When taking about great live sound, Harry Connick Jr. is often one of the first artists mentioned.
With a large all-acoustic band that includes strings, brass, reeds, bass and drums in addition to his own acoustic grand piano, Connick routinely delivers an outstanding sonic experience, and requires great fidelity in the monitor system as well.
Production manager Ted Jonas of Jonas Productions has been working with Connick since 1995, when he started as the artist’s monitor engineer. “I’m an old school analog guy, and with few exceptions, we’ve always had a Midas console in Harry’s monitors,” he relates.
“Over the years, we’ve used the XL4, the XL3 and the H3000. We had no desire to go digital until we got our hands on the PRO6.”
The change occurred shortly after a tour of China, when monitor engineer Scott Griffith suggested trying the console.
“With the logistics of touring these days, we had to consider going digital,” recalls Jonas. “When we brought it into rehearsal, Scott and I both just fell in love with it. And Harry noticed right away.”
“He’s a pretty smart guy and knows what’s going on in terms of production. He was definitely interested and said he loved the sound of it. That’s all we needed to hear.”
Griffith, who joined the team in 2007, was similarly impressed. “What Midas did with the PRO6 was take digital to the next level in terms of functionality, without sacrificing that big, warm sound of their analog desks,” he states.
“I love the layout, too. It’s easy to learn, very intuitive to operate, extremely flexible, and has all the tools you need right on board. The first time I heard it live, I knew it was the real deal.”
Each Harry Connick Jr. show is a unique experience, as no set list is used. Instead, Connick calls for songs as the mood strikes him, and also may decide to change vocal positions for different songs from show to show.
Thus, Griffith has the PRO6 set up to ensure that, no matter what else is going on, he always has instant access to Connick’s vocals. “Obviously, that’s the biggest thing for any monitor guy – keeping the boss happy,” he says. “The PRO6 makes that easy.”
The Harry Connick Jr. band is all acoustic, with two trumpets, trombone, bass trombone, alto sax, four violins, viola, cello stand-up bass, drums and percussion. Miking is strictly high-end, with DPA miniatures on the strings and a selection of Neumanns spanning the rest of the stage.
Jonas and Griffith use the flexibility of the PRO6 layout to share monitor duties. Jonas still mixes when his production duties permit, with Griffith either assisting or handling the monitors solo, as needed.
“In fact, there are times where Ted and I are both behind the desk, actually mixing together,” says Griffith. “For instance, he’ll be mixing Harry in Area B at the same time I’m dialing in the rest of the band in Area A. That’s something you can’t do with any analog desk.”
Griffith utilizes both the POPulation Groups and VCAs on the PRO6 to keep all sections of the bands accessible. Connick’s vocal channels, which include both a hardwired mic at the piano and a wireless handheld at center stage, are kept “always on top” by dedicating them to POP Group 4, which is locked to the console’s Area B.
“I have Area B set up so it doesn’t sync. That way, I can be using the fader-flip function to EQ the band in Area A, but I still have Harry’s faders up. That way, I don’t have to make any selection or extra move to get back to his mic, and I never miss a mic cue. It’s a great feature.”
Connick’s console setup splits the band in to natural groupings, utilizing both POP Groups and VCAs. The other POP Groups include a duplicate of Connick’s Area B vocal channels for access in Area A, plus one for the grand piano, another for all wireless mics, and one dubbed Show, which include all the channels most likely to need in-show adjustment – hi-hat, bass channels, solo RF, Connick’s other vocal channels, and the wireless backing vocals.
The PRO6’s VCAs handle the rest of the band, with one group for trumpets, another for trombones, one for saxophones and another for the string section. A fifth VCA is used for reverb. “The reverb VCA is used only for the strings, to make them sound nice and lush in the sidefill,” says Griffith. “I use the Klark Teknik DN780 reverb that’s onboard the PRO6, and it sounds incredible. In fact, we use no outboard effects whatsoever. Compressors, preamps, reverb – everything is straight from the PRO6.”
The Harry Connick Jr. team has been monitoring via the Midas PRO6 for over a year now, and has no regrets. “A year ago, I was reluctant to try another digital desk, but with considerations like packaging and truck space, especially for international tours, we had to take a look at it,” says production manager Ted Jonas. “For an old analog guy like me to fall in love with the PRO6 speaks volumes. It’s easy to use, it’s been totally stable, and it sounds like a Midas. What more can I say?”