Duarte began his tenure in the weeks leading up to the venue’s grand opening. With seven years of experience mixing live sound for bands at venues and festivals throughout the region, he developed the knowledge and skills to win the position through the Ministry of Culture’s hiring process. He’s part of a 6-person group that handles lighting, video, audio, and staging.
The tech team regularly faces a busy schedule of events and performances. For example, in one July week the venue hosted four shows in a row, including a piano concert, a flute recital, vocalist Paulina Tamayo with a band, and an orchestral concert with a Peruvian guest conductor.
Additional July dates offered a performance of the dances from the musical “Chicago,” presentations by local choreographers, a violin concerto, Ravel’s “Bolero” with flamenco dancers, and a children’s play with masked characters.
The level of quality exhibited at the Teatro Benjamín Carrión is not an anomaly in Loja. Every Thursday evening, the Plaza de la Independencia is transformed into a performance venue, with staging, seating, and a sound system headed by multiple d&b audiotechnik loudspeakers.
Performers from the region entertain standing-room-only crowds, often with the mayor and other dignitaries in the front row.
In addition, there are weekly performances at the Museo de la Música (a museum paying tribute to famous musicians from Loja). For example, this past Valentine’s Day featured a guitar quintet, reinforced with a pair of JBL Professional 3-way loudspeakers and mixed on a digital console, playing tunes ranging from traditional Ecuadorian melodies to Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean.”
During Carnival in late February, a large portable stage was set up first in downtown Loja and then the next day at the expansive Jipiro Park across the road from the Teatro Benjamín Carrión. Performances ranged from dances in traditional costume to Andean music with pan pipes and charangos to rock bands.
The sound reinforcement system incorporated left-right RCF TT+ active 3-way line arrays (plus subs), with QSC loudspeakers delivering side fill and stage monitoring. The music carried for blocks, and the crowds were definitely in the partying spirit.
Another recent project saw the historic Teatro Bolivar in central Loja retrofit with a new sound reinforcement system featuring NEXO GEO line arrays flown above each side of the stage. A DiGiCo console resides in an upper balcony facing the stage, linked to its 32-channel D-Rack backstage. RCF loudspeakers handle side fill and floor monitoring, with a complement of Shure SM58s joined by eight Shure wireless systems with beltpacks and earset mics.
The system project was the responsibility of Sony Centro Musical, a family-owned pro audio and music and store located a few blocks from the venue. John Obando, son of the store’s founder, coordinated the design and installation.
With a large selection of premium gear on display, ranging from Beyma drivers and RCF loudspeakers to Sennheiser mics/wireless systems and Crest amplifiers, the company is one of the top audio suppliers in Loja.
Enjoying The Ride
Later in our travels we visited Cuenca for a few days, playing a gig at the Broken Bridge Pub through the house Bose Professional L1S compact PA system as well as a set at the Jazz Society of Ecuador’s venue in the old town. Cuenca’s Teatro Carlos Cueva is also outfitted with Meyer Sound line arrays (six cabinets per side and four ground-stacked subs), an Avid console, and a complement of handheld, headset, and instrument mics.
In our brief time in the capital of Quito, we had the opportunity to attend a symphony concert at the historic Teatro Nacional Sucre, by accident as it happened. We were walking nearby in the early evening, spotted a sign about an upcoming jazz festival, and saw that people were lining up by the theatre door – for a free concert. Though I didn’t have a chance to explore the audio system, the facility itself was beautiful and with a certain “European flair” to it.
Even in the small cloud-forest town of Mindo, musician Luis Alban (formerly with the Andean music group Altiplano) runs a coffee house and hostel that offers music several nights per week, heard through a pair of JBL 2-way loudspeakers. His dream, he tells me, is to raise the funds to build a performing arts facility for the community and expand the music lessons he and other local musicians provide to the younger generation.
Overall, the attention given to performing arts facilities and their sound systems clearly shows the importance that Ecuadorians place on music and cultural activities, encouraged by an active Ministry of Culture. The Teatro Benjamín Carrión is the most recent example, yet it exemplifies a level of quality and investment that is a cut above the venues and audio equipment I’ve seen elsewhere. An added perk to visiting this enchanting country.