The two-minute guide to audio in places of worship13 July 2011
How do you combine an audio system that provides improved speech intelligibility with the most minimal aesthetic impact on a chapel? Renkus-Heinz has the answer.
A short but breathtaking drive from trendy Aspen in Colorado, USA, St Benedict’s Monastery reflects the natural serenity of its majestic surroundings. Nestled in a valley on several thousand acres in western Colorado’s Elk Mountains, it offers spectacular views of nearby Mt Sopris’ twin summits.
It’s an idyllic environment for the Benedictine monks who mix their daily meditation and prayer with the running of a working ranch and bakery. The monks also operate the architecturally renowned Retreat House and Hermitages, hosting personal and group retreats, conducting daily liturgical services, and occasionally welcoming performances by world famous musicians from nearby Aspen.
Built in 1958, the Monastery’s main chapel is simple but elegant, its rustic red brick walls accented by a quarry tile floor and barrel-vaulted, pine-beamed arched ceilings that soar to 32 feet at their peak. A single, 14-foot-tall stained glass window serves as a magnificent centrepiece above the front altar. It’s an acoustically-challenging space, and after many years of enduring intelligibility issues, the monastery decided their guests could be better served by installing a contemporary new sound system.
Brother Michael Isenhart, a former Fortune 100 design engineer who now manages the monastery’s technology needs, wanted an audio system that would provide improved speech intelligibility with the most minimal aesthetic impact on the chapel. The installed system needed to project evenly over the 73 foot distance between the front of the church and the back of the atrium while keeping as much of the sound as possible off the hard surfaces. @page_break@
Because of the lack of pillars or other design features typically used to hide loudspeakers, Brother Michael opted for a single Renkus-Heinz Iconyx IC16-R digitally steerable line array system. The Iconyx steerable beam technology was the ideal solution to the chapel’s acoustical and aesthetic challenges.
Using scrap bricks provided by the monastery, Renkus-Heinz colour customised the Iconyx system, rendering it nearly invisible. A Shure SCM410 automatic mixer and two Sennheiser EW wireless receivers round out the minimalist system, with recording capability and electrical power management housed in a small wood cabinet mounted to the side wall. To accommodate readings from the front or rear of the chapel, a wireless gooseneck microphone is mounted in a custom-made iron lectern along with a wireless boundary microphone located on a roving small wooden box.
Brother Michael reports that the entire monastic community and numerous visitors have expressed amazement at the monumental difference the Iconyx system has made. Spoken word can be heard clearly and sound reaches even the last seat in the atrium. And they are especially pleased that the system had no impact on chapel’s aesthetic beauty.