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P52 OCTOBER 2015

Feature: Houses of worship

The Southern Baptist South Biscayne Church in Florida features a DAS Audio installation utilising Event 2080A line arrays and 218A subs

Faithful sound reproduction Europe’s style of worship is changing, and it comes as a blessing for the pro-audio industry, writes Erica Basnicki


uropeans are less inclined to affiliate themselves with a particular religion, according to a study by the aptly named Pew Research Center. A major analysis of the global religious landscape released by the ‘fact tank’ in April of this year puts the number of “unaffiliated” Europeans at one in five, and rising. Only one other geographic region – the US – is seeing the same trend. What that study doesn’t directly address is how worship is changing. And yes, that change is happening in Europe, too. Rising up along side the traditional “bells and smells” of century-old religious ceremonies is a new form of communing. It’s bigger, it’s brighter and most definitely louder. Crucially, it’s also catching on in a big way: exactly the kind of good news message the pro-audio industry wants to hear. London-based AV specialist SFL Group has been responsible for multiple house-of-worship audio installations across the UK, including London’s most famous places of worship, St Martin-in-the-Fields. You could consider St Martin’s the ‘godfather’ of contemporary worship, having embraced modern AV technology just over 90 years ago: The world’s very first broadcast of a church service took place there, in 1924. A recent upgrade to its audio system saw the SFL Group install L-Acoustics 8XTi and 5XTi loudspeakers and a Yamaha QL1 digital mixing console. This is by no means a typical installation. In fact, pinning down a trend in this market is extremely difficult; according to Horton, buildings vary wildly – as does worship style, “and the two don’t correlate”. “As I understand it, the pendulum will swing from a very traditional format where you still have the choir and organ

– where any AV we’d be putting in would be supporting the spoken word side of things,” says Horton. “The choral traditions are mostly unamplified; it’s all about speech reproduction. “What a lot of churches are venturing into now is the very contemporary, performance-driven style of church worship where you’ve got your drums, bass, electric guitars, keyboards and so forth. There are all sorts of churches around the world that are modelling that style, and the UK is no exception.” Epitomising this change to a more contemporary form of worship in Europe is the Alpha Course (known simply as ‘Alpha’), self-described as “an opportunity to explore life and the Christian faith in a friendly, open and informal

The main difference [between houses of worship and corporate events] is that churches normally meet in rooms that appear pretty low down on my ‘places I’d like to mix sound’ list

Phill Beynon, NoiseBoys

Lead plunder VS God’s thunder Loudspeakers don’t just tame wild reverb inside worship spaces; they’ve also been installed in church spires around the UK to deter would-be metal thieves from ripping lead and other metals from roofs, with great success. According to a 2012 report in The Daily Telegraph, metal theft was at its worst in 2011 when the cost of metal rose dramatically during the global economic crisis. The cost to the Church of England alone was over £10 million. In some areas of the country, insurance claims quadrupled within two years. In response, church insurer Ecclesiastical invested £500,000 of its own money to install alarms on some of the most at-risk churches in England, Scotland and Wales.

The alarms are triggered by movement sensors which not only illuminate the area, but trigger a booming “voice of God” warning thieves that security has already been dispatched. Ecclesiastical’s ‘Hands Off Our Church Roofs!’ [sic] campaign site was updated recently with the following message: Thanks to the success of alarms, from 1 August 2015 there will be no limits applicable to our church policies for theft or attempted theft of external metal and the subsequent damage as a result of the theft or attempted theft. In the event of a loss claims will be paid in full up to the buildings and/or contents sums insured.

PSNE October 2015 Digital  
PSNE October 2015 Digital