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Simon Honywill

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Consultancy

Who Am I, what do I do?

I am a sound system consultant and engineer with over 38 years experience. I design and commission sound systems and mix shows for a wide range of clients in an even wider range of applications. 

Sound System Designer - Vanguardia

 

Vanguardia is a leading UK based acoustic consultancy, bringing their expertise to major projects around the world.  Throughout 2016 - 2017 I was responsible for two major sound system designs and worked closely with the Head Acoustician to deliver an integrated acoustic and sound system proposal that befitted the demands of the Russian client.

Sound Consultant, Glastonbury Festival, Pyramid Stage

Despite its reputation as an iconic event, the festival is not exempt from the rules and regulations that now attempt to minimise sound as a nuisance to those who live nearby, something that is increasingly commonplace at festivals everywhere.  Previous experience of working with councils and consultants at sensitive sites elsewhere stood me in good stead when it was time to choose new audio providers for the Pyramid Stage in 2007. 

With R G Jones Sound Engineering as suppliers and a ‘dream team’ of fellow engineers, I have been responsible for the implementation of a sound system that will satisfy the demands of the thirty-odd acts, deliver a fully involving experience for the audience and satisfy the levels set off-site by the council and environmental noise consultants.  For 2014, I recommended a move to Martin Audio's incredible MLA loudspeaker system.  The recommendation was justified with increased onsite levels of around 5dBA, and absolutely no problems offsite at all.  Beyond that, every single engineer who mixed on the system loved it - a rare thing indeed!

TED

Any thinking, caring and conscientious 21st century person will know of TED, and will know that it is an essential source of high octane information on the state of things present, and more importantly things to come.  As an online presence, TED is immense, publishing daily talks taken from TED events staged around the world.  Subjects range from science, technology, medicine, religion, music and the arts, education, politics and pretty much anything else you can imagine. Presenters are the most venerable people in their field, all of them united by their passion to tell their story in the 18 minutes allotted to every talk. Thrown into the mix are some extraordinary performances too.

In June 2013 I was fortunate enough to be invited to TEDGlobal in Edinburgh as audio consultant.  Having recently discovered TED, and become very excited by what I was seeing and hearing online, to be able to actually attend one of the major events of the TED calendar in person and in a professional capacity was something of a dream ticket.  I can’t think of the last time I had become that enthused about a job.  I felt that I was about to be invited in to an exclusive club to witness the future being designed in front of my eyes.

The audio aspect of the event was all encompassing, not only involving managing the auditorium sound for the speakers and acts, but also examining and overseeing the broadcast audio (with invaluable thanks to Andy Rose) and distribution and coverage in various areas around the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.  I would like to think that my involvement moved the audio provision for what has to be one of the most important meetings of minds anywhere into the requisite level of excellence.

More importantly, I got to fly a quadcopter using only movements of my empty hand – just like a Jedi knight.  I also now know how to get audio out of a cockroach.  I can also tell you with some authority that real, live woolly mammoths are coming soon to a forest near you, there will soon be effective methods for fixing severe spinal injuries, unmanned drones are being used not just for taking out the Taliban but for saving the rainforests, China is not as un-democratic as you might think..I could go on.

Acoustic Consultant Baital Futuh Mosque, Morden, South London

The largest mosque in Western Europe is the spiritual home of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, with whom I have a seven year relationship as their primary acoustic consultant.  As well as the mosque itself, the annual Jalsa Salana event, held in Hampshire has also presented some difficult audio challenges which I have been able to solve.

The men’s prayer hall in the mosque is a large room with a high central dome and many highly reflective surfaces.  Sound is incredibly important to those who attend the mosque as the words of their leader represent their life credo, and as a client the community is gently demanding whilst also generous and helpful.  Their leader, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, is a quietly spoken gentleman, and his progressing years do not aid the situation.

          Through understanding the Ahmadiyya and the rhythms of their daily life at the mosque, and working very closely with the Sami Basri volunteer team who operate the technical systems, I believe that the audio provision is as good as it will ever get.

This has been achieved through careful choice of product, applied acoustics and extremely critical system engineering.  The result is crystal clear audio from a system designed to blend in with the unique surroundings.

Sound Engineering

I am a highly experienced sound engineer, specialising in Front of House mixing and system engineering.  I have a wide portfolio of clients across many genres, particularly orchestral and rock music.

GOLDFRAPP

Goldfrapp are one of the UK's most innovative and exciting electronic bands.  No two albums are ever alike.  I have been lucky enough to have been mixing the live shows around the world throughout 2017.

Shirley Collins

Listening to any of the early tunes by the likes of The Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin you would be forgiven for wondering where they got the inspiration from - at that time they certainly were not trawling the Mississippi Delta or dust-blown, smalltown Texas - but folk archivist Alan Lomax was, and with him was England's own Shirley Collins, and what they captured was to fuel the British blues explosion of the 1960's.  

Shirley is a cornerstone of English folk, describing herself as a conduit for this most honest and unadorned form of traditional music.  Her activities and influence have ranged far and wide, and she was the very foundation of the English folk scene as it evolved through the likes of Steeleye Span, The Albion Dance Band and Fairport Convention.

In 1978, as a result of dysphonia she was forced to stop singing, but has remained active in the folk world for the past 40 years, never losing sight of the music she loved.  However in 2017, at the age of 81, she has produced 'Lodestar', an album of austere magnificence that has made a remarkable impact on those who actually care about music and where it comes from, as the reviews testify.

Praise for Lodestar:

“Collins’ reappearance is remarkable in itself; more remarkable still is that she seems to have re-emerged with her powers undimmed.” The Guardian Album of the Week

“Lodestar – a record fit to be numbered beside her very best” Uncut 8/10

“The humanity Shirley brings to these songs is extremely moving” The Times 4*

“One of the best albums of her career” Q

“Collins’ singing is rich with gravitas and experience” Evening Standard

“Shirley Collins can still inhabit a traditional song and sing it like no other” Mojo 4*

“A late-flowering triumph” The Observer 4*

In about 1967, Shirley came to our house in Plymouth prior to a performance at the long-since vanished Hoe Theatre.  Why?  Because she was married to record producer Austin John Marshall, who happened to be my mum's nephew.  So we are related, albeit by marriage, but she was always 'Cousin Shirley', and a proper source of intrigue to me.   With her on that visit she had a banjo in a case .  I have a lasting memory of standing next to her, silently and patiently, praying that she would open the case and let me see the wonder within.  Eventually, she allowed me to have a look, almost certainly exasperated with the weird kid standing silently next to her for what still seems like hours whilst she chatted to Mum and Dad.

50 years later, I get the chance to stand next to her again - no banjo this time, she's got someone else to do that - and I now know why I was so transfixed.  The sound of Lodestar live is my responsibility, and a beautiful thing it is too.  Let's face it, I wasn't going to let anyone else do it..

 

FATHOM

Every once in a while in a long career something comes along that sustains your faith in what you do for a living, that reignites all of the sparks which fired you up in the first place, pushed you on when it might well have been time to think about changing direction, chucking it all in and becoming a postman, opening a poodle parlour or joining a religious cult.

Fathom is a work of sonic art by Jane Grant and John Matthias that seeks to challenge our perceptions of the media of air and water and the boundary that separates them, using only sound.  To realise the artists' vision I designed and deployed a 40 box system of Martin Audio MLA to create a sonic surface of 1 fathom's depth, made up of real-time and recorded sounds from the River Tamar and Plymouth Sound.  Above the fathom, the sounds of of the air in which we live and breathe, captured by microphones at the water's edge.

Visitors were captivated by the sonic content, some spending the best part of an hour fascinated by the snapping of shrimps and barnacles and the growling of cod (no, really, they do growl like grumpy old men), and a particular highlight would be a passing vessel being heard below the water and above at the same time, followed by the sound of its wash hitting the shore near the live hydrophones.

Above all, the atmosphere upon entering a dimly lit, Grade 1 listed building into a sonic environment that was entirely alien to most was unique, unforgettable and profoundly moving.

http://vimeo.com/78805560

Phos courtesy of Nic Black, Pyramid AV

John Matthias - Geisterfahrer

John Matthias - Geisterfahrer

Coming soon to an eardrum near you....

John Matthias' Geisterfahrer is possibly the most lovely thing you'll ever hear.  Why is it on my site?  I produced and recorded it with Jay Auborn in Ashburton and Plymouth, and lots of folk are saying good things about it.

Geisterfahrer - released on Village Green Records in February 2014.

http://youtu.be/L8TZ6uN1yAk

 

The Coronation Festival, Buckingham Palace, July 2013

Now I have done a few gigs in stately homes in my time, having been deeply involved in the oeuvre from the mid-eighties when the classical concert with a dramatic architectural background, preferably a castle or massive ancestral home, was the place to spend your summer evening.  Blenheim Palace, Leeds Castle, Castle Howard, Kenwood House, Audley End, Rochester Castle, all had their summer concert series, and after a while one castle became much like any other once the grounds were full of picnics and waving flags.  Leeds Castle always seemed to offer something extra, but sadly those shows have gone the way of many – victim to mediocrity and a need to satisfy limited public tastes.

But there are stately homes and palaces, and then there is London SW1A 1AA.  When you get the chance to do a gig in the back garden at Buckingham Palace, that’s special.  You also know that it has to be better than good – it has to be the best.  Anything less just won’t do.  And so it was that to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation, the Royal Warrant Holder’s Association organised the Coronation Festival at Buckingham Palace, and as a part of that the Coronation Gala, a musical monster held over three evenings on a massive stage placed right outside HM’s French doors.

The content couldn’t have been more challenging –a full orchestra (the very excellent National Youth Orchestra, the best I’ve heard in some time), choirs varying from 30 – 150 strong, The Feeling, Katie Melua, The Dohl Foundation, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Katherine Jenkins (sounds familiar?), a large cast from Sylvia Young’s Theatre School.  You get the picture.  It amounted to around 220 channels of audio, all through a Martin Audio system from who else but R G Jones, themselves holders of the Royal Warrant for the supply and installation of sound equipment to Her Majesty The Queen.

It was a true privilege to be involved in this epic production, and made me realise that I’m not only a bit of a royalist, but that in the UK we have a great deal more to offer than we often give ourselves credit for.  We are bombarded with the emergence of China, India, Russia and Brazil, and of how Great Britain isn’t so great as it used to be.  OK, so we don’t build Supermarine Spitfires or English Electric Lightnings anymore, but there are plenty of other things to celebrate at which we are world leaders –amongst them, I would place professional audio for a start.

London 2012 Paralympics Closing Ceremony

The summer of 2012 was one to remember in the UK, with the crowning glory being the Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Each was marked by epic ceremonies that confirmed the UK’s production industry to be the best in the world. 

I was fortunate enough to be asked to play my part in the ‘final hurrah’, a ceremony that literally burnt its way into the memory in a festival of fire.  With help from Coldplay, Rihanna and Jay-Z, a cast of thousands and a fleet of vehicles that would shame a Mad Max movie, the event was a fitting close to the most vibrant celebration of sport, music and British culture ever seen.  

Euphoria was the overwhelming emotion allied to a sense of real pride in being a part of something truly special.

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of The Worlds

This is a major production in anybody’s book.  Over 100 audio channels at FOH, a 40 piece orchestra, a 10 piece band that includes musical legends, a stellar cast of singers, surround SFX and the iconic voice of Richard Burton come together to make up perhaps one of the most challenging yet satisfying shows that I have ever been involved in.  

Now re-written and re-recorded, the ‘New Generation’ sees Liam Neeson taking over from Burton, and the whole piece being given a 21st Century sound.  

With some of the best technology available, the sound of this show has been acknowledged as being ‘stunning’ and ‘awesome’ by not only the audiences but by some die hard industry pros too!  It has been my task to design a sound system that delivers the requisite power and fidelity, and develop methods to accurately and reliably reproduce the complex surround soundscape in some challenging sonic environments. 

Following the 2012 tour, I was asked to mix the surround sound track for the concert film of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds, released in cinemas in the US and UK in April 2013.  

In late 2014 the show will be touring UK arenas for the final time, and will feature a sound system exclusively built from Martin Audio's incredible MLA system .

Chris Rea

I have been mixing FOH for Chris since 1998. 

We have several large European and UK tours under our belts, and Chris says that he won’t go on tour without me.  Whether or not this is true I don’t know.  I think it’s because he and I share a love of good food and wine, cars, guitars and a verbal spar about music, and it might just be that his shows always sound great.

Katherine Jenkins – from 2010

The hugely popular singing star performs a variety of shows that reflect her abilities as a vocal artist.  

She works with full orchestra in a more classical style with a repertoire to match, but also as a solo artist with piano accompaniment.  The shows demand a subtle touch in order to maintain the balance between the beauty of her voice and the extremely dynamic musical material.

Her 2016 collection 'Celebration' was yet another best-selling album, and a UK tour to support it through Britain and Ireland allowed me the opportunity to bring her remarkable voice to every seay in full houses from Cork to Glasgow.

Children In Need Rocks The Royal Albert

Gary Barlow put together an all-star cast for one of the best shows of this type for some time.  

The show demanded a sound crew par-excellence, and a close knit team supported by a massive amount of equipment put on a fantastic show.  

As Gary Bradshaw was busy, they asked me to do FOH.  I don’t mind, because he missed out on mixing Take That, Robbie Williams, Snow Patrol, Annie Lennox, Mica, Shirley Bassey, Dizzee Rascal and Sir Paul McCartney, along with Take That’s band and Steve Sidwell arranging and conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra.  I loved it.

About

education

1970 - 1972
sherborne preparatory school,
dorset - scholarship

1972 - 1977
allhallows school, rousdon, dorset
7 ‘o’ levels including maths & english
2 ‘a’ levels geology, biology

2012
diploma in acoustics and
noise control, institute of acoustics, uk

status
married to sarah with two teenage children

  Sound is undoubtedly the primary human sense, and it is a source of constant frustration to me that it is so often overlooked, sidelined and compromised. 

I believe that the world could be a better place if people were better equipped to make sense of the sonic environment in which they live, and were prepared to think about sound in the same way they might about sight.  The modern world is a noisy place, and there is little effort being made to control it.  With a deeper understanding of how sound affects us, those charged with designing the buildings, venues and public spaces, the sound systems that go into them and how they can be utilised to greatest effect, would be able to enhance the daily experience of everybody at fundamental levels.  To that end, if I can use the skills laid out on this site to make a difference, my time on this earth will have been justified.

I have been in sound for over 30 years, a career that I stumbled upon by happy accident.  My career in the production industry has been extremely varied, and the following pages should give an idea of some of the highlights.  My work has included mixing shows at the very highest level, sound design for major festivals, corporate and theatre shows and installations, system engineering and commissioning, record production, audio project management and event production management.

More recently I have gained a Diploma in Acoustics and Noise Control at the Institute of Acoustics, and have been engaged as an acoustic consultant at a variety of venues.

I first entered the pro-audio industry with no formal qualifications, as there were none to be had at the time, a situation that has significantly influenced some of my activity since 2004 when I set up the first HNC in Live Sound at Deep Blue Sound in Plymouth.  Since then, this course has become a foundation degree, with many former students now out in the industry working, something of which I am proud.  Education now plays an important part in my work, and I am currently developing a series of lectures designed to bring together the social, philosophical, artistic and technical aspects of sound in an entertaining and exciting way.

I am fully familiar with most sound equipment currently in common use, as well as some that isn’t.    I have extensive experience with both PC and Mac computer programs including various DSP systems, ProTools, EASE acoustic design/simulation, Smaart Live analysis, standard office programs and various drawing packages.

My outside interests include playing guitar, listening to music, cooking and sailing. I like cars, my wife and I run a 1963 Morris Minor and I hanker after a collection of classic Alfa Romeos.  I have a clean UK driving license.
 

 

History

My first job after having moved to London in 1979 was as a van driver with South London sound equipment rental company R G Jones Sound Engineering.  My entire career since then has been connected with them in some way, whether as an employee or as a freelancer.  It was this company that gave me the unique grounding in the audio industry that few others have been lucky enough to experience.  My positions there have included van driver, rigger, storeman, junior engineer, senior engineer, system designer, sales manager and project manager.  I am now a consultant director with the company but remain self-employed.  My clients come to me, I go to R G Jones, the client gets a great result.  It’s a proven formula that continues to be highly successful.  Over the years the work has extensively included classical music (something for which both R G Jones and I are renowned), television, conference, touring, and major public events.  It is an association of which I am proud, especially as the company has the enviable reputation as the oldest established sound company in the UK (since 1926), and holds Her Majesty The Queen’s Royal Warrant for audio services to the Royal Household.

Some of the projects in which I have played a major part for R G Jones include:


Classical Spectacular, UK and Europe for Raymond Gubbay Ltd. Since 1993 and still going strong

D-Day 50th Anniversary Commemorations, Normandy, France – this involved the design and installation of a discreet system on the sensitive site of the British War Cemetery in Bayeux, for addresses by Heads Of State including John Major, President Bush and President Mitterand. It was also necessary to install a system on the beach at Arromanche between tides for H.M.Queen to address assembled veterans.

VE Day 50th Anniversary Celebrations, Hyde Park satellite stages and Buckingham Palace for Major Sir Michael Parker KCVO CBE

King Hussein’s Jubilee Accession Celebrations, Amman, Jordan for Major Sir Michael Parker KCVO CBE

 

Open-air classical concerts throughout UK for Leeds Castle, Royal Opera, RPO, IMG, World Choir among many others

Henley Arts Festival 1985 – present

Myriad television shows, including Gladiators, Miss World, An Audience With...

Joy To The World 1992 – 1995 at the Royal Albert Hall for Major Sir Michael Parker KCVO CBE

The Golden Jubilee Celebrations 2002

Cittaviveka Buddhist Temple, Sussex - design and commissioning for a new sound system in the aesthetically sensitive Dhamma Hall.  The sound system is essentially invisible.

HM Queen’s Golden Wedding Anniversary Gala Concert, Royal Festival Hall, November 1997

Papal Visit, 1982

Opening of Thames Barrier by H.M.Queen 1982

 

Blog

Where the hell have you been?

Where have I been?  What have I been up to?  Why haven't I kept up my blog? You know what?  In the unforgettable words of Chris Thompson of Mannfred Man's Earth Band and War of the Worlds fame "It's...

Updating the Website!

Yes, I know, I haven't updated my site since 2014.. I'm on it.   I'll let you know when it's done. However, do feel free to read the old stuff - some of it's quite good! Thank you.

The First Thing I Saw In...

Touring isn't nearly as glamourous as most people think.  Whilst a tour itinerary might feature the most enticing of the world's cities, as a member of a touring party it's rare you actually get to see the best of them, as I...

Frank Gehry's Dusseldorf Zollhof

I love the fact that this building tryptych was even considered for planning, let alone actually built in Dusseldorf, next to the Rhine.  I am a big fan of daring, bold architecture, and it has a place in every modern city to break up...
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21 Oct
RT @MartinAudioLtd: "This was a big progression in terms of sound design at Regent's Park." - Nick Lidster, Autograph Sound on Jesus Christ…

21 Oct
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12 Oct
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Simon Honywill
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