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Sweden’s Dalhalla Mines Northern European Music Scene With Meyer Sound M2D

United States
26 January 2007 — Approximately 360 million years ago a huge meteor (roughly 4 km in diameter) collided with our planet about 280 kilometers north of Stockholm, Sweden. The modern day result of this ancient catastrophe is beautiful Lake Siljan, an area renowned for its natural beauty and one of only three locations on Earth where one can clearly see the geological effects of meteoric impact. Today, when the nearly endless light of the northern summer shines on Lake Siljan, it also illuminates one of the most dramatically beautiful music venues on the planet: Dalhalla. (The name is a deliberate reference to Valhalla, home to the gods of Norse legend and a location often referenced in the operas of Richard Wagner.)

The venue’s location dictates that its concert season be limited to the summer months only, when Dalhalla hosts an eclectic program of opera, classical, jazz, and rock concerts. The open-air design makes it impractical to maintain permanent audio and lighting installations. As a result, Dalhalla requires an AV installation each May. That task is the responsibility of Park Brothers (Bróderna Park AB), a full-service production company with headquarters in Insjón. Managing director Bengt Park notes that the annual installation consists entirely of sound and lights. “We don’t use much video,” he says. “Because the environment is so bright, video is not often used.” What is often used is the venue’s system of Meyer Sound self-powered loudspeakers.

Diana Krall’s FOH engineer, Dave Lawler, was impressed with what he found at the facility when the jazz pianist and vocalist played at Dalhalla this past summer. “You’re going to a very remote area and don’t know what to expect, so to find a Meyer Sound system there was amazing. It’s high technology in the wilderness; quite a contrast.”

The primary house system at Dalhalla is self-powered, consisting of two Meyer Sound M2D compact curvilinear arrays of 12 cabinets each. “We knew that Meyer Sound was a reliable system,” says Park, “and its being self-powered helps make it very efficient to run and convenient to set up.”

The arrays are driven from a Meyer Sound LD-3 compensating line driver, which provides EQ to compensate for air absorption of high frequencies on longer throws, ensuring consistent sound throughout the venue.

According to Park, the Meyer Sound rig offers significant advantages over the previous line array system. “The M2D is optimal for us. The response is so good and the coverage even in every seat. We don’t think there’s any system better sounding than this one,” he says, “and it’s very much appreciated by guest engineers. They are often a little bit surprised that a relatively small system can make so much noise. Since it’s an acoustic arena and we want to keep it that way, we are not too fond of levels that are too high, but it’s nice that the headroom is there when you need it. Occasionally, we do get quite loud.”

A group of three Meyer Sound 700-HP subwoofers on each side of the stage augments the line arrays. By arranging the subs one meter apart and applying delays for them progressively, a near-ideal cardioid pattern is achieved, eliminating bass buildup on the stage. “It works amazingly well,” says Park. “Engineers who are visiting us usually walk around it several times, just to see how well it works. They are always very pleased with it.” Dalhalla also has a stock of M2D-Sub compact subwoofers for use in rock shows requiring even more bass.

Dalhalla’s open-air stage is 36 meters wide and built of wood over a concrete base, with a dramatic 1,500-square-foot fabric roof overhead. All 4,000 seats enjoy unobstructed sightlines to the stage. Parking is located at ground level, requiring a 10-minute walk to get down into the amphitheatre’s 60-meter depth.

In the bottom of the quarry is a lake, necessitating the use of a pump to keep water levels under control. During performances, the pump is used to create a spectacular fountain.

The lake also serves to separate the audience from the stage. “The distance from the stage to the nearest seat varies from 10 to 15 meters,” Park explains. “That means frontfill is not that big a problem. The M2D arrays really give us great coverage.” For some shows, however, Dalhalla employs six M1D ultracompact curvilinear array loudspeakers near the center of the stage, in left-right pairs. “It’s a luxury when you use the M1Ds. They make it a little bit nicer for those in the front rows.”

Dalhalla’s creation began in 1991, when opera diva Margareta Dellefors, in search of a location in which to build a stage for summer opera festivals, was directed by a friend to a limestone quarry called Draggängarna near the town of Rättvik, a popular Swedish tourist destination. Dellefors found a nearly perfect amphitheatre with dramatic white limestone walls. The venue opened in 1994, and with its amazing natural acoustics and beautiful, tranquil setting, Dalhalla quickly gained a reputation as one of Europe’s best outdoor stages.

With the dramatic beauty of its natural limestone amphitheater, Dalhalla was certain to make an outstanding outdoor concert venue. By using the very best sound and lights, Park Brothers have helped make the Dalhalla concert experience as unique and memorable as the location itself.
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