going from “Tree” setup to Sunday service setup. We use the Scene function to “toggle” between the two set-ups.” He also sights compressors, available for each channel, as another feature the audio team appreciates. Hatmaker noted that he received a few of hours of initial training on the Yamaha console and trains all of the volunteer audio operators.
Times and consoles have certainly evolved. “With the PM1200, I had to write down all of the channel settings for the Tree so I could return to them after the Sunday service!”
About Yamaha Commercial Audio Systems, Inc.:
Yamaha Commercial Audio Systems, Inc. (YCAS) provides a full line of integrated professional audio products offering complete systems solutions for the broadcast, sound reinforcement/installed sound, touring, commercial recording, and post production markets. The company remains the official U.S. and Canadian distributor for all NEXO speaker products. YCAS offers comprehensive in-house and field product training for its customers, a dedicated dealer network, and 24/7 technical support.