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Preserving Acoustics and Design in a Historic Church, Part 1

Jun 6, 2013 4:28 PM, With Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

It’s a well-known challenge that never gets any easier to meet. A traditional church that’s very reverberant, but they need to understand the pastor through all of that reverb. Stage Right Productions was called in by St. Augustine’s Catholic Church to make it happen and Steve Merrill is here to give us the details, coming up right now on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Steve, thanks for being with us for the SVC Podcast.

Thank you.

From Stage Right Productions and that’s sort of an interesting name. What sort of projects does Stage Right Productions take on?

We take on commercial installation, either churches, factories, baseball fields, football fields, anything out of the residential market. And we do live production, small tour support, and national act stuff, and we also sell gear out of our location to DJs and bands and stuff like that. So we’re a home-based, Christian-owned and operated family business, so we just try to keep it simple for everybody. [Timestamp: 1:23]

Okay, and you’re up there in Ohio.

Yes, sir.

That must be keeping you guys really busy. You’re got retail sales, installations, and live productions going on so that sounds like a handful.

Yeah, it can be. We balance it well and just enjoy what we do. [Timestamp: 1:38]

I know this is a Catholic church that you did this installation in, St. Augustine’s, but some of the worship styles vary in these. What sort of style do they have there?

It’s a traditional Catholic church. I don’t believe they have any Latin masses there. There are a couple of surrounding churches—we’re in a very large diocese of Catholicism over here in this section of Ohio—and yeah, just your traditional Catholic service and basically true to the Pope’s teaching and the teachings of the church. [Timestamp: 2:08]

So they’re probably more traditional in their thinking on AV things, too; the kind of appearance they want to have. Maybe they’re a little concerned about bringing in a new system and changing the look of things. What was their problem there? What did they need from the project?

Well, the ceilings being as high as what they were—I think we estimated the ceilings right around 65 or so foot high—and just a beautiful, old, traditional church that was designed for spoken word to be heard with no amplification at all. And they’ve gone through other changes in audio through the years where you’ve got a center cluster up in the middle of the church, which for that church was aesthetically not pleasing. The other ones looked okay, but it was just a multi-point source box and it just went everywhere. So basically the aesthetic thing was getting something that you didn’t realize was there, and when it was producing audio you just felt like you were hearing the sermon, the message, instead of paying attention to which speaker you had to set to when you go to mass. [Timestamp: 3:07]

And I would think that they liked the reverberant effect for the choir, but when the choir stops singing and somebody begins to speak it sort of starts working against you.

The room really can, with really no amplification at all, you could hear the reverberance of the room and so the challenge was to use a system that contained how much dispersion you that actually got up into the ceiling—up into the church—to reverberate. We really tried to keep everything at a low focal point for everybody and keep the audio clean. [Timestamp: 3:37]

I saw some pictures of the place. It’s a very old and historic building, so you can’t just come in there with a bulldozer. Did they have concerns about cable runs, drilling, rigging and you know, the aesthetic appearance being changed?

There was some concern with that. The idea is that the company prior to us that went in there, oh 15 or 20 years ago, had good location. Like I said, just the time technology wasn’t there. So we went through and cost-effectively we looked at the wire. The gauge was good. The wire checked out. Everything was good, so there was a lot of some of the existing things in the church that we could use because they just had their heating and cooling system put in and they decoratively painted these panels around everything that we had to run wire through, so it would be like going through three floors, or whatever, trying to fish wire through. So a lot of things lined up on the job that allowed us to get in and put speakers in the locations that we needed to, and a lot of the wire was currently already available, and like I said, checked it out and the gauge was right for what we needed to do. [Timestamp: 4:40]

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