The PA People boosts choir sound at St John’s College chapel
AUSTRALIA: The PA People recently returned to the chapel of St John’s College at the University of Sydney to help change its choir sound by creating a new acoustic space.
The chapel is a Gothic Revival sandstone construction, completed in 1863. With its high vaulted stained glass windows, ornate stonemasonry and gothic detailing, it’s exactly the kind of acoustic space that makes speech intelligibility hard to achieve with an amplified system. The PA People tackled this issue five years ago with a Bose Panaray system.
The chapel’s master of sacred music, Richard Perrignon, had a vision for St John’s that he had been waiting five years to realise. Having conducted choirs over the years in Australia’s oldest cathedral, St Mary’s in central Sydney, Mr Perrigon sought to replicate its acoustics in the more confined environment of St John’s.
Josh Jones, project manager at The PA People worked with Mr Perrignon to provide a solution based on the concept of a large, reverberant Gothic cathedral in which the voices of the choir descend and expand in the manner which liturgical composers intended. With the ceiling already at 9m, Mr Jones and the team decided to use it to their advantage.
‘We added six Bose DS100s loudspeakers into the ceiling, three each side, spaced along the length of the chapel,’ explained Mr Jones. ‘They’re used for the choir only, so the sound floats down from the top of the church. It makes it sound like a much bigger space than it really is, and it really does give the choir an ethereal presence.’
While the new choir system is completely self-contained with its own components, adding it alongside the existing system was relatively straightforward. In addition to its own microphones and cabling, The PA People utilised a small analogue mixer that the chapel already owned and added a single Crown DCi power amplifier to run the speakers.
‘We didn’t need any extra processing in-line,’ noted Mr Jones. ‘Intelligibility wasn’t the goal - we wanted to get the reverberation. Basically we’re bouncing sound off the wall and letting it float down.’