Sinsinawa Mound upgrades with Renkus-Heinz
WORLD: Sinsinawa Mound, Wisconsin – also known as the home of the Congregation of the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters – recently upgraded its audio reinforcement system with a Renkus-Heinz solution at its worldwide headquarters. Since 1847, more than 3,200 women have ascended the ‘Hill of Grace’ to take their vows as Sinsinawa Dominicans.
In 1964 the campus was expanded with the construction of an 800-seat crown chapel, complete with 14m dome and transept wings. ‘It's a beautiful facility that has always been renowned for its musical acoustics,’ explained Scott Wright, president of Wisconsin-based Lifeline Audio Video Technologies. ‘But in today's world they're using it more and more often for spoken word and piano-vocal recitals, and it simply wasn't designed for that.’
‘It's a very large room, with a reverb time of more than four seconds,’ added Lifeline VP Mike Mair. ‘As they've been doing more spoken word and piano-oriented services, vocal intelligibility has become more of an issue. The reverb time was markedly longer in the middle of the room, where the dome is higher, and as a result many of the sisters were seating themselves around the edges near the transepts, where they could hear a bit better, and leaving the centre of the room pretty much empty.’
‘They had talked to many contractors over the years in an attempt to find a solution, and everyone wanted to convince them to hang large speaker clusters and treat the room acoustically,’ explained Mr Wright. ‘That just wasn't going to happen. This is not your typical 1,000-seat church – it's a very special, unique environment. Altering the aesthetics of the place was not open to discussion. It's a beautiful, majestic space, and there's simply no way you could hang a cluster of loudspeakers from this ceiling. From a structural perspective, it would have been problematic, to say the least. But beyond that, there's simply no way they would have allowed it.’
Mr Wright admitted that one of the biggest challenges in designing the audio system for the space was the need to retain the room's reverberant character. ‘People from all over the world come to play organ recitals in this hall, and they were not willing to compromise the room's acoustics as an organ recital facility,’ Mr Wright explained. ‘But the majority of daily use for the space is spoken word and some choral singing with piano and organ. So we needed a very controllable, highly intelligible system that would address the room's reverb issues without altering its character. The bottom line was, if we were going to achieve any intelligibility in that space at all, we had to control where the sound went.’
As a solution, two Renkus-Heinz Iconyx IC24-R digitally steerable array loudspeaker systems were mounted on either side of the altar. ‘We've used Iconyx in a number of previous projects, and have always been successful with them,’ asserted Mr Wright.
Prior to the purchase, a demonstration was arranged via Carl Schwartz from Frequency Sales. ‘We arranged a demo for about 70 people,’ explained Mr Wright. ‘They were definitely sceptical, since they've tried so many systems over the years.’
‘We just plugged a mic directly into the Iconyx with flat EQ,’ added Mr Mair. ‘The results were remarkable – they were just astounded. ‘After that, the next question was whether we could we get it installed by Thursday,’ added Mr Wright.
Elsewhere, a Biamp Nexia presentation mixer provides microphone inputs for the wireless, pulpit and choir mics. ‘They're very happy with the simplicity of the system,’ said Mr Mair.
‘They had waited many, many years to find the right solution,’ concluded Mr Wright. ‘Essentially, they waited until technology caught up with their needs. Finally, with Iconyx, we found a solution that really worked for them. They weren't looking for a minor improvement; they were looking for a night-and-day difference. And that's exactly what they got.’