Issue 27

Wolf Trap’s Filene Center

Meyer Sound & Solotech enrich the audience experience.


7 July 2022

With a total audience capacity of more than 7,000, the imposing Filene Center is the flagship venue at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, located just outside Washington, D.C. To further enhance its reputation as one of the nation’s premier host venues for first-rank concert artists, the Filene Center’s operating entity, the non-profit Wolf Trap Foundation, recently replaced the ageing main audio system with a complete Meyer Sound reinforcement solution.

The Filene Center performance calendar is noteworthy in both its breadth and depth, ranging from classical and Broadway to rock jazz and country. Luminaries such as Sting, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Little Big Town, and Elvis Costello highlight popular genres for the current season. An impressive classical program features the Wolf Trap Opera and an ongoing partnership with the National Symphony Orchestra.

“The Filene Center is one of an elite group of venues able to serve all genres of music without compromise, and we wanted to cement our reputation in that regard,” says Ryan Haderlie, Wolf Trap’s director of production for the Filene Center. “Our old system was nearing the end of its life cycle, so I consulted with my peers at other similar venues about a preferred provider. Solotech came highly recommended across the board.”

Shepherding the project through its various stages was Solotech’s Chief Technology Officer Kelly Prince. “We discovered that there were no complete CAD drawings of the structure, so our first order of business was to contract for a laser scanning of the entire venue to create the data files for CAD drawings. Those were imported into Meyer Sound’s MAPP 3D software to generate detailed three-dimensional multicolour plots showing exactly how the coverage would fall.”

According to Prince, availability of an integrated set of software and hardware tools for design, optimisation, and measurement was one reason for preferring the Meyer Sound solution. “The other overriding factors were ease of installation and sound quality,” he adds. “Also, system neutrality and linearity are critical here because of all the diverse types of acts that play the venue.”

“Solotech obviously didn’t make their recommendation lightly,” observes Ryan Haderlie. “They put a lot of effort into modelling expected results in the seating areas, and what they saw with Meyer Sound was better than other systems under consideration.”

As installed, the new system comprises main left and right hangs of 12-each LYON linear line array loudspeakers with a centre hang of 12 LEOPARD compact linear line array loudspeakers. Deep bass is produced by dual flown gradient arrays of 7-each 1100-LFC low-frequency control elements. Two each UPQ-D2 full-size loudspeakers and ULTRA-X40 compact loudspeakers serve as, respectively, in fills and out fills. Seven ULTRA-X20 compact wide coverage loudspeakers provide front fill, with six more deployed for under-balcony fill. System drive and optimisation is handled by four GALAXY 816 Network Platforms.
Also on the Solotech team were Designer/Engineer Jamie Gillespie and on-site Project Supervisor Jason Cooper.

The system was installed just in time for the 2021 50th anniversary summer season, which was originally scaled back because of COVID-19 restrictions. Essentially, normal operations were resumed during the second half of the season.

“The change in the quality of the audio was immediately noticeable,” recalls Haderlie. “We had a lot of compliments on the improvement from artists and patrons alike. There was a marked increase in both the perceived warmth and the intelligibility of the sound.”

Also, he notes, Solotech’s meticulous modelling with MAPP 3D has paid off. “We particularly wanted the sound at every seat to be essentially the same as you’d hear sitting next to FOH mix. I believe we’ve succeeded in doing that.” All touring acts playing the Filene Center are required to use the Meyer Sound house system, though they are welcome to bring in their own FOH consoles and stage monitor systems.

The new Meyer Sound system was part of an overall renewal project that was launched to celebrate the Filene Center’s 50th anniversary. The original 1971 structure was largely destroyed in a 1982 fire, with the current structure rebuilt with nearly identical architecture and only modest increases in stage size and total seating. Of the official 7,028 audience capacity, about half is inside the structure and the other on the adjoining sloped lawn.

In addition to the Meyer Sound reinforcement system, the Solotech contract also encompassed a complete overhaul of ancillary AV systems, including intercoms, backstage, and dressing rooms. The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts occupies 117 acres of former farmland near Vienna, Virginia. In addition to the Filene Center, the non-profit Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts also operates The Barns at Wolf Trap and The Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods.

Photo Credit: Abe Landis

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Issue 27