The J. Dan Talbott Amphitheater in My Old Kentucky Home State Park has been staging The Stephen Foster Story since 1959, and millions of people have traveled to Bardstown, Kentucky from around the state, the country, and the world to experience it.
The Broadway-caliber show typically runs from May to August and features a gigantic cast in the retelling of Stephen Foster’s story. Foster was one of America’s earliest composers. He wrote “Oh! Susanna,” “Camptown Races,” and “My Old Kentucky Home,” among many others, and the musical revisits pivotal moments in history through the lens of his music.
After the 2017 season, the venue was condemned because the stage, which was open to the elements and many decades old, was literally crumbling. The county stepped in to help save the show, and they patched things up for the 2018 season and began fundraising for a complete rebuild before the 2019 season. In May 2018, we were asked to quote a new PA system. They were tight on space and budget in the new design but they also had 800 seats that they had to cover with high intelligibility. We only had a six-foot by six-foot cavity on either side of the stage to put the loudspeakers in. That’s not enough vertical height for a line array given the raked, fan-shaped seating we had to cover, so the solution had to be done using conventional cabinets, and Danley Sound Labs fit the bill perfectly.
Demolition crews took out the old stage just one week after the final 2018 show. Not long after, the amphitheater had a new concrete stage with new drainage and metal buildings with integrated garage doors for protection from the weather. A stereo pair of beefy, fully-weatherproof Danley SH96HO full-range loudspeakers serve as mains. In addition, the stage has six Danley GO2 8CX loudspeakers and four Danley Nanos for monitors, and eight additional Danley Nanos provide coverage on a veranda for background music and announcements. JCA also went ahead and installed the necessary wiring to easily add Danley BC412 or DBH218 sub-woofers at a later date, as well as DMX runs to the stage for future LED lighting.
A four-channel, 20,000-Watt Danley DNA 20k4 amplifier powers the mains, and two four-channel, 5000-Watt Danley DNA 5k4c amplifiers power the monitors and a JBL CSA300Z powers the 70V veranda loudspeakers.
For full productions, technical staff run the show from an Allen & Heath dLive C3500 digital console with a CDM64 MixRack. The console is in a custom ZCase flip case that requires just a plug for power and a single ethercon plug access to all 64 channels of audio, which reduces their setup time from 1.5 hours to just three minutes. For simpler events that require only a few live microphones, the director’s office has an Allen & Heath IP8, an eight-channel remote control for the dLive system with motorized faders. Multiple-location Furman sequencing allows the system to power up from multiple locations and, importantly, permits the director to control the system from the IP8 without involving the console at all. The dLive integrates with twenty-four Shure QLXD body-pack systems so that the battery life is visible on each channel and the RF level can be controlled right from the console.
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