Preserving Acoustics and Design in a Historic Church, Part 2

When a modern sound system meets a traditional church, some skill is needed to make sure it’s a happy marriage, and Ohio’s Stage Right Productions made it work for St. Augustine’s Church. 6/20/2013 8:05 AM Eastern

Preserving Acoustics and Design in a Historic Church, Part 2

Jun 20, 2013 12:05 PM, With Bennett Liles

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When a modern sound system meets a traditional church, some skill is needed to make sure it’s a happy marriage, and Ohio’s Stage Right Productions made it work for St. Augustine’s Church. Steve Merrill is back to wrap up his story about how new mics and Community speakers made it work there, next up on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Steve, thanks for being back with us for part two on the SVC Podcast, from Stage Right Productions and some challenges for speech intelligibility at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church. In part one we talked about the speaker system, the Community 200 Series speakers, you put in there. I think you also provided a wireless mic system. What was that, Audio-Technica?

Yeah, actually there was a current system in place, a 200 series that some member of the church had gotten for them. It was upgraded to the Audio-Technica BP892 TH, the head-worn mic. And again, the priests really, really liked that. They’d been demoing some different ones out and trying different ones, and this one allowed the board to run more flat. And so using, again, the current system stuff that was in place, we just added to [it] just a little bit better product on the other end to help that speech and intelligibility. [Timestamp: 1:40]

Yeah, that’s always great when you can get the priests to use head-worn mics. With some of them there’s a little push back on that. They don’t want to look like air traffic controllers or anything, but the gain before feedback you get really makes the effort to convince them worth it.

Oh yeah, yeah. The Father was very open to that. Like I said, we’d been trying some stuff and they just, you know, the product itself lent itself [to this application]. You know, other products, we were making too many changes on the board and sounds great. Like I said, you know, they’re right there on the spot like we got with the dual ear, and it sets over both ears and locks down and it just doesn’t move during mass. [Timestamp: 2:18]

I should have pointed out in the beginning, you’re coming to us from a very windy Ohio. The wind in the background sounds a little spooky. You mentioned before that you actually saved the church a good bit on this by using a lot of the existing gear that was in there.

Yeah. There was currently a system in place. They had a 70V system in play that we ended up using to tie onto, which were the Entasys lends itself is usually incremented in 8Ω; and 8Ω load or some of them come in a 16Ω load. Or you can tap it over; they’ve got the taps on there and you can run it 70V. So it lent itself to the current system so we were able to tap onto that and use some of the other church’s things in place. Again, the money thing. Some churches just have a budget and we have to try to stay within that, so in place of putting in a new amp for the main house system, we did use a 70V system there and some other mix boards and stuff that were already previously purchased by the church before we actually came in to help out. [Timestamp: 3:16]

Well, sometimes that’s where the real creativity comes in, when you have to blend a new system in with the existing gear. What features did the Ashly amps have that made them right for this particular project?

We used the Ashly KLR-3200 amp in their KLR Series, but on the back of the KLR Series, there are actually dip switches. There are switches on the back, filters, and you can roll off low end at two different points. And there’s also input sensitivity things on the back. So it lent itself; we were able to take it off the bottom end, which really rolls through the church. It just gets out of control quick. So the amp offered yet another aspect of keeping some of those lower-toned frequencies from getting out of control with the amp. So we maintained that and then we took everything else off the processor. [Timestamp: 4:05]

Preserving Acoustics and Design in a Historic Church, Part 2

Jun 20, 2013 12:05 PM, With Bennett Liles

And you managed to convince the priests to use head-worn mics when they’re not always enthusiastic about that. How did they take to using the Audio-Technica mics for the services?

They really liked it. The priests really, really loved them. Like I said, that series comes with the dual-ear mounts on it, so like I said it fastens down to both sides. The problem when you do a single ear-worn, it has a tendency, when they’re running through their vestments, every time they move their head it wants to pull the microphone and eventually, by the end of mass, it’s up by their eyeball. But with the dual ear-worn, that Audio-Technia BP892 TH, like I said, it comes with dual ear and when we locked it in there and put it on the head it doesn’t move. Basically none of the congregation really do see it except the ones closer to up front. And the priest even wears glasses and it doesn’t affect the glasses or anything like that. So yeah, they really do like it. They bought a couple more for backup, the priests, so they like to be over-cautious and make sure they never were without. [Timestamp: 5:05]

Well, I know they liked the sound of it. That’s got to be a huge improvement especially in that reverberant an environment. Now what are they using for a mixer in there?

Like you mentioned before, we just had to leave in what the church currently had. They do have a Peavey 24-channel mixer. Again, that was purchased several years before we jumped in. The mixer’s quiet. I went through and listened to everything and made sure it was clean. So that’s back there in the back in the sacristy area there where the amps and everything are at, so it’s kind of a mix back there. It’s kind of a set-it-and-forget-it system. [Timestamp: 5:41]

Pretty much automatic? They don’t have a full-time audio op guy there?

No sir, huh-uh. No, it’s gotta be right so they can just turn it on any time during the daytime, whether you’ve got a funeral, a wedding, and you don’t have to have somebody on call all the time. We kind of—with the head-worn microphone and working with the one maintenance guy, Greg Owen, over there and who’s been there for years and is a member of the church--basically a set-it-and-forget-it system, so we had to make sure things were set up. We did go back and make a couple changes with like the choir loft, how much they were hearing, and a few things on the dSPEC, but beyond that, like I said, knock on wood, it’s been in since Christmas and we’re still getting reviews coming in of how well people like the system. [Timestamp: 6:25]

So you got everything hooked up and connected. How was it checking out everything initially? Did you just get on the mics and “check one, two, three”?

Yeah, and Greg is actually a person who actually does some readings and stuff in the church. He knows what has been problems in the past and so he would read like last week’s message or readings and stuff like that. Then I’d have to get up there and use my vocal – whee. But we’d just read through and listen to what the room was doing and then being what it was when the kids came in, it was like a time him and I stopped everything once we got the system hooked up when they were doing their worship things. We were running all over the church while they were practicing the mass, because neither one had to be behind the microphone and listen to what the kids were saying and get them intelligible. Again, some of them were rushing through the words really, really fast, so diction and clarity of the system and how it rolled itself off naturally, it was actually an anomaly that happened with the processing. And even though we delayed and had to delay times and stuff right, everything coming together in harmony, the system just really worked well on its own, too. [Timestamp: 7:38]

Yeah, the kids are going to be the most sure test. If it will work well for them, then it should work for anybody.

Oh yeah. You’ve got all sorts of dynamics going on there. You get some of them too fast, too slow, too loud, too soft. Yeah, just it works well. I mean I wish I could sit there and go over a bunch of technical things that we did and all these tweaks and stuff, but put a good product in and it does work for you. [Timestamp: 8:05]

Well, it sounds like it’s all working OK and you got this one all done. What’s coming up next for Stage Right Productions? What have you got in the pipeline?

I know we’ve got some gymnasiums we’re putting some stuff in, a couple of baseball fields, and production season is getting ready to take hold of us and keep us out on the weekends. So yeah, we’ve got that and a few sales when they come in through the door and stuff like that. Just again, helping out here in the community the way we can whenever we can. [Timestamp: 8:33]

Okay, and a job well done. This was the St. Augustine’s Catholic Church, Stage Right Productions and Steve Merrill up there in Ohio. Thanks for telling us about how this one went and taking the time.

Hey, no problem. Thank you. It was a pleasure and again, one of those jobs we got done, there’s satisfaction in work when you know you leave and somebody can hear that message, is the main thing. [Timestamp: 8:56]

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