Every house of worship has faced the big question at one point or another, at least the big question when it comes to their sanctuary sound: “When do we go digital?”
At Richmond, Virginia’s West End Assembly of God (WEAG), that question was finally resolved last year when the church invested in three new DiGiCo consoles: two front of house SD10T-24 desks—sporting DiGiCo’s “T” package for intricate theatrical applications—and a third standard SD10-24 for monitors.
It was a big leap, but one that has paid significant dividends for a church that puts a lot of emphasis on high-intensity contemporary Christian music and elaborate theatrical productions benefiting from a pair of Broadway-grade Foy flying systems.
“We can never get enough rehearsal time,” says WEAG Sound and Facilities director Pat Bragg who, along with associate engineer Leo Cecil, oversees a cadre of volunteers and Sunday services in the church’s 1,400-seat sanctuary. That’s also the site of WEAG’s annual Glorious Christmas Nights holiday musical production, this year subtitled FANtastic Christmas!, which will play 18 performances over 10 days during the season.
“These are big productions, and we have to use the sanctuary for Sunday services, as well as other uses, in addition to the theatrical productions,” he explains. “We needed consoles that let us build and store the settings for each use and recall them instantly and accurately, and were also user friendly so our volunteers could work comfortably on them. The DiGiCo SD-Series consoles were the perfect choice.
“The SD10T-24 offers the kind of theatrical interaction we need, such as the ability to manage an enormous number of inputs—we use 34 channels of wireless microphones, plus 20 live music and 24 tracks of prerecorded music, for Glorious Christmas Nights—which is why we needed two consoles at front of house. Even our regular weekly services give the desks a healthy workout with their 16 wireless mics and total channel count of over 80 inputs. And we can also automate the cues for services and theatrical productions, plus we make use of the virtual soundcheck capabilities to fine-tune mixes just ahead of services and shows.”
Two DiGiCo S21 consoles acquired a year earlier and used in the church’s gym as a second worship location gave Bragg and the church an introduction to what could be accomplished with DiGiCo’s larger digital desks.
“The SD10T consoles are just amazing—we can make up cues precisely for each character in a production,” he continues. “And if that character changes costume—adding even a hat can radically alter EQ—we can have a separate alias ready for that right under our fingers, without having to scroll through pages or layers. It’s truly amazing stuff and has changed everything for us.”
That includes training of volunteers, who are finding the SD-Series consoles intuitive and simple to understand and operate, even as they perform complex functions. The intelligence of the SD10T means that even the most complex of tasks become quick and easy: engineers can recall or save presets on the channel strip, and recall or save snapshots using the master screen or dedicated switches on the console. In addition, special functions can be assigned and accessed instantly via the console’s 40 Smart Key Macros (accessible via four layers of 10 RGB backlit keys) at the push of a button.
“And they sound amazing, too,” Bragg adds. “We can really hear the music in a way we couldn’t before. And we’ve never experienced customer service like this. We had one issue early on, and DiGiCo’s engineer was here within 36 hours to resolve it. We were ready to make the transition from analog to digital in the sanctuary, and the SD10T-24 was the absolute best way to do that.”