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Feature: Our Lady of Lourdes gains focus

Feature: Our Lady of Lourdes gains focus

Feature: Our Lady of Lourdes gains focus

Thrissur’s cathedral explored several options for a new sound system. James Cooke finds out more

Our Lady of Lourdes Metropolitan Cathedral in Thrissur, India was opened in 1957. After more than six decades, the church was recently subject to a renovation that served to both restore the sanctuary’s stunning interior decoration and to equip the worship space with newer technologies to offer a better experience for the congregation.

Part of the works saw the installation of a new audio system, to ensure intelligible sound throughout the large sanctuary. The church committee approached AVL Install India with a project brief that specified the need for a solution that would complement sermons and readings for congregants, yet not distract from the architectural aesthetics of the building.

‘One of the main considerations listed for the new sanctuary was for products capable of delivering clear, understandable speech that would be audible to the end of the church hall, along with the monitors and a microphone for the priest,’ recalls Taris CM, technical head at AVL Install. ‘The client had approached us after visiting other sites installed and gaining an understanding of our experience in this industry. Our team of technical experts then visited the site and were convinced that the environment – with its length, width and height – was best suited to a line array system. We discussed the client’s budget, decided on AudioFocus as an option and proceeded to provide a demo for the church committee.’

One of the Ares 8 line array hangs
One of the Ares 8 line array hangs

The project specification also stipulated that the new sound system was to last for at least 10–15 years before being replaced again. Therefore, the committee requested demonstrations from several installers of systems from various manufacturers to ensure that the church received the best-possible solution.

‘This was a challenge for us, as it was the first time we were offering a solution for a church of this size with an equally big budget,’ says Santhosh Kumar, director of projects and operations at AVL Install. ‘We had to convince the church’s committee members that AudioFocus was the right solution while competing with multiple other brands.’

Thankfully for the AVL Install team, the performance of the AudioFocus products convinced the church committee members. ‘AudioFocus stood out in the demonstrations because it was able to reach the entire length of the sanctuary, delivering clear vocals,’ says Taris. ‘They had also brought in several experienced dignitaries for their opinions and, fortunately, all of them gave positive reviews of the AudioFocus system, which made for an easy conclusion.’

The Allen & Heath Qu-32 mixer
The Allen & Heath Qu-32 mixer

Given the green light, the AVL Install team installed AudioFocus Ares 8 line array speakers in hangs of four per side. ‘There were two major reasons that we hung four line arrays on either side from the ceiling,’ explains Kumar. ‘Firstly, when you place the line array at such a height, it allows the sound to travel further, covering a larger area. Secondly, by implementing a line array, we avoided the need for putting speakers on the side walls.’

Taris adds: ‘Another major reason was the size of the boxes, because a line array system should not create an obstacle for the congregation’s view of the cathedral’s many paintings and decorations adorning the walls.’

The Ares 8 speakers are reinforced on the low end of the frequency spectrum by AudioFocus MT 218 MKII subwoofers.

AVL Install obtained the AudioFocus cabinets via the manufacturer’s Indian distributor, Sun Infonet. Sun Infonet also supplied Quest Audio QM3 speakers, which AVL Install deployed as monitors for the preachers, and QM4s, which provide foldback for the choir. In addition to AudioFocus and Quest Audio, Sun Infonet represents Allen & Heath, and provided a Qu-32 console for managing the entire sound setup, which AVL Install chose for its ease of use and suitability for the cathedral’s volunteer operators.

Intelligible audio needed to reach all the way to the rear of the cathedral
Intelligible audio needed to reach all the way to the rear of the cathedral

‘The cathedral doesn’t have any technical staff and, therefore, we deployed an Allen & Heath Qu-32 digital mixer,’ confirms Kumar. ‘It is a user-friendly device with multiple outputs programmed as show files to function as per the needs of the service. Now, the priest can control the audio setup himself.’

While the AVL Install team had overcome several challenges during the planning and design stages, more obstacles were to be overcome during the installation itself. ‘When our team arrived at the cathedral for the installation, they found that the acoustic treatment and related construction work had mostly been completed,’ says Kumar. ‘But, some of the residual work, like filling in granite and cleaning up, still continued, which was a distraction.

‘One of the major barriers that the installation team faced was to do with the electrical wiring. It was done in a hurry and the electrical load was not getting distributed equally on both lines. As a result, one line was taking a much bigger load than the other, meaning the switch kept going off during the system tests.’

To rectify this issue caused by the electrical wiring, the AVL Install team eventually made the decision to install their own, separate wiring for the audio system.

With the obstacles overcome and the new sound system up and running at Our Lady of Lourdes Metropolitan Cathedral, Kumar reflects on what has been a memorable project for AVL Install: ‘At the start, we were lucky enough that the AudioFocus system performed well, and that the committee liked it. There were a lot of tense moments throughout the entire process, all the way until the end where if we had not done the electrical wiring for the sound system ourselves, the speakers might have been damaged.’

Taris extended his thanks to Father Jijo J Muringathery and the Our Lady of Lourdes committee for trusting in the AVL Install team and its recommendation of AudioFocus. ‘As a result, we were able to achieve the desired results and fulfil their audio requirements,’ he says. ‘This installation serves as a great example of how AudioFocus can be used to achieve audio clarity at other churches.’

Hemant Gaba, senior manager at Sun Infonet, agrees with Taris’ sentiments and further explains the need for clear sound within a house of worship: ‘If the pastor or speaker is not audible, members of the congregation may not be able to understand what is being said. Important points may be missed, which can create a disconnect between congregants and the church. Finding high-quality, dependable audio equipment makes a big difference, allowing the message to be communicated more effectively.’

The message at Our Lady of Lourdes is certainly being communicated more effectively, as Father Muringathery can attest. ‘After installing the new system, everyone was excited to hear the audio with such clarity,’ he says. ‘We have received numerous comments about how the AudioFocus system ideally suits our church environment. Everyone who visits our church appreciates the clarity.’

This article was first published in the March-April 2019 edition of Worship AVL. Subscribe at www.proavl-central.com/subscribe/worship



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