Before Macy's packs away its famous floats from the Thanksgiving parade the chain of department stores begins to roll out events to celebrate Christmas – animated window decorations and visits with Santa Claus top the list.
This year Macy's kicked off their holiday campaign with day-long events that included an assortment of live entertainment including performances by former Destiny Childs singer Michelle Williams, American teen R&B, pop singer Jasmine V, Philadelphia indie rock band The Young Statues and local children's choirs.
Production company Mitta Sound, based in Philadelphia, has been a long-time supplier of sound reinforcement for special events held at the stores located in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and New York City. Once again they were tapped to pull out all of the stops to ensure that this holiday season started with a bang.
"The Winter Wonderland campaign is a big event for Macy's," explains Terrence McDuffy, owner of Mitta Sound. "Each event typically starts with the outdoor arrival of Santa Claus which rolls into live performances in the main atrium along with supplemental music in various departments throughout the day."
As he has in the past, McDuffy utilized an assortment of RCF loudspeakers to handle the diverse needs of the event.
The Philadelphia store Winter Wonderland Celebration kicked off with Santa arriving outdoors in his sleigh to the sound of members of the Philadelphia Theatrical Company dressed in old-fashioned garb and singing carols at the store entrance.
McDuffy equipped the choir with three stand-mounted Beta 87 handheld transmitters tied in to a Shure UHF-R wireless microphone system to ensure they were heard above the crowd. A pair of pole-mounted RCF NX M25-A MK II loudspeakers covered the crowd. Two RCF TT25-SMA monitors positioned in front of the choir completed the setup.
Santa, equipped with a Shure UHF-R body pack with a WL185 lavalier microphone greeted the crowd and was followed by the store manager and other guests speakers welcoming customers to the event.
Once indoors, most customers gravitated toward the center atrium where a stage area was set to host the live performances by Philadelphia Boys Choir, Jasmine V and the Young Statues.
"It was very important to the store that site lines to the main stage were as clear as possible," explains McDuffy. "We used a pair of the RCF TT22-A loudspeakers on stands set to the left and right of the stage – because they have a small footprint, sound great and throw really far. They never fail to impress me."
The TT22-A is a compact, 2-way active system featuring 12" neo woofer and a 90 x 40 constant directivity horn (90 degree rotatable) weighing it at just under 20 pounds.
A pair of RCF TTS36-A subs were located off of each side of the stage for additional low end. McDuffy placed another pair of RCF TT08-A loudspeakers on store display stands located 30 feet out from the stage in the same left-right configuration to distribute the audio further into the store.
Because of space constraints, he opted to use the PreSonus StudioLive 16.4.2 mixer for both FOH and monitor mixing during the Philadelphia event.
"Normally I would put our Avid SC48 at FOH and use the StudioLive for monitors – but space was really, really tight in the store," he explains. "And actually, StudioLive can do everything we need very well. It was a bigger job for the engineer to manage both mixes but easily done with PreSonus board."
McDuffy again used the Shure UHF-R wireless microphone system with Beta 57 handheld microphones for the indoor entertainment.
"We used 10 channels of the UHF-R for the choir alone," he adds. "There were easily 80 or more vocalists in the group and we covered them all – it sounded magnificent."
Two of the RCF TT25-SMA and TT08 loudspeakers – four total -- were placed in front of the stage area as monitors for the talent.
"We did a quick sound check before the event began and then just took it from there," McDuffy says. "The live entertainment occurred in a two hour window, so once we started it just kept going. Fortunately we have never encountered a group that was not delighted with the sound of the RCF loudspeakers, so that wasn't an issue, and everything went off without a catch."
Additional pairs of TT08-A loudspeakers, equipped with Christmas playback music, were also set up in the men's and women's departments to further the holiday atmosphere of the lively event.
"It probably seems like we use a lot of the TT08-As in different ways, and we do," he adds. "Those boxes are our workhorses – we use them for everything and they never disappoint."
Each of the day-long events were scheduled within days of each other keeping the Mitta Sound crew very busy before Thanksgiving.
"Each of the holiday kick-offs were really compact events," McDuffy concludes. "We have everything racked and ready to go in the warehouse the day before and then roll on site and get it all setup within two hours. The RCF loudspeakers being self-powered cuts down dramatically on setup time".
"Because the stores have similar layouts each event required minimal tweaks to the system. It seems kind of crazy but works really well. The customers think it is terrific and the stores are very happy with the results."