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The Actors Church Covent Garden

Following a request by highly respected theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh, Autograph were tasked with the supply, design, installation and programming of a new sound system at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. The church is affectionately known as ‘The Actors' Church’ because of its long association with the theatre community.

Autograph subsequently supplied an extensive range of equipment including eight EM Acoustics I-2 speakers on the ground floor of the church. The task was complicated by the building’s Grade 1 listed status and in fact the old system had been there so long that various plaques and memorial pictures had been placed around it on the walls! The sound had to be distributed evenly throughout the building and the EM Acoustics I-2’s were ideal for the task, since their tightly-controlled dispersion prevents unwanted reflections from hard surfaces, allowing the direct sound to reach the listeners instead of lots of unwanted echoes.

Combined with Autograph’s system design and loudspeaker placement, the I-2’s ensure all relevant areas are covered smoothly and evenly, without being too loud for the people sitting close to the speakers. There are also two EM I-2 speakers on the balcony, plus two JBL Control One loudspeakers in both the foyer and the vicar’s office. Three MC2 T2-250 4-channel installation amplifiers provide system amplification, while the speaker processing provided by the Allen&Heath iDR-8 gives non-technical operation at the touch of a button. The IDR-8 allows recall of system presets, levels and muting from the front panel of the iDR-8 or from three other locations using the Allen&Heath PL range of wall plates and controllers. Overall the system includes one PL-10, two PL-4’s and two PL-5‘s, plus a PL-10 in the balcony for the organist to control overall levels of CD, external mixing console input, two radio microphones and two lectern microphones.

A further PL-4 in the vicar’s office allows control of the foyer and vicar’s office levels - sound is needed in the office so the vicar and other members of the clerical team can hear the service when they are engaged in other duties. The PL-4 in the main room allows levels and routing to be controlled by staff, while using the PL-5 allows for infra-red control by the vicar to maintain good levels in the building without having to walk to the controls. As the vicar moves around the building a lot it was necessary to allow for wireless control, and the PL-5 / PL-4 combination was a discreet and cost effective solution.

Additional equipment supplied as part of the re-fit included Sennheiser G2 EW300 series handheld and belt pack wireless microphone systems, utilising Countryman B3 microphones. A voice assistive listening system was also needed for the building and a Sennheiser Infra-red system was chosen as the best option for the environment. Within the church there are many memorial plaques to various actors in the route needed for the loop, most notably that commemorating Charlie Chaplin. The infrared system was chosen as this negated the need for intrusive wiring and allowed both lower and upper levels to be covered with the assisted listening system. Wired microphones were installed at the pulpit and the reading lectern, both Milab VM44 models, which give impeccable clarity and a response that suits all voices.

Rector Simon Grigg said, ‘We are absolutely delighted with the new system. Obviously, our first thanks go to Sir Cameron, whose generous suggestion (very typical of him) this was. But Autograph were not only utterly professional, as you would expect, but they were also a total joy to work with from beginning to end. They really listened to what I wanted, and respected the special characteristics of this Grade I listed building. Although they are obviously technically very knowledgeable, they installed a system that is very easy for a layperson to operate. The installation was done very smoothly, and we laughed a lot. Their back up has also been first class – including one day when some workmen damaged the system just before a memorial service, and they dropped everything to come and fix it. I am really very grateful to everyone concerned with the whole project.’

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