d&b at the Assemblies of God's national conference
Hillsong and Planetshakers, the names themselves evoke potent emotional images, one illusory the other literal. Each is concerned with a revitalised Christian movement with a focus on youth. Where so often in the absence of any strong cultural moral way-markers young people can drift aimlessly into self-destructive avenues. This is a welcome movement, nowhere more so than in its native Australia. The recent AOG (Assemblies of God) National Conference staged at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre, Queensland, indicates immediately the power of the movement. A three-thousand seat arena hosted Christian bands each night of this three day event, while each day leading speakers led thought provoking sessions around contemporary Christian concerns.
It would be smug to say intelligibility was a primary concern for PA system delivery; what, after all, do Conference centres get built for, if not communication? Nevertheless when system supplier IJS were contracted to fulfil all audio requirements the brief was clear, as IJS engineer for the event, Rob Bird explained "The show requirements were specified by Hillsong Church; they submitted a generic rider that you would expect to see for any large touring act. They asked for Yamaha PM5D consoles and the rest was pretty much a list of the usual along with detailed stage plots and line lists. They tour all their own engineers."
Bird, in collaboration with fellow IJS engineer Nathan Davis, determined a d&b J-Series system best suited the mixed demands of speech and music for the main system, "I added a line of Q loudspeakers each side, off axis from the main audience area to achieve seamless coverage over a 180 degrees."
The venue looks quite shallow? "We were in half arena mode in the main auditorium giving a capacity of approximately three thousand. It's an incredibly steep venue hence the deceiving size. The roof is quite high but the audio issue lies in the first tier of seating, which slides underneath the second tier to gain floor space. It's pretty much only a framework that we felt was trapping low-end energy. We felt that the sub energy was concentrated too much on the floor and didn't have enough distance from the seating to disperse properly. Flying the subwoofer array would have offered better response but unfortunately we did not have enough load limit on the points required to do so." The high low frequency reverb' of the auditorium saw Bird restack the J subwoofers several times to find the most effective configuration, "A two by four horizontal array across the front of the stage with a centre B2 cluster in CSA mode kept the low frequencies under control."
And how did the program run? "The morning session in the main auditorium was run like a church service; the band would play a few songs for worship and then there would be a speaker for around an hour, another song or two then finishes for lunch. In the afternoon we ran sound checks for the worship band that was on that night, and then ran the night program, which consisted mostly of worship and a shorter message. The general dynamic variation wasn't that extreme; the bands would have peaked around 105db at mix. However the music in itself is incredibly dynamic. The main artists each night were the Hillsong band, Planetshakers, and Hillsong United. All were very talented and the music was top notch, played very well, and sounded great. All the engineers did a great job, especially Peter Wallis from Hillsong who did the majority of the mixing, and Planetshaker's Brian Vayler; he did an outstanding job."