The recent 32nd annual Kennedy Center Honors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., which will be televised December 29th on CBS, honored writer, actor, director, and producer Mel Brooks; jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck; opera singer Grace Bumbry; actor, director, and producer Robert DeNiro; and singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen. U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were in attenance.
“It’s one of the classiest events on the calendar, and definitely one of the toughest tickets in Washington,” notes veteran broadcast production mixer Ed Greene, who has worked on all 32 Kennedy Center Honors events. “They put together a tribute segment for each honoree, which includes speeches, performances, and a film package highlighting their important works. One of the great traditions is the appearance of surprise guests, which really makes the whole night special. It’s definitely one of my favorite events.”
House audio for the event is by Baltzell Audio Design, known for its work on major televised events ranging from the Academy Awards and GRAMMY Awards to the Super Bowl and Olympics. Pat Baltzell works with Ed Greene to ensure a smooth, sonically superior show. “Ed mixes for broadcast and I do the live house mix, so we do our planning as a team. We work together a lot, so it’s a great partnership,” says Baltzell.
This year’s show was ambitious, requiring 32 channels of wireless, supplied by ATK Audiotek in Valencia, California. Baltzell and Greene elected to go with Shure UHF-R systems.
“When you’re doing everything from high opera and acoustic jazz to show tunes and hard rock, all on the same stage, with the President and First Lady in the audience, you go with the people and the equipment that you trust,” Baltzell states. “Ed and I both love the sound of the Shure mics, and now that they have a micro-bodypack for costume work, they are an excellent choice for this show.”
The UR1M micro-bodypack was employed throughout the show, starting with host Caroline Kennedy. It was also used on the Broadway-style production numbers honoring Mel Brooks, where it was hidden in wigs and costumes; and for Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu during the tribute to opera star Grace Bumbry.
During Gheorghiu’s number, Shure’s standard UR1 bodypacks also came into play, for a unique arrangement of choir mics. “We had very little time to set the stage and couldn’t use hanging mics,” recalls Ed Greene. “Because the show is taped in hi-def, we needed something that would basically disappear on camera, so we devised a set of six wireless choir mics using Shure bodypacks.”
To create those wireless choir mics, Shure UR1 bodypacks and battery-powered phantom power supplies were secured to a standard Atlas mic stand base, which supported a short desk stand holding a seven-foot length of welding rod, with a black Countryman Isomax2 micro-miniature choir mic at the end.