Amplifying the choir, good examples?
  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    I recently had a congenial conversation with my pastor about the replacement or renovation of the sound system in our church. One of the topics he raised was the addition of amplification to the choir area. I responded that, while I do not see a need now to add choral amplification, we could use a mic in the area for occasional cantor work. (Now, when the cantor needs to be with the choir because she is needed in the section, we go without amplification. I would continue this practice in most cases.)

    I told the pastor that, while I know it is possible to effectively amplify a choir, it is a difficult and tricky business and one that would take a lot of study and, probably, money.

    He is not going to insist on choral amplification so I don't have a pressing issue at this time. However, I am intrigued by the idea of using high quality amplification for choral music. I hear how beautifully this is done with acapella groups performing in large venues. In addition, the fact that choirs can be very successfully recorded indicates that electronic engineering and a good choral sound are not mutually exclusive.

    I am not particularly interested in arguing with anyone who believes that choral music should never be amplified. I am, however, very interested in hearing from anyone who has heard this well done in church, That is, if there is anyone. I realize that the well-miked choir is a rara avis.
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  • I think that the biggest issue is mic'ing the choir, as opposed to the voices in the choir. The amplification should be placed far enough away from the choir to allow the voices to blend, and the blended sound should be what is amplified.

    As an example, if you were recording a choir, you would not place a mic in front of each singer, but two mics at some distance from them.

    I know the Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati has a small number of hanging mics about 10 ft up a diagonal from the singers, and this does very nicely. All in all, the mics should take advantage of whatever is good in the space's acoustic and gently and discreetly enhance it. I don't think a good deal of money is required; in fact, I think in mic'ing choirs, even where it is needful, less is more.
  • Another question might be why your pastor perceives that amplification would be desirable. I know you are the musician and expert, but have you experienced the way your choir carries through the space at a variety of dynamics & against a variety of instrumental accompaniment? Perhaps there is something lacking from his perspective and that of the assembly.
  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    Thanks Nihil, I know the director at the Cincinnati cathedral and will contact him with this question. I do understand the concept of amplifying the entire sound, not single singers.

    I think the pastor was most interested in mic'ing the cantor, and not the choir. I do listen to the choir, accompanied and, when I can, unaccompanied in the room. The placement of console and pipes in our church makes this easier than in many situations.
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  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 873
    Remember that mic'ing the choir from a distance will also amplify the organ.
  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    EG-very good point and one of the many difficulties involved.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,943
    Which is why the directional qualities and aiming of microphones are an important considerations in addition to location.
  • Yes, in Cincinnati this is less of a problem as the organ speaks from two galleries far above and to the left and right of the choir, as well from the rear gallery (the choir is in the sanctuary).
  • MBWMBW
    Posts: 175
    In my situation, the pipes are in the gallery. There are two identical consoles, one in the gallery and another in the choir area which is halfway down the nave in a sort of transept. The choir is also in this transept area. So, I am fortunate that the organ sound would not be amplified by directional mics at the choir's position.

    From the downstairs console, I can hear both what the organ volume is and have a very good idea of the impact of the choir in the room.
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  • henry
    Posts: 224
    Started using a "boom" mic or whatever the proper name is about a year ago. Mic is supposed to pick-up a group of about 5-6 singers. It was about $500 as I recall. Relatively satisfied, however, as noted it does amplify the organ too. Still trying to place singers where it won't pick up the pipes as well.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,912
    The amplification should be placed far enough away from the choir to allow the voices to blend, and the blended sound should be what is amplified.


    Sound guys don't understand this concept at all. Sure, they know how well their microphones pick sound up from a distance, but they have no concept of choral blend. Example: my student schola sang the national anthem at a university home basketball game last week. There were two microphones available on the floor, which were placed immediately (and I mean, right in front of the child's mouth) in front of only two members (who were not soloists). I placed them further back to capture more of the blended sound, and they came right back in behind me and put them where they were originally. In all honesty, we probably didn't need the microphones, although we sang into a large stadium.
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