An Iconyx solution for an iconic Montreal cathedral
CANADA: With a design based on that of The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, Marie-Reine-Du-Monde Basilique Cathedrale was the first building in Montreal, Québec to require over US$1 million in construction costs. The cathedral was inaugurated in 1894 on Easter Sunday, making the price tag even more significant than it is now, and took approximately 24 years to finance and build. Also known by its English name, Mary Queen of the World Cathedral Basilica, it today serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Montreal.
More than 120 years have passed since the cathedral’s inauguration and in that time it has experienced the same acoustical challenges that plague many large churches. The 85,000m³ basilica includes vaulted ceilings, a transept and hard surfaces aplenty and with that being the case, the old sound system that had served to building for a number of years was deemed not up to scratch. Contracted to design and install a new system was Ville de Québec-based systems integrator Siscom Inc.
‘The old system used traditional columns and was very outdated. It exhibited a lot of comb filter effects and poor directivity,’ recalls Jean Giroux, director general of Siscom. ‘Our challenges for the new system were to provide uniform coverage and clear intelligibility, using the minimum number of speakers, and to account for reverb times of more than 4s in the 500Hz to 2kHz frequency range.’
Having been one of the first consultants in the world to install a Renkus-Heinz beam-steered column array, Mr Giroux offered a system designed around the manufacturer’s Iconyx series as a solution. ‘I visited the Renkus-Heinz booth at the 2004 AES show, read their brochure about plans for new steerable arrays, and told them I wanted some as soon as they were operational,’ reflects the Siscom director general. ‘I got one of the first models and demonstrated it at a big basilica between Montreal and Quebec City – the serial number was something like 00006. We experienced for the first time how a sound beam can be directed like a light beam, and it was amazing! The client bought a system right way and we've been installing Renkus-Heinz digitally steered systems ever since.’
The system installed at Marie-Reine-Du-Monde is based on a foundation of IC16-R-II digitally steerable line arrays. ‘We experimented with two IC32s but it was not possible to cover the two arms of the transept and also cover the nave with adequate uniformity. So we installed six IC16-R-IIs for the main system – one in each arm of the transept, two at the crossing of the nave and transept, and two close to the front, at the mid part of the nave,’ Mr Giroux explains. ‘With beam steering, the system produced uniform coverage with minimal reflections.’
An additional pair of IC16-R-IIs were installed beneath the organ balcony and choir loft at the rear of the sanctuary to provide reinforcement for the choir. ‘Sound coming from the altar area goes through the six IC16s in the main system but when the choir sings, their voices are reproduced by the rear IC16s beneath the choir loft, so it sounds realistic,’ Mr Giroux adds. Meanwhile, processing and speaker management is taken care of by a BSS Soundweb London Blu-series DSP that sees sound delayed before being distributed to the speakers covering the left and right transepts.
‘When we completed installation Cardinal Turcotte, who was the archbishop at the time, said the difference was “like day and night”,’ remarks Mr Giroux. ‘There are four Catholic basilicas in Montreal, and we've installed Iconyx sound systems in all of them!’