St Paul's and St George's enter the 21st century with d&b
The received wisdom tells us church numbers are in catastrophic freefall, yet some Christians are quietly and efficiently getting on with the job of making church relevant for its brethren in the 21st century. For relevant, read contemporary; what makes the traditional church experience unappealing is the sensation that we're visiting a medieval theme park. At St Paul's and St George's in the heart of Edinburgh this issue has been addressed in spectacular fashion with a multi-million pound refurbishment. Mention glass and steel structures and some might recoil in horror, but what's been achieved here is a lightness of touch that will allay the fears of many a traditionalist. The church now has a community feel in the modern vernacular, without disturbing the graceful lines of the original interior. That ethos was carried across into the technical update of the church; while congregations of the past had to put up with being blind-sighted from the pulpit by support pillars, and often prevented from hearing the sermon by the same impediment, Scottish based D3 has done wonders.
'We were contracted to provide all visual projection, distribution of audio and video, camera system, digital signage and stage lighting,' was how D3's project manager Phil Lidstone described their brief. 'The church wanted a comprehensive AV package, sophisticated, but easy to operate; and a solution that addressed every seat in the house as it were. We've put in AMX control, Matrix Video Switching, and two SDI cameras that feed to a Grass Valley HD mixer. Some signal distribution is via Cat5 using an Auto Patch matrix; that is a US Military standard patching system that allows simple recall patches. Wider video distribution to annex meeting rooms is carried via Exterity's SDI-MPEG video encoder and streamed over the internal network. So for example we've programmed the Sound Web via Jellyfish to create a simple intimate speech relay system for the more conventional traditional early morning Sunday services. This is a service for a small congregation; the sound systems creating the sensations that all who attend are sitting in the Chancel and in touch with the service leader. The programming bypasses the Yamaha M7CL, so the presiding clergyman doesn't need a technician to help him, he just selects the preset.'
The sound system installed is all d&b audiotechnik loudspeakers and is supplied through Warehouse Sound Services. 'We have a long-term relationship with the Warehouse on such projects; they provide the equipment and we make the system integration with AV and installation. But the support and backup they give us makes it more than a sales transaction; for instance Derek Blair at Warehouse provided the essential audio design for this church.' The acoustic environs are not too reverberant as churches go, the floor is carpeted and Blair's main challenge was to keep direct sound energy off the new glass structures; that and getting round those columns. 'It was apparent almost immediately that a distributed system was the only way to address this space properly,' said Blair. 'The determining factor is the layout of the seating and the building structure, there are some steeply raked seating banks in choir stall orientation (i.e. facing across the aisle), and the columns that support the roof are physically quite thick. Those two elements precluded placing a centre cluster, or a more conventional left/right configured PA; neither would adequately cover the seated areas. I elected to use the d&b E8 loudspeaker, a new product that arrived at just the right time. It's small, light, provides more than enough power, and the rotatable coaxial horn means I've been able to direct audio into the many discreet areas of seating with the desired coverage pattern not exciting any unwanted parts of the building. Everyone in the congregation sits in the near field, no more than 3m from a loudspeaker; that closeness does give extraordinary headroom.'
Lidstone, himself very pleased with Blair's design, stated, 'Yes, we did adapt it very slightly to make it conform to our client's budget; even so it is a big system.' A total of twenty-four E8s are run off eleven D6 amplifiers, two Qi subwoofers are included for a more emphatic low end when the youth groups conduct services. 'The body of the church is large enough to accommodate five to six hundred comfortably, maybe seven hundred for a big occasion,' explained Lidstone. 'Aesthetically the E8s are ideal; very pleasing to look at, they fit perfectly with the modern adaptation.' The church leadership are of the same opinion. 'The loudspeakers are great, the sound is clear and it really fills the building,' said Dave Richards, rector of St Paul's and St George's. 'The system delivers exactly what we want, a clear sound with depth and richness. We are really pleased too with their appearance. They look so small but give such a big sound. Aesthetically, they blend in perfectly without compromising on quality.'