Yamaha RIVAGE PM7 Masters Papal Challenge At Croke Park

His Holiness Pope Francis

Despite lasting just 36 hours, the first papal visit to the Republic of Ireland for 40 years attracted global headlines and many thousands of Catholics who wanted to be in the presence His Holiness Pope Francis. Dublin’s Croke Park stadium was the setting of the Festival of Families - the climax of the triennial six-day World Meeting of Families - a major live event which featured a wide array of entertainment and the Supreme Pontiff addressing the 82,500-strong, sold-out crowd. A Yamaha RIVAGE PM7 digital mixing system was entrusted with managing and mixing the event’s Front of House (FoH) sound.

Described as ‘a reflective concert style event within a prayerful and joyful atmosphere’, the two-hour Festival of Families was choreographed as a celebration of family life, with many of Ireland’s best-known performers taking to the stage in front of the Pontiff and the enthusiastic audience.

Dublin-based Sound Design Ireland was tasked with producing the sound for the complex event, with the company’s John Vickers entrusting the main FoH mix to a Yamaha RIVAGE PM7 digital mixing system, despite it being the first show he had mixed on the console.

“We have been Yamaha users for many years, investing in the PM5D at a time when there was still resistance to digital mixing from many quarters. But we persevered and, of course, it paid off,” says John. “As long-term Yamaha users, we knew how well suited RIVAGE PM7 would be to an event where both music and speech were equally important. Plus, of course, I was fully confident in the reliability of Yamaha consoles.”

The signal routing backbone for the entire show was run from the RIVAGE PM7. Every input and output coming to and from FoH was routed through a Yamaha TWINLANe network, working seamlessly with Dante, using RPio622 and Rio3224-D I/O racks. This provided up to 400 channels between stage and FoH, with incredibly low latency at a native 96khz, 32-bit sampling rate.

Hans Metger of Yamaha Commercial Audio was on hand to assist John and his team with the system setup and management. “The flexibility and user friendliness of RIVAGE PM7 allowed it to handle everything that was needed. Whether it was having two operators patching and applying processing to the 200+ inputs and outputs or routing inputs between Dante and TWINLANe networks, the PM7 easily mastered every challenge,” he says.

With an orchestra, choirs, playback and numerous microphones to accommodate, it was a complex show. The music was submixed by Paul Keegan before being routed to the RIVAGE PM7 for the final mix at John’s hands. “We used a lot of plugins and processing, especially the Rupert Neve Designs SILK Blue and Red, which I used throughout the show,” he says.

One of the major challenges facing John was ensuring that all speech at the event was crystal clear, especially as the stage included a 20m catwalk extending in front of it and the large Nexo PA. Here the Rupert Neve 5045 Primary Source Enhancer plug-in played a key role, maximising gain before feedback and preventing any unwanted squeals.

“The Pope’s microphone was the most critical input of the whole show and his main speech was to be given from this catwalk, in front of the main PA,” says Hans. “Managing this aspect of the system was crucial and the Primary Source Enhancer helped us to do just that. Using it alongside a well-designed sound system goes a long way when you are trying to squeeze out every last bit of gain. Due to the high profile nature of this show, any extra peace of mind also went a long way!”

The sound was relayed to the enthusiastic crowd via a large Nexo STM series loudspeaker system for the main arrays, with further STM arrays on four delay towers. These worked seamlessly with Croke Park’s recently-installed permanent Nexo GEO S12 system. Stage monitoring was courtesy of Nexo 45*N-12 wedges.

“It was a high profile, high pressure event but RIVAGE PM7 is a truly lovely board and it went a long way to making the show such a success,” says John. “As is often the way, our technical production setup time shrank to around a third of what we had been allocated, but the combination of Yamaha and Nexo was really good. In all honesty, it couldn't have been better.”

Event production for the Festival of Families was by Tyrone Productions. It was broadcast through Ireland live on RTE, and distributed to a worldwide audience of several million people.

Dublin, Ireland