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Masque Sound Supports Broadway Return Of The Color Purple

Pulitzer Prize-winning story opens at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York, supported by DiGiCo, Sennheiser, and DPA Microphones.

By PSW Staff February 12, 2016

Joaquina Kalukango in The Color Purple (Credit: Matthew Murphy)

When Tony Award-winner Gregory Clarke was given the task of sound design for the Broadway return of The Color Purple, he turned to Masque Sound.

The theatrical sound reinforcement company provided a custom audio equipment package for the revival, which recently opened at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York.

This American classic has returned to Broadway with a powerhouse cast, including London’s Cynthia Erivo, along with Golden Globe- and Grammy-winner Jennifer Hudson, who makes her Broadway debut. The Color Purple features a score of jazz, gospel, ragtime and blues that gives an exhilarating new spirit to this Pulitzer Prize-winning story.

The Color Purple comes to Broadway after a successful run in London where Clarke first collaborated with director John Doyle on the show. This gave Clarke a clear roadmap for his vision for the sound for Broadway.

“I was looking for clarity and a transparent and crystalline audio quality for the New York production, which suits John’s (Doyle) particular aesthetic,” says Clarke. “It’s very clean, clear and, like the rest of the production, has no extraneous elements. I don’t like to include anything that shouldn’t be there. I am also very serious about sound distribution. It is very important to me that every member of the audience, regardless of where they are seated, is getting the very best possible account of the story and a first-rate audio experience. It’s something I’m very keen on in the design stage and with Masque Sound’s help we achieved that.”

In order to ensure every seat had a memorable sonic experience, Masque Sound provided Clarke with a DiGiCo SD7 console. According to Clarke, “I think DiGiCo is the best sounding desk in the world. The user interface has been honed in the last few years and the T software is exceptional. The sound is fantastic and the signal flow, workflow and relationship with the interface is terrific. Another reason I like the SD7 is that the operator and designer can stand shoulder-to-shoulder and work behind it, which is one of those things that those manufacturing top end digital desks have forgotten. If you can’t get behind the desk at the same time as the operator, workflow is seriously hampered. The choice of desk was a no-brainer and we were very happy that Masque Sound was able to supply it.”

Another interesting component of Clarke’s sound design was his use of EM Acoustics speakers and MC² Audio amplifiers, both relative newcomers to the Broadway stage.

“Masque Sound had already heard the EM Acoustics gear in action, so I was very grateful when they purchased them [for the show] since they haven’t been traditionally spec’d for Broadway,” says Clarke. “I’d already had very good results from the HALO-C line array and unsurprisingly it did an exceptional job at the Jacobs Theatre too. The EM Acoustics PA system also included EMS-61s and EMS-51s, the smallest boxes they manufacture and the most exceptional delay speakers on the planet, as far as I’m concerned. The EM Acoustics equipment is tried and tested, and brings a characteristically honest and transparent sound to the Broadway stage. Masque Sound also supplied EMS-512 subs to compliment the Meyer Sound UPQ1s, UPJs and UPMs that were used on the proscenium.”

Matching the system’s amplification in a critical application, such as a musical of The Color Purple’s size and scope, was very important to Clarke.

“The EM vocal system was matched with MC² amplifiers, which were extraordinary,” he adds. “The amplification element was very important to me as was the XTA gear I used to handle the signal processing. It’s not the newest, but we were running at 96khz and the system handled it seamlessly. The benefits of being able to operate at those high sampling rates are extensive. A TC Electronic System 6000 reverb, which is my go-to reverb, rounded out the system.”

The show’s actors were mic’d wirelessly using DPA discreet 4061s hooked up to a Sennheiser system. For the orchestra and other elements, Masque Sound supplied Clarke with a variety of microphones from DPA, Audix, Schoeps and Neumann. In all, 32 channels of wireless were used.

“It was really brilliant to work with Masque Sound once again,” says Clarke. “They looked after me incredibly well. Scott Kalata at Masque Sound is a tremendous human being to work with. Scott and the rest of the Masque Sound crew were helpful, constructive and just got it. The equipment was delivered working perfectly and in great shape. I always look forward to working with Masque Sound. It was a really terrific experience.”

Clarke’s team also consisted of production engineer Phil Lojo, Mike Wojchik (who handled the console programming), A1 Duayne McKee, and associate sound designer Joanna Lynne Staub. “They were an absolutely amazing bunch,” adds Clarke.

Masque Sound

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