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A Clear Message from Above: Highpoint Church

Located in Memphis, TN, Highpoint Church is among the growing number of houses of worship across the country that is integrating audio/visual technology into its practice as a means of better serving its congregation. Guided by Lead Pastor Chris Conlee and armed with a vision of leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, Highpoint Church is taking its worship services to an entirely new level and, to do so, recently installed a concert level sound system consisting of loudspeaker enclosures from Valencia, Spain-based D.A.S. Audio and a mixing console from Midas Consoles of Worcestershire, England.

Highpoint Church has experienced steady growth in recent years, and when it reached the point where it outgrew its facilities, the search for a new location led them to nearby Briarcrest Christian School of East Memphis. Briarcrest Christian School is a private, fully accredited, coeducational institution with programs spanning kindergarten through the twelfth grade. Its campus includes a sizable multipurpose room that offers Briarcrest revenue generating potential to help sustain its operations. Upon visiting the facility, Highpoint representatives knew they had located an ideal venue that could serve as an interim solution while they searched for a permanent home—if only they could upgrade the school’s PA system.

A Significant Upgrade
Briarcrest’s multipurpose room was equipped with a rather small, outdated, 80s-era sound reinforcement system incapable of supporting the activities of Highpoint Church. Highpoint Church’s vision for the facility included not just a flown audio system, but trussing for stage lighting as well—all of which would involve considerable cable runs and supporting equipment. While church representatives expected these points to hinder their negotiations with Briarcrest Christian School, school administrators were very open to this idea and were fully supportive of the necessary construction and modifications that were required. In surprisingly short order, the two parties reached an agreement that enabled each organization to benefit from the revitalized hall.

The 30-year old facility features a raked floor that slopes toward the stage and a balcony area. Seating capacity is approximately 2,500—with the main floor accommodating 1,300 people and the balcony able to handle another 1,200. The balcony area can be partitioned when not in use—enabling Briarcrest Christian School to use the area for classroom space that features stadium style seating. While most Highpoint services do not require the balcony area, it is placed into service for other large events such as concerts.

In assessing their sound reinforcement requirements, Highpoint Church officials determined that by suspending the majority of the system, they would have greater flexibility in utilizing the stage area if they were unencumbered by ground stacked loudspeaker enclosures. “We knew that a flown system would not only provide the most even sound coverage throughout the space,” says Daniel Evans, Highpoint Church’s Technology Associate, “it would also facilitate greater flexibility on the stage and surrounding areas—not just for our various worship activities, but for anyone else who might use the system as well.”

After evaluating a number of competing systems, the decision was made to go with D.A.S Audio. Purchased through Tennessee Concert Sound of Brownsville, TN, the system includes thirteen D.A.S. Audio CA-28A self-powered, bi-amplified, two-way compact line array modules combined with seven CA-215A mono-amplified, arrayable subwoofer units. “The fact that our D.A.S. Audio system is self powered was an important consideration for us,” says Evans, “as this eliminated the necessity of not only purchasing separate power amplification, but ensured that the power requirements were perfectly matched to the loudspeakers.”

Putting the Pieces in Place
Working from a design blueprint penned by Tennessee Concert Sound’s Bernie Bernil, installation of the system was handled by the church’s technology team under the direction of Jason Long, Highpoint Church’s Technology Director. The flown loudspeaker system consists of four subwoofers and ten line array modules, configured with two CA-215A subwoofers and five CA-28A modules per side—with the two subwoofers positioned at the top of each array. To provide coverage for the front center seating area, a front fill was created consisting of three CA-215A subwoofers positioned on the floor in front of the stage—left, center, right—and another three CA-28A loudspeaker modules positioned at stage level in similar fashion.

While the system is essentially permanently installed, it is flown in such as way that makes it easy to break down and re-fly should the need arise. “Our system is installed on a semi-permanent basis,” notes Evans, “and thus far, it only comes down for routine cleaning or general maintenance. However, the system is rigged using Coffing 1-ton electric chain hoists attached to the suspension grid in the ceiling area. This, combined with the fact that the D.A.S. enclosures feature captive hardware, makes the system surprisingly mobile.”

Audio mixing for both program and monitor functions are handled via a Midas Legend 3000 52-channel mixer positioned at FOH. By utilizing self-powered loudspeaker enclosures, the system’s cabling is remarkably clean and straight-forward, with left-right program feeds going directly from the Legend 3000’s mains to the suspended line arrays—entering at the top CA-215A subwoofer. All line array elements are cascaded together via XLR connector cables.

For the front fill loudspeakers and the subs, a Drawmer DA-6 balanced distribution amplifier is utilized. The Drawmer facilitates independent level control for each enclosure and is also independent of the left-right mains.

Highpoint Church elected to take a decidedly high-tech approach for its on-stage monitoring. As opposed to the conventional use of floor monitor wedges and sidefills, the church invested in eight Sennheiser EW300IEM in-ear wireless monitor systems. “The wireless monitor system affords users a tremendous amount of on-stage mobility,” reports Evans. “The system utilizes a small bodypack transmitter/receiver and all receivers have an autoscan function that makes frequency selection very easy. Everyone who has used the system has been very impressed.”

In the area of signal processing and microphones, Highpoint Church employs a small, but very capable assortment of equipment. There are two Avalon U5 instrument preamps, along with two TC Electronic M-One XL multi-effect processors that have been placed into service for reverb and delay functions. A Klark Teknik DN9340 Helix digital EQ, two DN504 quad compressor/limiters, and a DN514 quad auto gate round out Highpoint’s signal and dynamics processing arsenal. For microphones, the church uses eight AKG Acoustics model WMS4000 wireless units.

While Highpoint Church’s primary technological focus, thus far, has revolved around its new audio system, the church has also invested in video equipment. A Da-Lite 13’ by 17’ rear projection screen mounted on a truss-frame is available and can be moved into position as needed. Visuals are fed from a Sanyo model XF45 projector. Lighting is provided by Highpoint Church Technology Associate Ryan Stone, using an assortment of conventional lights, twelve intelligent fixtures from Robe, and the newly released Frog 2 lighting console from Zero 88 Lighting.

Mission Accomplished
In addition to its regular Sunday service (with a congregation of roughly 550 worshippers), Highpoint Church also conducts a Tuesday evening Bible study with an average weekly attendance of 300 people. “We use the new sound system for both programs,” states Evans, “and we couldn’t be happier with the response we’ve been getting. The new system is working out just great. In the three short months since the system has been available for use, we’ve had a considerable number of people and organizations wanting to use it for the events they hold at Briarcrest, and we’ve been told numerous times this is the best setup of its kind in the tri-state area, which includes Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee. We’re really quite proud of it.”

When not in use by Highpoint Church or Briarcrest Christian School, the facility plays host to a number of plays and musicals from surrounding area schools and other organizations. New to the facility’s busy schedule are a series of concerts—including recent performances by Christian artist Todd Agnew as well as country music artist Randy Travis. And forthcoming on the schedule is an appearance by folk-rock group Caedmon’s Call.

Stewart Tritt, owner of Tennessee Concert Sound, reports that the audio system is more than living up to the expectations his client had for it, “After an extensive comparison with a number of other systems, the Highpoint team concluded that not only was the D.A.S. Audio system the best sounding system, it was also the best system for the price, and that made their purchase decision that much easier. When you combine performance with value, that’s hard to beat.”

Reflecting on Highpoint Church’s new audio system, its technology staff, and the benefits they bring to those who worship there, Lead Pastor Chris Conlee concluded, “Technology plays a vital role in our worship environments here at Highpoint Church, and under the capable leadership of Doug Pierce, Director of Worship Ministries, the Highpoint Band and our guest vocalists deliver performances that are absolutely inspiring. With the help of our new audio system, these performances have been elevated to an even higher level—enabling us to deliver our message to more people with greater clarity than ever. We couldn’t be happier.”

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