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Full Compass Systems Brings Innovation in Audio to Opera in the Park

Jake and Jonathan Lipp, Full Compass Systems, at 2015 Madison's Opera in the Park.

Classics were performed outdoors to a record crowd of over 15,000 Saturday night during the 14th annual Opera in the Park. People come to see the professional opera singers, Madison Opera Chorus, and Madison Symphony Orchestra, but those in the professional audio and lighting trade understand the quality of sound and execution of the show are what keep people coming back.

Jonathan and Susan Lipp, Full Compass Systems CEO and chairman of the board, respectively, and Bag End owners Henry Heine and Jim Wischmeyer, have been donating their time and equipment for 13 years to bring the best sound possible to the event. Their team is rounded out by a number of Full Compass Systems staff and Sennheiser national key account manager, Adam Livella, who also volunteers time and lends equipment to the event.

"It's the largest concert of its kind in the nation per capita, and who knows, maybe the world!" Susan Lipp said in the week leading up to the annual performance. "Which is totally amazing. You'd think San Francisco or New York would have the largest, but no, it's right here in Madison."

Now in their 13th year aiding Madison Opera, the group is expanding, adding grandson Jake Lipp to the team in recent years. The 25-year-old comes from Chicago each summer to mix audio alongside his grandfather. He's the third generation to make music and sound his career, working with the IATSE Local 2 as a stagehand, engineer, and audio freelancer around Chicago.

Jonathan Lipp and his team have been innovative during their time running audio for the Opera in the Park. Instead of close-micing instruments, they use a minimum number of overhead mics, so the instruments blend naturally, and they use Sennheiser MKH800 figure-8 cardioid pattern microphones placed at the front of the stage for the vocalists. The polar pattern picks up sound in specific areas in front and back, while eliminating sound from the sides, which reduces feedback and gives control over what sound is projected. This allows the team to set up side-facing Bag End floor monitors at the front of the stage so vocalists can hear themselves, and save space on a full stage.

Jonathan Lipp and his team are also using Sennheiser's A5000-CP passive antennas to send highly directional wireless signals to remote speakers placed high up the hill on Garner Park. It's technology that's helping eliminate the need for wiring, dropouts, and is streamlining the process.

Setting up audio for a large event like this is a delicate balance of equipment and know-how, but it's a task that appears easy to Jonathan Lipp and his team.


(7 August 2015)

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