We had an outside group renting out our space last week. Now when I think high school orchestra concert I think of sixty or so kids on stage and maybe the junior high kids do a number or two. Schools are a little bit bigger in the neighborhood where I work. The last concert I did had six ensembles and this one had eight!
Having learned my lesson from the first one I planned on having lots of time in between pieces while the kids shuffled around and I also knew I needed to light the very extremes of my stage and well down into the pit. The thing that really worried me was that because our room is so dead (it was built for rockin' contemporary worship) last year they couldn't hear the brass and wanted them miced this year.
Mic the brass? At a violin concert? (!) Yeah, day is night, black is white, just go with it. My solution was to have four AKG 430s high up on boom stands toward the back of the stage. The woodwinds and brass would be in the back two rows so I knew I could get decent isolation from the strings and I'd also be able to push pretty far before feedback from the house became a problem.
The one issue? No sound check. There would be no chance to actually hear the group that included wind instruments before go time. Apart from knowing that they were working and picking up sound there was no way to tune up before hand. I had to do what I could to stack the deck in advance. I set my channel EQs to roll off a lot of low end so I didn't get toe tapping running up the stands into them, and accounted for a couple frequencies that I know to be trouble in the room. As for setting levels I just had to guess which isn't usually such a big deal, but in my room things don't sound the same at the front of the balcony where I mix as down on the floor. I know roughly what the difference is but it's nice to be able to check. Under the balcony is a real problem though. I have sort of an idea how things will translate under there, both from the main PA hang and the delay fills, but strange things happen.
So... I called in a ringer. My boss was available to hang out and when the time came he sneaked in the back and shot me a few text messages until things were right under there. It worked like a charm and my main mix didn't suffer for the changes. We've been working together long enough that a few words from him were all I needed to tweak things out.
I wrote a little while ago (Post) about rehearsal being good prep for the sound guy as well as the musicians. If you don't have the opportunity to prepare by way of rehearsal then you need to prepare even more so you're ready for anything. And of course, be prepared to improvise. I've got a post coming up in a few days about an incident with a keyboard that's a great example.