The United Arab Emirates is celebrating its Year of Tolerance and to mark the occasion the capital hosted Pope Francis.
The Pope’s tour included three official engagements including a rare display of Christian worship in the Muslim-majority region with a Papal Mass at Zayed Sports City Stadium for 135,000 people as well as official visits at the Presidential Palace and The Founder’ Memorial.
Dubai-based audio and event communications specialist Delta Sound was commissioned to provide coverage across all three events with their delivery gaining praise from the hosts and production teams alike.
The visit which was historically the first by the Roman Catholic Church leader to the Arabian Peninsula was celebrated by the UAEs unique population of people from a large mix of nationalities, races and religions who have come to call the UAE home.
The Pope was officially welcomed by horse-mounted guards, the UAE’s military marching band, an artillery salute and a military flyover trailing the yellow and white smoke of the Vatican flag as he arrived at the presidential palace in Abu Dhabi.
As a discreet audio system was required for this occasion, the full PA system was operated wirelessly with Delta Sound deploying a series of L-Acoustic Kara and SB28’s draped to blend into the surrounding structures.
A variety of mics with an RF base were used for the marching band, as no cable mics were able to be used in the space.
Lead engineer on site Mahesh Ramdin said, “the main challenge was a two-metre- high, sub-surface ground-based air-condition system which we needed to work through for the musicians as they moved across it. Our configuration handled it well and the result was refined.”
The high-level event required impeccable sound and quality delivery for the PA and the event communications. TFM site audio Project Manager James Ghamlouch said “Having worked at the inauguration of the memorial we are familiar with the acoustics and the infrastructure at the site. This allowed us to provide the PA specification for the meeting which consisted of 12 L-Acoustics K2, eight SB28 Subs and 42 5XT speakers. We ran the main control through LA Network manager on an Avid S6L.”
“Throughout the tiered seating, we deployed six ground-stacked L-Acoustics K2 and four SB28 subs per side. The delay system was 42 5XT’s divided across seven audience rows.”
The event communications consisted of wireless and wired comms for the production and show-calling teams. ‘We supplied a number of digital DP4400 Motorola Radios, ClearCom Helix wired comms and ClearCom Freespeak II wireless packs for the show-callers and stage managers,’ said Technical Manager Liam McGrath.
The UAE’s first ever Papal Mass was a widely anticipated event with thousands of worshippers converging on Zayed Sports City Stadium to witness the Pontiff’s historic Mass.
With a very short lead-time for preparation of only three weeks, Delta Sound’s Managing Director Andy Jackson and Head of Engineering Al Woods, designed a methodology based on the brief set by the client, drawing on their knowledge and familiarity of the venue.
Interestingly, the Delta Sound crew had rolled into the build for the Papal event straight off the back of the Asian Football Confederation Final which took place only hours before at the same stadium. Without a break in their presence on-site, the team and some system components were mobilised immediately.
Overseeing as audio project manager on site Woods said: “we literally hit the ground running, our forward planning and prep paid off and our guys were able to streamline our operations into the next event,”
Delta Sound deployed their high-end L-Acoustics speaker stock, combining K1, K2, Kiva and Kara. The PA positions were dictated by site lines, utilising four flown hangs of L acoustics K1 over K2 from masts, covering the pitch and lower seating and the arcs covering the mid and upper bowl.
Due to the seating configuration, the sound design challenges were tackled head-on. “The PA positions were difficult to time align and the roof flown PA also added additional issues as the azimuth of these hangs again did not always triangulate correctly with the PA on the field. We ran K1 and K2 main hangs and infills with subs and ground stacked rear Kara fills. Kiva front fills were set into the stage and 20 hangs of four arcs were flown from the roof of the stadium for the upper and lower bowl. The arrangement worked really well,” Woods said.
The event communications delivery involved stadium-wide FreeSpeak coverage and additional infrastructure. Communications Project Manager Bob Turner explained: “we opted for Clear-Com FreeSpeak II packs across the production team to service the event. The team at NMK Electronics also supplied us with a delta frame to accommodate the show.”