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St. Bernard catholic Church

Green Bay, Wisconsin

The sound system and acoustics in this late 1960s Catholic sanctuary were adequate for organ and a small choir but fell increasingly short as the church expanded its music ministry through the 1990s. As the choir grew to nearly 40 members and the church added a rock-and-roll style praise band, the parish council realized they needed a new sound system.

“When we brought in the synthesizer the speakers above kept cutting out,” says Joe LeBeau, director of liturgy and music at St. Bernard. LeBeau brought in Lewis Sound, and our engineers did a complete analysis and computer model of the church using EASE software.

Based on the computer analysis, we designed a new sound system using a split pair of 3-way speakers facing the congregation, a second rear-firing split pair for the chancel area, a choir monitor system and subwoofers.

The design engineer was able to re-utilize an older Yamaha mixing console from the existing sound system for 16 new microphones used by the choir. All of the audio is then passed through a BSS SoundWeb digital signal processor, which allows sophisticated timing and equalization adjustments, as well as providing simple-to-use presets and volume control. The system is operated from a small wall panel in the sacristy or a duplicate panel at the soundboard.

Creating presets is the key to automating a church system. “On your average Sunday you’re running all of the sanctuary speakers and you want to equalize to sound best with a large crowd,” says Susan Lewis. “We’ll give the pastor or choir director a button that says “Sunday Service” and all the adjustments we set up for a typical Sunday will load from memory. A “Wedding” button may bring up three quarters of the speakers and a “Funeral” preset even less. “The pastor can put on his lavaliere microphone, pick the scenario he feels is appropriate, and the sound system delivers the necessary audio.”

The Lewis Sound design team also included speakers in the narthex and in a small chapel at the rear of the sanctuary. The chapel is also controlled by presets on the SoundWeb, which can treat its components as a separate system or combine them with the sanctuary system. On Sunday mornings parents of small children can sit in the chapel, see the main service through windows and hear it through the combined system.

Read more about AV systems for places of worship.