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Celtic Woman Tours Internationally with Sennheiser

FOH Staff • News • July 7, 2008

OLD LYME, Conn. – Currently embarking on a fifth tour, Celtic Woman are joined by a six-piece band and an eight-member choir on stage. To inspire and capture the astounding performances that have earned them so much admiration and fame, the show uses 40 channels of Sennheiser wireless microphones, body-packs and wireless personal monitors, along with a mix of Sennheiser and Neumann wired microphones.

“The sheer number of inputs is amazing,” remarked FOH Engineer Wayne Pauley. “There are 85 mics and lines coming in, so it’s absolutely critical that everything works reliably. Tracking down problems, especially during a show, would be a nightmare.” Not surprisingly, he cites reliability as one of the key features of his extensive Sennheiser wireless complement that helps make Celtic Woman a consistent hit.

Except for the violinist and the Bodhran drums, all of the lead and backing vocalists wear headsets (violin and drums use quarter-inch inputs) connected to Sennheiser SK 5212 body-packs that are combined with ten dual-channel true diversity Sennheiser EM 3532 receivers. For detailed and refreshingly inspirational monitoring, most of the vocalists and musicians also use Sennheiser EK 3253 stereo body-pack receivers with ear buds connected wirelessly to Sennheiser SR 3256 twin-channel stereo transmitters. RF Technician Jason Dallin uses Sennheiser’s PC-driven NET1 multi-channel wireless hub system to keep such a profusion of wireless channels, both to and from the musicians, in perfect order. When asked why they decided to go with Sennheiser wireless, Pauley was to the point. “Nothing else has the sonic quality of Sennheiser,” he says, “and nothing else could reliably deploy so many channels without taking a hit.”

Apart from meeting the challenge of delivering so many wireless channels, Pauley was also asked to deliver appropriate sound for Celtic Woman’s remarkably varied repertoire. “The show is drastically different from song to song,” he explained. “They might start with Vivaldi, shift to an a cappella piece, then segue to traditional Irish folk, and land on contemporary pop. Of course, there’s no time to move mics around between songs. So one of the principal reasons we’re using Sennheiser and Neumann wired mics is their sonic versatility. While every mic has its place, it seems to me that within their specific realm, Sennheiser and Neumann mics can deliver different sounds when approached differently; a little more gain here, a bit less compression there, that kind of thing. Essentially, we’re able to get a tremendous range of sounds to match the feel and needs of each song without ever touching the mics.”

With two percussionists switching between several different drums and drum stations (including a full kit), nearly half of the show’s 85 inputs are tied to drum mics, and nearly all of those drum mics are Sennheiser evolution 600 and 900 series. Pauley uses an e 906 to capture the unique tonal quality of a large kodo drum, whereas e 902s, e 904s, e 905s, and e 914s decorate the drum kit. Sennheiser e 604s cover the percussion toms, congas, and bongos. “I really love the evolution 600s on the toms,” said Pauley. “They have a nice open, earthy sound. I leave the 600s out as far as possible on the slide clip to get a lot of the wood, not just the head. With the 900s, it’s just the opposite. I close it down tight to get an awesome ‘pop’ sound.” Pauley rounds out the percussion with a pair of Sennheiser MD 441s for the large orchestral drums.

He again uses MD 441s over the top of flutes and whistles. Finally, for steel and nylon string acoustic guitars, Pauley breaks out the Neumann KM 184 small diaphragm condensers. “There’s something about those little pencil mics. They hold up well,” he says. “I can get nice and close, and they’re small enough to be practically invisible from the audience. But most importantly, the sound of those guitars is breathtaking.”

The Celtic Woman 2008 Tour will carry on, assured of the quality and consistency of their sound, night after night. If anything does go wrong, Pauley won’t be concerned. “Sennheiser’s customer service is much more than anyone could reasonably hope for,” Pauly adds. “They bend over backwards for me any time I need help, even when it is of no monetary advantage to them.”

Celtic Woman is a group that doesn’t do anything half way. The world took notice of so much raw talent when Celtic Woman’s five soloists came together in 2004 under the guiding hands of musical director, composer and producer David Downes along with Executive Producer Dave Kavanagh. From there, they released three full-length albums, which attained platinum status, held the number one position on the Billboard World Music Charts for a record-breaking 95 consecutive weeks, and played to riveted fans around the world in four sold-out tours.


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