Whitwam delivers ground-up AV upgrade at St George’s Chapel, Windsor

St George’s Chapel at Windsor ranks amongst the UK’s most treasured examples of British heritage. Originally built in the 15th century by King Edward IV, the chapel has been the scene of many royal services and weddings and is regarded as one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings in England. It is characterised by large windows and tall, slender pillars giving the impression of grace and elegance, while the quire features outstanding examples of medieval woodwork and ironwork.

Whitwam AV Integration has installed a totally modern and sympathetically styled AV system that has transformed the way that words and music are experienced throughout the building, blending imperceptibly with the historically rich setting.

The loudspeaker system from Italian manufacturer K-array focuses on providing superior vocal intelligibility in what is a generally challenging acoustic environment with a typical RT60 of 3–4s. Vyper 0.5m-long line arrays form the nucleus of the widely distributed loudspeaker system for the nave, with low-frequency reinforcement from Rumble-KU44 subwoofers hidden behind grilles in the floor where the old heating pipes had once been.

“Our acoustic measurements highlighted that there were areas of seating that suffered from reduced intelligibility, partly because there was only one speaker on every other pillar, and partly due to the age of the original system,” said Whitwam director, Andrew Pymm. “A much better solution was needed which required us to come up with something that was really discreet and visually more acceptable, and which would permit us to place a speaker on every pillar in order to improve the coverage.

Each of the pillars lining the nave carries Vyper-KV52 line arrays – single enclosures on the outsides facing into the side aisles and double-stacked enclosures directed at the seating areas to give additional throw towards the middle of the building. Floor-mounted Kobra-KK52 line arrays are placed for additional sound reinforcement in the Bray and Rutland chantry chapels, and left and right of the high altar at the east end of the quire.

The heart of the signal processing system is a Dante-enabled QSC Q-SYS Core 510i control processor with analogue audio input and output cards, providing microphone switching and volume level adjustment, all managed by a Crestron system.

The building is split up into 24 zones arranged in several bays down the nave, plus three in the quire as well as the high altar and the side aisles and all of these are individually controlled. Audio distribution from processors to the Yamaha amplifiers driving the speaker systems is accomplished via Dante, while there is also Cat5 infrastructure installed around the building.

“Crestron touchscreens provide the intuitive user interface that enables the staff – who are non-technical – to switch on the audio system with one touch and assign sources to various zones using a graphical representation of the building,” said Pymm. “They can adjust volume levels, adjust the mix among a number of live microphones and also control some of the video routing via the touchscreens distributed throughout the building.”

The organ loft has its own dedicated sound and vision facility with a Crestron touchscreen, JVC zero latency video monitor and pair of KEF monitor speakers, allowing the organist to see and hear everything and adjust audio levels if required. A pair of Panasonic AW-UE70 4K PTZ high-definition cameras with preset view positions are installed in the organ loft – one facing west towards the nave and the other covering the quire – which enable the organist to watch for processions entering the North door and to see the conductor’s cues.

Providing voice capture duties are microphones from Audio-Technica – ES935ML6 microline capsules on custom mounts have been installed in various locations around the building and within the woodwork and fabric of the quire. Sennheiser 2000 series radio mics allow for handheld or stand-mounted use anywhere in the building, while for music duties Sennheiser MKH8040 condenser microphones are partially hidden behind the speakers in the nave for picking up the choir so that the organist can hear them clearly.

“The key to success at St George’s Chapel has been the way that the technology all fits together so seamlessly to overcome the acoustic and visual challenges they had in the past and the simplicity with which it can be operated given the vast range of different events that routinely happen in the chapel or just in parts of it,” concluded Pymm. “The staff don’t have to worry or even think about the technology, it all just works neatly in the background.”

Reproduced from Worship AVI Magazine May 2022

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