d&b helps unite tradition and technology at thriving London church.
When a 400 year old piece of brass was found beneath the carpeted center aisle at St Mary’s, Hampton, the refurbishment of this West London church looked set to reveal traditional beauties as well as modern technologies. Today, with traditional, and informal band led worship equally at its heart, this growing church is also welcoming a thriving online congregation.
“With that transfer and growth has come a necessary evolution of the sound system,” explains Reverend Ben Lovell, who arrived at St Mary’s four years ago. “What I inherited was a sound system that was unsightly; big black speakers nailed to a historic war memorial. The system was muddy, the volume would change, the band was very loud.”
A self-confessed audio enthusiast, Rev’d Ben Lovell used to run the sound engineering for The Boy’s Brigade main worship band. “So I like good sound,” he says. When long awaited improvements became possible, dependable sound became part of the project. “It was about us not having an amateur system that had been pieced together, but rather having one that was top notch - a professional system. I also wanted good bass response,” he jests, “because it gives music a warmer tone and people enjoy it.”
Finding a trusted partner to design and install the system gave the Reverend and his team the confidence they needed. “We interviewed three companies and really felt that SFL understood what we were trying to do. We really felt that they got our brief.”
“We were able to guarantee the main features of the church would not be dwarfed by a speaker system,” confirms Andy Felix, Project Manager at leading AV production and installation company, SFL
For their power and price efficiency we selected products from d&b’s installation specific range - the xS-Series point sources, and the xC-Series columns. Because these systems match tonally - and conveniently came painted white as standard - we designed a solution that not only gives every member of the congregation the same sonic clarity, but also blends sensitively into its surroundings.Andy Felix, Project Manager, SFL
“The column speakers that we have in the side aisle fit perfectly,” confirms Rev’d Ben Lovell. “The impact, particularly compared to the old system on the aesthetic of the church is tiny.”
Without bulky cabinets and uncomfortable audio, unwelcome distractions are now a thing of the past. Yet, as Rev’d B Lovell explains, while its benefits are felt, the technology itself is transparent.
In terms of our Sunday worship, people don’t see the sound engineering. People won’t notice the system it will just sound excellent - it will be unnoticeable. But then at the same time it gives us the flexibility to do anything. For example, we can record something like a recital, a cellist and organ, and we can then play it back. With the old system it would sound tinny – a poor facsimile – but now what we get back, people say it sounds better than the original.Rev’d Ben Lovell, St Mary’s Church
From the outset, SFL took time to understand St Mary’s needs. Although streaming wasn’t a consideration when the church embarked on its renovation, “We have embraced what it can do,” says Rev’d B Lovell. “What SFL have done is they’ve given us enough tools that we’re able to do it well. We’ve been able to keep the live sound live. And we’re seeing new people engage in our online services, again and again. People are getting to taste a little bit of what church is like before they cross the threshold.”
While the team at St Mary’s are nurturing the capabilities of their new technology, its affect inside the building is both transformative and timeless. “I was constantly told there was nothing wrong with the system,” says Rev’d B Lovell.
Whereas now, people are saying ‘wow’ it’s incredible. The sound in the church is incredibly engaging I’d say. You can walk around the church when something is playing and you feel it in every part of the building, everywhere you go it just surrounds you. You move up into the balconies and the sound is still there, and that is just lovely. It just feels right.Rev’d Ben Lovell
Though the technology itself may be complex, SFL have installed a system that is simple and easy to use. “One of the things that’s glorious about the system is that I have the ability to run it from my tablet,” adds Rev’d B Lovell. “Sometimes we might have 700 people in the church and on those occasions I’ll have someone operate the sound desk for me. But for smaller services, I can just pull up my iPad and run it from the front. We recently had a small funeral for someone who really loved music. We were easily able to play tracks quite loudly, and it’s nice to be able to do that, knowing it’s going to sound good.”
With a sound system that’s set to serve, dynamically and sensitively, St Mary’s is looking to the future and new ways to connect with the local community. “We’re now talking about trying to offer ourselves as a concert venue and such like,” says Rev’d B Lovell, “to make us a cultural hub, but also, of course, to raise some money. One of my visions for the church is to be more modern, but more traditional at the same time, and thanks to some great teamwork, we’ve definitely achieved that.”
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