Senior Star, season 7.

We volunteered to sound tech Senior Star 2013 at the Cardel Theatre last thursday – and what a wonderful crowd to work with!

Senior Star was launched and inspired by Canadian seniors, encouraged by Chartwell Seniors Housing‘s position that seniors should be given a venue to showcase their talents. SNAP Hamilton writes that Senior Star is “Canada’s largest competition dedicated to seniors,” and – quite like most contemporary talent shows – seeks to find the best performer. The stipulation, of course, is that the contestants must be at least 65 years old.

Although several performers describe themselves as shy in their own introductions, it seemed as though stage fright became foreign to the performers once they touched the stage. Each and every singer projected their own soulful voices confidently, making each arrangement an exclusive gem – drawn from every performer’s own respective life experience.

(The Senior Star judges observing a performance. From left-to-right: Michael Hope, an award-winning singer who has just completed his 32nd season with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra; Corinne Buschmeyer, Mount Royal University’s head of the contemporary jazz vocal program and sessional singer featured on hundreds of songs and albums; and Don Bell, a well-versed and worldly vocalist who has been awarded scholarships to study singing in London and Berlin.)

While the judges  may look a little intimidating, they are actually quite pleasant and smile often. The judges seem to seek qualities based on their backgrounds – from personality in performance to commanding the croon – in assessing the performers.

One of the judges, Michael Hope, even approached us after the event and took pictures of our setup. He said he’d never heard a piano signal so clean and well balanced. We’ll hold our Rode NT5 condenser mic responsible for that one, but it’s worthwhile to mic both the higher and lower keys from under the lid of either side of the piano. Though the Shure 57 dynamic instrument mic is easily visible in the picture below, the Rode blends with the piano, and is actually closer to the camera.

Pictured above is Frank Lynch, the event’s accompanying pianist. In this picture, he’s playing the piano alongside Farrokh Toloui’s rendition of Roy Clarke’s version of “Yesterday When I Was Young” (pictured below). Using photoshop, we applied an inverted radial gradient fill, with levels/curves/brightness/contrast adjustments to give the photo a classic light vignette.

Though the afternoon was rich with lighthearted laughter, there were definitely a few more sombre songs offering a different, deeper intimacy.

(Farrokh Toloui singing “Yesterday When I was Young,” with piano accompaniment by Frank Lynch.)

The theatre’s acoustics carried audio well, and seemed to reach the ears of some folks who may have difficulty hearing.

The event videographer, stationed in the venue’s far corner, was concerned that he may not get a clean enough signal to capture quality audio from his camera’s built-in mic. In response, we equalized the problem frequencies and adjusted the volumes to meet the sweet spot – somewhere between audience comfort and the videographer’s confidence in capturing good audio. We then emailed the videographer a clean line signal from the mixer using my personal recorder, plugged into the board’s tape out.

Each of the dozen or so contestants played with a live instrument – either their own, or accompanied by the pianist, Frank Lynch (pictured above). It was Frank’s fourth year playing piano accompaniment for the event, and he’s still got the twinkle in his eyes.

John Self, performing “This is All I Ask” (originally by Frank Sinatra). Coincidentally, John is cousins with Gladys Knight (of Gladys Knight and the Pips).

It was a very simple setup: two 58 microphones, a 57 instrument mic for the performers’ instrument, a patch cable/DI setup for electric adaptable instruments and two condenser microphones for Cardel Theatre’s grand piano.

“Laughter and music, in the world today, is just so enlightening,” says announcer Lon McLeod before introducing the top three winners..

Congratulations are in order – not only to the top three contenders, but to every performer with the ambition to continue doing what you love, and to every attendee able to make it to the performance before the flood.

3. Placing third, Miriam Dreyer’s solo performance of “He Taught Me How To Yodel.”

2. John Self, noted for being a sharp-dressed, charismatic crooner, swooned his way into second.

And, in first place…


1. Vic Harbridge – performing “How Great Thou Art” with his wife on the piano.

(From left to right, announcer Lon McLeod from AM 1060 radio; second place winner, John Self; in third, Miriam Dreyer; and, finally, Vic Harbridge in first place.)

Keep an ear out!

Following the 10 competitions across Canada, Senior Star’s regional winners will compete in the national finale this fall.