Originally known as “Free Church” when it was founded in 1848, St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield, Massachusetts is one of the nation’s oldest predominantly African-American churches, and its history is intertwined with the history of advancing human rights in the United States. One of its founding members was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln, and John Brown, abolitionist and hero of Harper’s Ferry, was a member when he lived in Springfield. St. John’s Congregational Church served as a busy stop on the Underground Railroad, and over the years the church has enjoyed visits from luminaries such as Sojourner Truth, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Jesse Jackson. Membership swelled in the 21st Century, prompting the church to raise funds for a new 800-seat sanctuary on property across the street from its existing, 100-year old building. Recently completed, the new sanctuary features a Danley Sound Labs sound reinforcement system that delivers precise intelligibility and soul-moving bass.
“St. John’s Congregational Church has a high-energy contemporary music program, and they wanted a sound reinforcement system that would really support and extend that aspect of their services,” explained Victor Puddy, chief engineer with dB Audio & Video. Getting it exactly right was so important that the church officials sought recommendations for integration firms from friends around the country. Georgia-based dB Audio & Video came highly recommended, and a small contingent of church officials flew down to Gainesville to meet with the folks at dB Audio & Video and to tour some of their local installations. They were impressed and hired the firm to design and install the new sound reinforcement system. To minimize time away from home and family, dB Audio & Video technicians pre-fabricated as much of the system as possible in their Georgia shop.
“To meet their needs, we had to design a sound system with great intelligibility, musicality, and low-end extension – even and especially at high SPLs,” said Puddy. “They wanted to feel the grooves of their seven-piece contemporary band, not just hear them. Danley Sound Labs loudspeakers deliver superior speech intelligibility, and their exceptional pattern control keeps energy on the congregation and away from the walls. Of course, the low end from Tom Danley’s subwoofer designs is phenomenal.” A single Danley SH-96 mounted at the ceiling above the stage covers most of the seats, and a pair of Danley SH-60s on either side provide fill. A Danley SH-100 mounted behind the SH-96 and facing the opposite direction covers the choir. Two Danley TH-115 subwoofers mounted on the floor deliver generous bass.
An Allen & Heath GLD-80 digital mixer (paired with a digital snake for the stage and a second digital snake for wireless microphone receivers and playback devices) provides a flexible and recallable front end. A dozen Shure ULX wireless microphones guarantee excellent reception and fidelity at the sound source. Output from the mixer feeds a Danley Sound Labs DSLP-48 signal processor, which in turn feeds RMX 450 and 1850 amplifiers. A new Panasonic HD video system complements the sound reinforcement system. High-definition cameras capture video of the service from different angles and distances and project them on two screens behind the stage, and to one on the back wall for the choir. In addition, the HD video signal is distributed throughout the building.
“They’ve been using the new system for several weeks now, and it would seem that everybody is in love with it,” said Puddy. “They were especially impressed by the even coverage and the tremendously deep and clear bass response.”