Fred Vogler: Playing the Audio Console Like an Instrument
Fred Vogler isn’t a name everyone recognizes—unless you are in the business of sound. Vogler, a multi-Grammy Award winner with a long list of credits, and his colleague Bruce Leek, also Grammy-nominated, are contract sound engineers who since 2003 have worked on the Choir’s CDs and DVDs and its much-acclaimed Christmas concert specials. They complement accomplished in-house sound engineers Trent Walker, Chris Martin, Jason Graham, and others, who work week in and week out on the technical elements of the Choir’s signature sound.
As the principal sound designer for the Hollywood Bowl and Disney Concert Hall, Vogler also works with the major resident companies at the two venues, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, LA Opera, and LA Master Chorale, as well as the guest artists who perform at these venues. His work at the Hollywood Bowl was recently chronicled in story by radio station KPCC.
Why does the Mormon Tabernacle Choir need sound engineers? For live performances, the Church sound engineers work to make the sound inside the venue—the “house audio”—the best possible so that no matter where your seats are you can still hear the subtleties of the performance. For recordings, where Vogler and Leek lead out, they are responsible to see that the recording best duplicates the sound of the live performance.
Capturing quality sound in large spaces like the Salt Lake Tabernacle and the Conference Center has become an art form Vogler, Leek, Walker, and the team have mastered with some of the best amplification technology available. Every performance or recording requires a different approach and different numbers of microphones. At times, it’s all about blend; at others, it’s about capturing a solo moment.
For the Choir Christmas concerts, Vogler helps determine microphone placement to make sure they are aimed in the right place at the right height. Different kinds of microphones may be used for different orchestral sections, and the movement of a mike up or down, or an inch to the right or left, can make a difference.
Then the magic begins. The audio console is Vogler’s instrument. Throughout each Christmas concert performance, he adjusts levels and pushes buttons, changing the balance and effect of the music that will be captured on the recording. “The equipment is not just electronics,” Vogler said. “It’s also a tool. It’s something that is just operated differently. It’s similar to a pianist. The pianist is not making the piano, stringing the piano, moving the piano, or tuning the piano. The pianist is playing the piano. The operator at the mixing console is using the equipment in that kind of fashion. I’m not soldering or wiring or configuring the console—I’m using it artistically to make sound, or combine elements and then distribute elements.” When you listen to the finished CD, DVD, or television special, the music you hear will be balanced, rich, and pleasing—thanks to the work of Fred Vogler and others working with him.
Watch for the Choir’s latest Christmas DVDs and CDs recorded during the Choir’s 2016 Christmas concerts—along with a beautifully illustrated children’s book, The Little Match Girl—on sale October 6, 2017.
Announcements about the 2017 Christmas concert guests and ticket availability will be coming in mid-October!