Built in 1850-1852 on land donated by American Revolutionary War General Thomas Sumter, the Church of the Holy Cross is recognized as a National Historic Landmark, with Bavarian-made stained glass windows and one of the few original Henry Erben pipe organs in existence in the United States. The church is the burial site of former US Ambassador Joel Roberts Poinsett, botanist and namesake of the poinsettia. The church walls were constructed by a technique known as "rammed earth" which creates a structure that is durable and holds excellent thermal characteristics. And in fact the building has survived an earthquake, tornados, and hurricanes. It was termite damage to the wooden parts of the building that ultimately required restoration of the church.
The thought of renovating a 160-year old historic treasure can be daunting to say the least, and even more so when integrating state of the art audio technology while complying with the strict rules for the maintaining the building's historical classification.
As Design Consultant Adam Dox of Columbia, SC-based Advanced Video, Inc. explains, the brief was quite specific. "They wanted both wired and wireless microphone systems and an amplification system that blended in seamlessly with the venue," he says. "The speaker system needed to be 'invisible' and not detract from either the visual aesthetics nor the acoustical ambiance of the sanctuary." Additionally, the church wanted minimal controls available, with only an "on" or "off" setting.
High ceilings, hard surfaces and weight limitations on the ceiling trussing further complicated the design, limiting speaker placement within the room's exceptionally live acoustics.
Eight Renkus-Heinz TRX 81/9 loudspeakers provided the ideal solution. "The speakers had to be relatively small in size, yet powerful enough to fill the sanctuary," says Dox. "They also had to have the ability to be stained to blend in with the existing wooden ceilings. The TRX 81/9 provided outstanding full range performance in an extremely compact size, and allowed us to mount the speakers in a variety of ways." Crown XLS402 amplifiers power the system, and a Biamp Nexia CS provides mixing and system DSP.
Exemplifying the old adage "it ain't over 'till it's over," once the installation was completed the site then had to be reviewed and approved by the South Carolina State Historic Preservation. "Two of the eight speakers had to be moved and re-oriented from a horizontal mounting position to a vertical position," Dox reports. "The drivers in the speakers had to then be re-oriented and the DSP had to be adjusted. The enclosures had to re-stained to match the wood ceiling color as close to an exact match as possible."
All the hard work and attention to detail ultimately paid off as Dox notes, "In November, 2010 the architects on the project, Cummings & McCrady, Inc., received the Honor Award for the restoration of the church. We were only a small part of this award, but our solution certainly assisted in the overall project."