grandMA2 was a welcome addition to the latest US tour of Hillsong United, the pre-eminent Christian band drawn from the Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia, which has grown from a worship team supporting youth meetings at the church to a defined touring band that travels worldwide. A.C.T Lighting is the exclusive distributor of the grandMA in North America.
Hillsong United's latest US tour spanned venues from LA's Staples Center to Boston's Orpheum Theatre. Among the equipment complement were a full-size grandMA2 front of house for lighting control and a grandMA2 Light sitting at dimmers as back up.
Ian Hendrick, who designed the tour's lighting and programmed and operated the grandMA2, has been using the board for more than a decade. "I don't see any reason to stop," he says. "The original grandMA was a solid platform that was powerful enough for anything you could throw at it, scalable from the smallest gig to the biggest extravaganza, and surprisingly user friendly once you got to know it -- with everything you might need at your fingertips."
grandMA2 has been "a great upgrade," he adds, with "extra features, even more flexibility, a surface that capitalizes on the strengths of the old system, and fixes for a lot of things that used to drive me nuts! I can hit the big 'Go' button with my right hand now! Best of all, they did it without taking away any of the charm or usability of the old console."
Mid-America Sound Corporation of Greenfield, Indiana outfitted the tour; Hendrick programmed the grandMA2 at Mid-America where the initial set up was done, says lighting division manager Bob Williams. Hillsong United's lighting "tends toward concert rigs that can be easily adapted to fit into the wide range of venues we perform in," says Hendrick.
Among the lighting fixtures controlled by the grandMA2 for the tour were 36 Barco MiSTRIPs, 16 Martin Mac IIIs, 12 Mac 700 washes and four 700 profiles, 12 Mac 101s, 12 Mac 2000 washes, six VARI*LITE VL 1000s and a dozen Atomic Strobes.
Stylistically, the lighting design "is all about the backlight," Hendrick explains. "There's minimal frontlight in the rig, and the bulk of the moving lights sits on six vertical trusses that climb the back wall. The goal is to make an immersive, enveloping experience for the audience without making anyone feel like they're on display. We don't consider the performance a show or a spectator event. Hillsong United isn't there to be watched or listened to; we're there to take the audience somewhere with us."
Since the band does a lot of song workshopping while on tour, stages needed to be ready to go by early afternoon each day, he says. "Mid-America Sound came up with a great pre-rig option that was clean, uncompromising to the design and, most importantly, went in really quickly with minimal crew."
Hendrick liked the grandMA2s' new layout view. "It's a good way to fill the third touchscreen on the full-size console," he reports. "It's handy for giving you a quick visual snapshot of what the rig is doing, as well as being able to pull up quick, unique groupings of fixtures without having to think very hard about it."
The new effects engine has become "second nature", Hendrick reports. "I'm very happy with it"
At Hillsong United, Steve Pippett was the production manager and Ricki Cook was in charge of media servers. At Mid-America Sound, Al Story was the crew chief. Andy Woody and Robert Dilk were lighting techs. Matt Certa at Big Picture Productions provided the LED.
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