I wasn’t able to attend the Fresno Philharmonic’s last concert of the season, a pops offering featuring The Texas Tenors, but I’m told by management that it featured significantly better sound than in the past. (The “Rat Pack” pops concert in February was not a stellar sound experience.) The key: bringing in outside sound equipment. I asked Stephen Wilson, the orchestra’s executive director, to explain. He writes:
The Texas Tenors put on a great show and the sound was in my view (and theirs) excellent. The Texas Tenors travel with their own sound engineer, so I trust their opinion on this. The sound equipment brought in to Saroyan by the Fresno Philharmonic for this concert achieved a significant improvement in sound quality for our audience.
For years I’ve been writing that the Saroyan Theatre’s acoustics aren’t really the cause of sound woes: It’s more about equipment and expertise. In bringing in its own equipment, the Fresno Philharmonic now joins the vast majority of presenters at the Saroyan. (A house sound system does exist, but it’s problematic.) The other important thing is a good sound engineer who has enough time to learn the idiosyncrasies of the house. (That’s something that doesn’t always happen with touring Broadway productions.)
Anybody else at Saturday’s concert care to share an opinion about the sound?
After the jump: the word on the orchestra’s configuration on stage.
NEW SET-UP: Reader Jim Wilson writes to ask what I thought of the orchestra’s sound at the “Russian Romantics” Masterworks concert last month (which, unlike the Texas Tenors concert, was unamplified). He was particularly curious about the new arrangement of musicians on the stage. I asked the orchestra’s Wilson about this as well:
For the last three Masterworks concerts (January, March and April), Maestro Kuchar opted to arrange the Violin I and II sections opposite one another, rather than next to one another as has become the standard practice for most orchestras. (The Cello and Bass sections were moved to where the Violin II used to be.) Seating the two violin sections opposite one another was the standard arrangement for symphony orchestras up until the early 20th century. We initially made this change for the all-Beethoven and all-Mozart concerts as a matter of historically informed performance practice. However, even Tchaikovsky would have heard his symphonies in this arrangement. Maestro Kuchar believes this configuration creates a better ensemble cohesion and has come to prefer it. I suspect you will continue to see it used on a regular basis.
For me, I recall thinking that the orchestra sounded a little subdued at times at that concert, but I also wasn’t sure if it was because my ears were a little plugged up because of a cold. I’ll be interested to hear what the configuration sounds like next season.
Photo: The Texas Tenors with Maestro Theodore Kuchar. Courtesy Ron Webb.