Feature: Renewing St Andrew’s New Sanctuary
Feature: Renewing St Andrew’s New Sanctuary
When it came time to update the sound systems in its newest hall, Singapore’s St Andrew’s Cathedral turned to a pair of familiar partners. James Cooke finds out more
St Andrew’s Cathedral is the largest church in Singapore. Located near City Hall in the Lion State’s Downtown Core, it serves as Singapore’s mother church, presiding over 27 parishes and almost 60 congregations. A church has existed on its site for almost 200 years, since 1836, and the current building was constructed between 1856 and 1861. Fast-forward to the start of the 21st century, and the decision was made to extend St Andrew’s in 2003, with work on the Cathedral New Sanctuary completed in November 2005.
In recent years, the cathedral has been undergoing a series of audiovisual upgrades throughout its halls. Many of the works were carried out by Illuminate Productions and Lambda Acoustics and both companies were called in once again when it was suggested that the AV systems in the New Sanctuary could do with an update after almost a decade and a half.
‘Both Illuminate Productions and Lambda Acoustics have been long-term partners of St Andrew’s Cathedral,’ explains Huang Muen, technical director at Illuminate Productions. ‘Not only have we been involved in system upgrades in the prayer halls, we also support some of the cathedral’s evangelistic events with FOH mixing and lighting design. With the most recent Experiencing God musical, we proposed a design that lit up the nave for the first time, bringing a new worship experience for the congregation. Since then, the design has become a mainstay for their Christmas services.’
Illuminate Productions has extensive experience in both systems integration and installations, and live event technical production. It is because of this combination of skills that Muen believes many of the company’s clients, including the cathedral, have chosen to partner with Illuminate Productions. ‘It is this, coupled with our after-sales and customer service,’ Muen says. ‘Our experience in touring and large-scale conferences and events for churches, such as the Kingdom Invasion Conference, gives us a unique ability to help churches improve their systems and workflow to align with the best practices in the industry.’
Meanwhile, Lambda Acoustics has been involved as it regularly partners with Illuminate Productions. ‘Lambda Acoustics primarily focuses on audio system design and live mixing,’ says Timothy Huang, founder of Lambda Acoustics. ‘We have been partnering with Illuminate Productions for the past few years to provide support in audio system design for its own events and full turnkey installation projects.’
Although the Cathedral New Sanctuary is still relatively young, technology has moved at a rapid pace since 2005. However, new advances in sound and audio wasn’t the only reason St Andrew’s decided to upgrade some of the systems inside its newest hall.
‘St Andrew’s Cathedral felt that it was time to replace the ageing systems in the Cathedral New Sanctuary, to enhance the worship experience both sonically and visually for an expanding congregation,’ notes Matthew Peter, the AV manager at St Andrew’s Cathedral.
‘The church has traditionally struggled with their video projection system due to the amount of sunlight that comes through the front of the hall,’ explains Muen. ‘Despite using different projectors over the years, they had not been able to achieve the desired level of brightness and clarity. We therefore proposed left and right LED screens to replace the projectors. With LED technology that includes light sensors to automatically calibrate brightness, we were able to achieve the desired brightness and clarity for the hall.’
Micron WM39B P3.9 HD LED screens were installed, measuring 4m x 2.25m. ‘Since the seating area of the hall remained unchanged, P3.9 screens were proposed as a pixel pitch of 3.9mm was deemed an adequate and cost-effective solution for long-term maintenance,’ says Muen. ‘The screens that were installed are Illuminate Productions’ own brand of screens, called Micron, that are sourced from the best LED screen manufacturers. The version that was installed is a super lightweight wall-mount version with full front maintenance, a high refresh rate and high grayscale. In keeping with Illuminate Productions’ sensitivity for design, an additional maple frame was installed on each screen to bring a sleek finish that complemented the aesthetics of the hall.’
The Illuminate team also installed an ambient light sensor for each screen and Nova MCTRL660 display control systems. Completing the video setup is a Magnimage 750HSS video processor with a pair of HDMI inputs.
‘The audio system was designed by Lambda Acoustics to address some issues presented by the previous system,’ Huang continues. ‘An L-Acoustics ARCS WiFo system was selected as the perfect solution for the hall, given that it harnesses the benefits of a traditional line source system such as close coupling and linearity, and, yet, was able to manoeuvre the challenging acoustics of the space.’
The L-Acoustics setup comprises six ARCS Focus and two ARCS Wide with four SB18i subwoofers. Four X8 speakers have been deployed as delays, while an X12 enclosure delivers down-fill.
‘With the tight horizontal dispersion angle of 90° of the ARCS WiFo enclosures, we were able to minimise the amount of energy hitting the highly reflective wooden side walls,’ says Huang. ‘X8 delays were added to help distribute the coverage evenly at the back of the hall where audibility was a challenge due to the tighter ceiling and wooden side panels. Given that additional seating was added to the hall that pushed the first row forward from the initial planned seating design in 2005, we relocated the main clusters to the correct positions to ensure coverage at the front and added an additional X12 down-fill to cover the blind spots in the middle of the first few rows. The SB18i subs were flown behind the main clusters to improve the distribution of the lower frequencies and to reduce discomfort for the band, who, in the past, used to stand in front of floor subs.
‘This entire setup was accurately mapped out in L-Acoustics’ Soundvision software with the utmost attention to detail to ensure both even SPL coverage and no visual blockages to the screens and the cross in the middle of the hall. We used new, high-quality Canare cabling to optimise the quality of the system with a one-to-one wiring, allowing maintenance workers to easily use the enclosure check function on the LA4X amplifiers that power the system.’
Once the installation was complete, Illuminate Productions’ work wasn’t over just yet. ‘We believe our responsibilities extend beyond just pure installation,’ Muen explains. ‘Our highly experienced operators provided training on the systems installed to ensure the church operators were well equipped and could confidently manoeuvre the equipment.
‘We firmly believe in the need to ensure proper stewardship of church funds. We design and propose systems based on specific needs and to complement how the church ministry is run. It is this unique sensitivity to the needs of the church that makes us a preferred partner of St Andrew’s Cathedral as well as many of other churches in Singapore.’
‘With the upgrades, we have received good feedback on how our worship services sound now and how much clearer and true to life the displayed images are,’ says Peter. ‘We do not have to wrestle with the ambient light coming through via the skylight. We truly believe this was an investment in the right direction. It is becoming more crucial for us to display and convey our messages with clarity, both sonically and visually. This helps us be more effective in communicating to the congregation.’
This article first appeared in the September-October 2019 edition of Worship AVL. Subscribe at www.proavl-central.com/subscribe/worship.