St George's Cathedral Makes A Sound Investment

St George's Metropolitan Cathedral in Southwark, London, has recently made a substantial investment in an extensive new sound reinforcement system, which includes a portable 16-channel Cadac S-Type compact live production console.

Designed by Mark Hornsby for Paul Gillieron Acoustic Design and installed by Orbital Sound, the system is designed to handle the Cathedral's wide variety of events and congregation sizes, forming part of a major £500,000 refurbishment. Key requirements for the sound reinforcement system included scalability and ease of use, incorporating discrete speaker positioning around the Cathedral, and a flexible, mobile mixer.

The Cathedral is the mother church for the Roman Catholic diocese of Southwark, and regularly holds congregations of up to 2,000. Designed by the Victorian architect Pugin, the original building opened in 1848 but was destroyed during the Blitz and rebuilt in the 1950s. The refurbishment program included a complete rewire and the installation of new lighting throughout, as well as state of the art CCTV facilities alongside the new sound system.

Development officer Alex Scott explains: "It was the obvious time to update the sound system, which was originally installed in the early 1990s, and we had a good look around the market. The acoustic in the Cathedral is challenging to say the least, with a very omni-directional sound from the organ and lots of problems with delays, especially for the procession as they get further away. Mark and Orbital came up with an excellent proposal that appeared to give us the best options within our available budget, with a degree of over-specification built in to future proof the system. We now have the ability to zone the cathedral extremely efficiently, enabling us to cater for small services with just 100 in the congregation, to full-scale ceremonies, such as the annual graduation service for South Bank University. We now have a robust, simple system, apart from the occasional minor tweaks, we can just turn it on and get going. The S-Type is a very flexible facility and is a real asset—it can be stored away when not in use, and just plugged in wherever and whenever we need it."

Mark Hornsby approached the design from the perspective of creating an efficient sound reinforcement system with minimal visual impact on the architecture. The system uses small wall-mounted d&b E0 cabinets, complemented by some judicious high-level microphones over the choir to reinforce the organ and the choristers.

The choice of the S-Type was made on his own experience with the console, as he notes: "I use the S-Type on a regular basis as part of my own equipment for summer festivals and corporate events, and am a firm believer in Cadac sound quality and the difference it makes to FOH sound. We wanted to give St George's a system that would be able to evolve, as well as one that sounded great and was straightforward to use. The S-Type fitted the bill on all counts."

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