Lawo Gear Assists as Organs in Eight Churches in Five Cities Perform One Live Concert

In a special event marking the 300th anniversary of the city of Karlsruhe in Germany, organists in the twinned cities of Halle an der Saale (Germany), Nancy (France), Nottingham (England) and Timisoara (Romania) played live with four organists in Karlsruhe itself.

lawoPerforming ‘Organum’ – a contemporary organ work composed by Wolfgang Mitterer especially for the occasion – the event was broadcast live via satellite to the Karlsruhe State Academy of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung, HfG). At the academy, the live video feeds from the organists playing and the music itself were set to a technically and artistically challenging sound and image installation, with the help of two Lawo V__pro8 video processor units and a Lawo mc²36 audio mixing console.

Audio and video equipment from Lawo
Rastatt-based Audio Broadcast Services (ABS) supplied the Lawo video and audio equipment for the event, and worked with Lawo’s Service Department to overcome its technical issues. The IP-based V__pro8 – compact, fully digital 8-channel video processors – were required for de-embedding the satellite streams received from the eight churches, and providing separate audio and video signals. They were also used for image processing.

Together with the Lawo mc²36, the V__pro8 supplied the surround mix of the concert for both the live PA system and for recording. The separate elements were combined to create a complex work that called not only on the skills of the musicians’, but also those of the technology’s operators.

Artistic Concept
With the concept for the work established, responsibility for its realization was passed to Dr. Achim Heidenreich of the Department of Education, Media and Economy Karlsruhe, who took on overall management of the project – now called ‘Organum’.

Together with the organists, Dr. Heidenreich envisaged a completely new artwork, based on the music composition commissioned from Wolfgang Mitterer, one of the most renowned contemporary composers of organ music. He created an opus for a concert that merged sound and video in a square installation at the HfG called ‘Carée’ – here visitors could walk among eight loudspeakers and projection units, creating their own personal experience of the music and the visuals. It was designed as a “democratic piece of art” as Dr. Heidenreich explains: “Music that sounds perfect only at one particular spot in a concert hall is an outmoded relict of feudal times. In those days, everything was tuned so that the best sound arrived only at monarch’s box. In our installation, visitors were invited to find their own listening position and to change it at will.”

Planning and Coordination
Technical design and coordination of the project was overseen by Tonmeister Sebastian Schottke, who works in the field of contemporary music at the Karlsruhe Center for Art and Media (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie), as well as at other institutions.

After considering the requirements necessary for simulcasting, it was apparent that the audio and video signals needed to be acquired at the eight locations and relayed via satellite link to the HfG. This was the only means to guarantee a synchronous transmission with a stable delay. Sebastian Schottke developed guidelines for the selection and positioning of the microphones on the organs; the cameras showed in their position as well as the organist at work.

The audio and video signals were fed to an SNG van from Cologne-based broadcasting and media service provider, Media Broadcast, and from partners located at the respective churches, and transferred via satellite link to Karlsruhe. They were received by another Media Broadcast SNG, and fed into the Lawo setup for the sound and image installation – a total of nine SNG vehicles.

Drawing on his experience of audio mixing consoles from a number of different manufacturers, Schottke chose the Lawo mc²36 from Lawo for the concert mix. “The key was the fidelity that I achieve with my mix, and the mc²36 gives a particularly high-quality sound that didn’t require any editing whatsoever. In addition to its DSP power, the console provides a compact surface and allows fast operation,” he says.

Paralleling the live stream from the V__pro8, a DAW supplied sample recordings as a backup (which were not used during the concert) and pre-produced sounds transmitted via MADI to the mc²36. Schottke: “Through the use of two V__pro8 Units – one for redundancy – and the digital mixing console, the complete signal path could be maintained digitally after taking the signals from the SNG, so no quality losses occurred by repeated conversion.”

Technical Process and Musical Performance
After conception, composition, technical preparations and rehearsals, the satellite link was booked. And on the day of the premiere, the real excitement began – 19 September 2015 at 4pm, and again at 9pm, the organists began to play. Their performances were synchronized to the second – indicated by a radio clock, as they had to adhere precisely to appropriate timings set by the composition. The organists were able to develop and expand the piece in improvisational passages, but all to a fixed schedule, because they had no return line for acoustic control, only a time slot. “You have imagine this as eight World Cup finals, that took place at the same time in the HfG,” explains Dr. Heidenreich. “The event took place in this very moment. Such a thing has never existed before in this form. The audience in Karlsruhe experienced the interaction between the eight separate organs as a single, synchronous sound body.”

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