Mercyhurst University, located in Erie, Pennsylvania, routinely draws national touring talent for its three intimate venues including two smaller spaces geared towards acoustic performances, and the spectacular 792-seat capacity Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center.
The University relies upon Eric Johnson, owner of Erie-based Fact AV Technologies, Inc, to ensure the space is enveloped in uncompromising, pristine audio. Johnson depends on a selection of Powersoft amplifiers, in addition to EAW loudspeakers and digital mixers from Midas and Digico, to meet these demands.
Typically, performances at MIAD might include jazz and orchestral concerts, but the University also attracts unconventional and artistically innovative acts as well.
“These artists, and all the artists that play here, have a very specific idea of what their art and their presentation should sound like,” comments Johnson. “My goal is to try to reproduce their vision as closely as possible using the tools that I have. Powersoft amplifiers are an important component in reproducing that performance.”
The main PA at the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center is powered by a total of 5 Powersoft amplifiers—two K3s for mid and high frequencies, another two K10s for the subwoofers, and M50Q for the balcony.
“I can hit 110 dB on the back wall if I want to,” Johnson exclaims.
In addition to Powersoft amplification at FOH, the system includes four EAW loudspeaker cabinets on stage and another pair of loudspeakers off of the balcony, all running through a Midas Pro 2 48-channel digital console. Two racks loaded with three Powersoft M50Qs and three M30s are located at the monitor position with audio running through the Digico console.
For Ugandan artist Simite, who plays the Kalimba – a type of thumb piano – it was a ‘bare minimum’ performance with just seven channels, but the nuance of the audio was absolutely critical to the performance.
“I was unfamiliar with most of the instruments in his arsenal except for the acoustic guitar,” Johnson admits. “So I simply approached it like I might approach a jazz band, trying to make the performance as transparent and full sounding as possible without making it sound forced.”
Earlier this fall, global touring artist William Close and the Earth Harp Collective also performed at the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center. As the largest stringed instrument in the world with brass strings spanning hundreds of feet, the Earth Harp was actually strung from the stage to the balcony of the theater.
“As William began stringing his Earth Harp from the stage to the balcony of the theater, I was scratching my head wondering what in the world this was going to be like,” Johnson recalls. “With a jazz band, you have preconceptions and can anticipate what it is going to sound like, but with someone like William, who is a true innovator, there is no basis because it’s never been done. Thanks in large part to my Powersoft rig, I was able to accurately represent those sounds, and in this case that really made the show.”
For Johnson, the right amplification is a critically important choice. “In my work, it all comes down to my tools, and Powersoft plays a big part of this,” he concludes. “These performances as subtle and delicate, so it is critical to have equipment that is going to perform that way. With my K and M series amplifiers, I don’t have to spend a lot of time getting it to sound just like the artist wants.”