Updating the audio and acoustics at a historical church while trying to keep its 1950s-era sound and traditional sanctuary charm intact is no easy feat.
However, that’s exactly what SLR International and Jackson & Ryan Architects (J&R) did at the Westheimer Campus of St. Luke’s Methodist Church in Houston. In order to amplify the speakers and ensure the clearest musical recordings while retaining the original acoustics of the church, SLR, a multi-disciplinary design firm, selected a variety of DPA Microphones’ podium, instrument and recording miking solutions.

The update to the main sanctuary is the first portion of an ongoing project at St. Luke’s Westheimer Campus, which, under the guidance of J&R principle architect John Clements, AIA, will encompass the construction of additional buildings. SLR has collaborated with J&R on several projects requiring AV and acoustical design and this project was another natural fit. 

“The main goal was accurately getting the sound from the chancel and choir into the sanctuary,” explains Thaddeus Leopoulos, Senior Design Consultant at SLR International. “The architecture of the space is Georgian, making it acoustically fantastic for playing period and traditional music. DPA microphones have a wonderful off-axis response that is perfect for settings like this.” 

To accomplish these in-house goals, Leopoulos chose DPA’s d:screet™ 4018F Supercardioid Podium Microphones for the lectern and pulpit and several d:fine™ 4088 Headset Microphones, along with four d:dicate™ 4018C Hanging Compact Microphones situated above the choir. St. Luke’s has dedicated the sanctuary to traditional worship services and hosts many high-profile musicians and theatre groups, requiring high-quality recording solutions that will enable the house of worship to capture not just its services but all who perform there. Leopoulos carefully considered several instrument and recording microphones for the task, choosing the d:vote™ 4099P stereo miking kit, d:dicate™ 4015 Wide Cardioid, d:dicate™ 4006A Omnidirectional and d:dicate™ 2011C Twin Diaphragm Cardioid Microphones. The church also purchased DPA’s four-piece d:vote™ 4099 Classic Touring kit for their other various stringed instruments. 
With the exception of the d:vote™ Instrument Microphones, “all of those other mics are hanging from the ceiling, out in the space and at the mouth of the presidium,” says Leopoulos. “They have the ability to make some incredible recordings. The church has fantastic talent — like Grammy® Award-winners Conspirare from Austin, Texas — who come here to play, so the mics are put to good use.”

In addition to recording performances, the church puts a large emphasis on its live sound. “When you’re dealing with a space that has a longer-than-average reverberation time — like St. Luke’s does — the choice of microphones is very important,” Leopoulos continues. Faithfully reproducing the spoken word and achieving good speech intelligibility in the space is paramount, reinforcing the church’s need for the highest quality microphones. “The end result has been a space that sounds like the architecture intended; and I easily trust a task as important as this to DPA.” 

Having used DPA on past projects, Leopoulos knew before he began that he would specify the company’s microphones for St. Luke’s. “My first experience with DPA was with the d:dicate™ 4018F Podium Microphone and I noticed right away that the build of the microphone was great,” he says. “The attachment points were robust and the microphone exhibited a very even off-axis response, which is very important for situations in which a pastor might be moving around. If you look at the polar response on a DPA microphone, it’s quite amazing. You almost can’t tell one frequency from another; their coverage is so even.”

For St. Luke’s, DPA microphones were “well worth the investment,” he adds. “The church has had nothing but good things to say about their sound system. The microphone is a big part of that, especially on the input side of things.”

With more than 1,000 employees spread across 30 countries, SLR International is a multi-disciplinary firm that provides everything from design to room analysis to industrial/environmental solutions. Its Houston-based office, from which Leopoulos works, is the primary location responsible for architectural acoustic work and audio visual design for North America.

St. Luke’s United Methodist Church was founded in 1945 and held services for several years at the local Lamar High School. Its Georgian-style Westheimer house of worship was completed in 1951 and is currently presided over by Senior Pastor Dr. Thomas J. Pace. 


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