You never know when one of your congregant’s expertise will come in handy. In emergencies, it sure helps if there’s a doctor in the house. If your church is in financial straits, maybe an accountant parishioner can lend a hand. And the neighborhood chef definitely ups the ante during the annual baked goods sale.
At St. Elias Catholic Church in Birmingham, Ala., the only one in the state that follows the Maronite Rite, the good fortune came in one of its parishioners’ position as president of a local audio/video installation firm - Gary Boackle of Clear Solutions Inc.
While St. Elias began undergoing a recent renovation to coincide with the church’s centennial celebration the first renovation since 1970 Boackle provided some much-needed audio guidance so dialogue and choir songs would fill the large hall intelligibly and lively.
It wasn’t going to be easy, as the remodel featured the refurbishing of woodwork in the rear of the assembly, replacing carpeting with porcelain and marble flooring, and restoring of the arched ceiling to a smooth surface. And while the beautified surfaces worked to further complement St. Elias’ 19 stained glass windows, they added to what was already a subpar sonic environment because of all the reflections.
“The reverb time in the sanctuary went from just under two seconds to over six seconds,” Boackle says of the pre-renovation acoustics.
Another parishioner, James Boohaker, owns a local contracting firm, Boohaker and Associates, which was not on the renovation job, but Boohaker was very involved as part of a remodel oversight committee that worked with Birmingham contractor Rives Construction. “Sound in St. Elias was never optimal,” Boohaker notes. ” It was a 60-year project.”
The project gave Boackle a perfect opportunity to test out the QFlex solution from Tannoy, which employs proprietary BeamEngine technology that uses measurements and single shaped beams, which don’t necessarily have to be symmetrical, to target and cover specified areas with audio.
Multiple zones can be specified, according to Tannoy, which engages three settings:
—Specified value, silent, or unspecified (“don’t care”).
—The silent directive could be applied to reverberant zones such as ceilings, etc.
—The steering algorithm generated within the beam engine is then saved and loaded to the DSP via the VNet software.
Boackle enlisted the help of rep Richard Hembree and his familiarity with the QFlex array to overcome the church’s new aesthetics, arched ceiling and more and focus the acoustics back at the congregation. “This is one of the toughest acoustic environments into which I’ve been asked to place a system,” Hembree says.
Hembree and Boackle ended up mounting a pair of QFlex 40s about 6 feet up the wall on either side of the altar, and used a suite of Audix microphones in key locations throughout the sanctuary on the pulpit, lectern and choir loft to assist the QFlex system. Automatic mixing, routing and processing come via two Biamp Nexia CS DSPs controlled remotely with an AMX touchpanel and two AMX keypads.
“We were confident we could provide a solution that kept the intelligibility high,” Boackle explains. “We steered one beam across the entire congregation and ended about 7 feet up the back wall, so if someone was standing they could hear. A second beam went up to the choir loft. A different approach to the sound simply wouldn’t have addressed the acoustical problems in the room. We wouldn’t have been able to achieve solid gain before feedback, and the intelligibility would have suffered.”
Clear Solutions also added two VS10 BP subwoofers behind a side altar for enhanced low frequencies.
The result? We’re sure St. Elias now sounds as good as it looks.