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Renkus-Heinz Helps The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Feel At Home

IC Live steerable line arrays help create a natural ambience in the choir's main performance space.

By PSW Staff April 5, 2010

LDS Church Conference Center

Four of Renkus-Heinz’s IC Live steerable line array systems are being used to create a natural ambience in the famed choir’s main performance space.

Few vocal groups are as recognizable as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, both by name and by sound.

Founded in 1847, the famed choir has become an integral part of American culture, performing regularly from the landmark Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.

Called one of the world’s architectural masterpieces by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Tabernacle is a truly unique structure, its domed roof creating a remarkable acoustical environment that is arguably as much a part of the Choir’s sound as the voices of the men and women themselves.

However, as their audience has grown, the Tabernacle’s 6,000-plus capacity could no longer accommodate its legions of fans, and in 2000 the LDS Church opened the doors to its new 21,000-seat Conference Center.

But as Poll Sound’s Deward Timothy explains, the Conference Center can not match the intimate acoustics of the original Tabernacle’s dome. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the Tabernacle is still the Choir’s official home, with the Conference Center only used for performances to larger audiences.

“The domed area of the Tabernacle where the Choir sit is no more than about 80 or 90 feet across, and it has a very natural, unique ambience,” says Timothy. “They’ve been practicing and performing under that dome for 150 years, and while the rostrum of the Conference Center certainly sounds magnificent in its own right, it’s simply not the same, and they’re not hearing themselves like they’re used to.”

Unique challenges call for unique solutions, and the Choir called upon Steve Barber of Massachusetts-based Lares Associates. Utilizing a combination of close miking, strategically positioned loudspeakers and digital signal processing, Barber’s system creates a natural ambience that closely replicates that of the Tabernacle.

Four IC Live units are part of the system, positioned behind and to either side of the singers, with processing handled by Lares DSP and reverberation units.

“It’s a very low-profile system, and it’s pretty much inaudible to the audience,” says Timothy. “But for the singers it’s ideal. The IC Lives are an important part of the system; they’re exceptionally flat and natural sounding, with a high enough output to be heard over the 130 voices of the Choir.”

For the singers of the famed Choir, the system has addressed the challenges of maintaining the intimacy of the original Tabernacle in a much larger venue. “It works exceptionally well,” concludes Timothy. “It’s very subtle.

When you’re sitting in the Choir area, it’s like you’re speaking in a normal conversational tone, but it sounds like it’s coming from everywhere. The singers and directors are very happy; most of them say it sounds every bit as good as the Tabernacle itself.”

Renkus-Heinz Website

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