Music Everywhere, But Not a Note to Sing

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

How the Need for Intimate Worship Birthed a New Building Project

Six people meeting in a living room church for two years should be an unpleasant experience, but, for Lake Valley Community, it wasn’t. Faced with outside criticism questioning their legitimacy, the stalwart original members stayed the course and began to influence the surrounding community of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Often called the Las Vegas of the Ozarks, Hot Springs had developed a reputation as a difficult mission field due to the influence of the occult and tolerance of vice. In contrast to the negative practices around them, the members of Lake Valley practiced an open, unconditional love that melted the chilled hearts of the local residents and caused the eventual blooming of the membership to its current level of four hundred. Keeping the intimacy and warmth of the worship services that fueled their agape love became the driving force behind the church’s unusual building and its unique use of technology.

Co-pastor Dru Dodson, a mechanical engineer turned seminary graduate, could not have chosen a more difficult rookie assignment than Lake Valley. However, as a Hot Springs native, he knew the area and its spiritual dearth well and was bolstered by unwavering support from the church elders.

After the living room period and subsequent school auditorium locales, an opportunity to purchase seventeen acres presented itself to the congregation. Instead of building a grand facility or an interim building, the church developed a plan to create an initial phase that would house the sanctuary and several large seminar rooms as well as extensive children and youth facilities, all within one cost-effective outer structure.

The design of the sanctuary carried with it a primary concern that each attendee be afforded an intimate proximity to the proceedings. To that end, the architect employed a relational seating arrangement with a series of U-shaped rows of padded chairs around the Lord’s Supper table. Quick to correct any reference to a standard communion table, the pastor and staff point to the literal dining room table, complete with chairs, positioned as the room’s centerpiece to emphasize the difference. Since communion is held each Sunday at six stations throughout the room, the feeling is quite akin to a family gathering for a meal. To retain the familial atmosphere, the audio and video systems were designed to draw the attendees into participation in both the music and teaching aspects of the service.

As a member of the band Glad for thirteen years, Jim Bullard had sung in every conceivable environment, so he knew the less than sterling acoustic reputation of multipurpose rooms. When he became the worship pastor at Lake Valley, he was placed in charge of procuring the audio and video systems and tasked with making all the right decisions in a cost-effective manner.

From his days with Paul Baloche and the Maranatha Praise Band, Jim knew he could call on National Sound and Video in Atlanta, a Maranatha sponsor, to deliver the systems on time and on budget. Creating Carnegie Hall sound from a gymnatorium environment was not going to be easy, especially in light of the church’s budget restriction, but application specific planning proved to be a successful antidote.

The first consideration was adequate visual and auditory coverage in the semi-hemispherical relational seating environment. Through analysis, it became clear the best location for the speaker system was directly above the Lord’s Supper table, forward of the stage area, with a steep rake to address the front rows while avoiding spillage onto the walls and ceiling.

A three-segment arrangement of EAW MK series enclosures in an aesthetically clean grid provided the necessary mid/high coverage while two OAP LF-118 subwoofers were surface mounted at a trihedral juncture above the exit doors to ensure sufficient bass response. With some judiciously applied signal delay and some creative frequency shading, the system sprang to life with full bandwidth coverage and no gain-before-feedback issues. Four GPS series switching power amps from Peavey, along with the Peavey DSP-based CEX-5 processor handled the crossover and amplifier functions.

On the visual side, an initial plan to mount the projectors from the ceiling was dropped in favor of a more eye-pleasing position on the tech booth balcony. With the just-in-time arrival of Buhl long-throw zoom lenses, the two Hitachi CP-X980 projectors were able to fill the 7.5′ by 10′ Da-Lite screens with clear images visible from almost every seat in the sanctuary. To meet the church’s need for switching capability on a limited budget, FSR scaler and distribution units were used for input selection and signal routing to the two projectors and a local monitor.

Stage monitoring for the all-contemporary music service reflects the old and the new, with standard floor wedges complemented by two Oz Audio OM-6 headphone monitoring systems that allow a “more of me” self-generated mix for the musicians and vocalists. With no acoustic piano or traditional organ as part of the service, the sound system could be optimized for the specific requirements of the praise team without compromises for the feedback issues of a reinforced piano and the multiple source problems presented by a separate organ sound system.

All the technology at Lake Valley is designed to enhance the music worship experience by keeping sensory input consistent with the tight physical proximity of the congregation to the worship leaders. The goal is to prevent a concert feel that often leads to the attendees’ passive response to the events of the service. With musical accompaniment often limited to acoustic guitar and keyboard, Jim Bullard relies heavily on the audio/video system to draw the laity into the “why” of the service without overwhelming them with the “wow” of the technology. Lake Valley now has both the intimacy and the outreach necessary to carry on a successful ministry to the people of Hot Springs.