St Joseph Parish has been a part of the Needham, MA community for more than 100 years. Beginning with a humble wooden church in 1894 and expanding its campus over the years to include a convent, elementary and middle schools, and a range of ministries. In 1966, having outgrown its existing sanctuary, the church completed construction of their current building.
Though there have always been sonic challenges, the space has served them well for more than four decades. The room’s architecture provides good acoustics for the traditional choir and organ arrangements, but the sanctuary’s spoken word intelligibility left a bit to be desired.
The church leadership recently called in Boston, Light and Sound in nearby Boston, MA, to design and install a new sound system that would resolve the speech intelligibility issues once and for all.
“It’s a rectangular space with a flat ceiling and lots of right angles,” explains Zeke Zola, Install Manager at Boston Light and Sound. “The walls are all brick and there’s minimal acoustical dampening other than carpeting in the aisles. So it’s a rather reverberant space, and they’ve always struggled with intelligibility and coverage.”
The company’s recommendation was to replace the existing distributed system with two Iconyx digitally steerable column array loudspeakers from Renkus-Heinz.
“There were no loudspeakers at the front of the room, but there were three or four along the side walls—but they were not time-aligned,” says Zola. “So church members in the pews were getting the sound from the front, mixed with the sounds from two or three different loudspeakers, depending on where you were sitting. The result was just kind of unnatural and echo-y, with no real directionality.”
Boston Sound and Light recommended a single Renkus-Heinz Iconyx IC16-R-II column loudspeaker mounted on either side of the proscenium to covers the entire sanctuary.
“Using the Iconyx, we can control the beam for very narrow coverage, and minimize the amount of reflected sound from the ceiling and back wall,” Zola explains.
The choir is picked up by wired Clock Audio mics flown overhead, while Shure wired and RF microphones cover the podium and stage. The mics feed a Symetrix 780 Automixer, connected directly to the Iconyx systems.
“The Iconyx has made all the difference in the world in this sanctuary,” Zola concludes. “Coverage is even and intelligible across the entire room, and it even cuts through their very noisy HVAC system. It’s a great solution.”