A new beginning for St Mary’s Church
USA: St Mary's Catholic Church in Joplin, Missouri has experienced several new beginnings. The church was formed in October 1938 and it was less then a decade later, during World War II that construction began on a larger sanctuary to fit the growing congregation. As numbers continued to swell, the church added new buildings and made renovations during the late 1950s until in 1966, construction began on a new, even larger building to accommodate the more than 425 families that were by that time a part of the congregation. That building, completed and dedicated in 1967, would last until May of 2011, when the town was hit by an F-5 tornado, which took the lives of hundreds of local citizens and destroyed much of Joplin’s infrastructure, including St Mary’s.
Half a decade on from the storm, the church has a new home once again with the rebuilt campus comprising a school and offices as well as a 750-seat sanctuary. Acoustical consultant David Walter from Diversified Design Group was called upon to design an audio solution for the new sanctuary, while Rick Massey from Joplin-based Total Electronics Contracting Inc was engaged to install the system.
‘The acoustic characteristics of a traditional Catholic church like this one – high ceilings, hard reflective surfaces, parallel and perpendicular walls – creates an immensely challenging, reverberant space,’ explains Mr Massey of the challenges initially faced. ‘Addressing the issue with acoustical treatment is difficult and expensive, and far from aesthetically pleasing most of the time,’ adds Mr Walter.
To solve the reverberation problems, Mr Walter based his design around Renkus-Heinz’ Iconyx Gen5 digitally steered arrays, with a pair of IC32-RN columns deployed on either side of the chancel. ‘We've used the Iconyx arrays on a number of challenging projects. The ability to shift the acoustic centre enables us to focus the sound directly towards the pews, and keep the energy off the back wall. It makes a tremendous difference in spoken word intelligibility,’ the acoustical consultant notes.
‘In truth, a pair of IC24 or even IC16 would have covered the room,’ Mr Walter continues. ‘But, using the IC32 columns gave us that pattern control down to the lower frequencies, which is the real challenge in a room this large and reverberant. The Iconyx system is also very musical, which is perfect since they wanted to add some more contemporary services to their traditional Catholic mass.’
The design of the speaker system also took note the sanctuary’s aesthetics. ‘Renkus-Heinz matched the paint colour of the walls perfectly,’ recalls Nate Pugh, A/V project manager at Total Electronics. ‘If you don't know they're there, the speakers are easy to overlook; they really do blend in with the architecture.’
With the new church building open for services, the new system is reportedly delivering good quality audio throughout the sanctuary. ‘It sounds wonderful, and now people can finally hear us,’ declares Father Justin Monaghan from St Mary’s. ‘These folks did an amazing job.’