Right Gear, Right Time, Right Space

by Thomas S. Friedman
in Installations
Parkway Presbyterian Church in Cumming, GA
Parkway Presbyterian Church in Cumming, GA

Elements for Success Combine at the Parkway Presbyterian Church

Not every church is a megabuck, 140 dB rock ‘n’ roll concert-level installation project. And that statement certainly contains a lot of truth. Every installation and situation is different, but in every case — large or small, loud or soft — matching the right gear to the job is an essential part of achieving a successful upgrade project.

Clearly, updating and upgrading audio systems in worship facilities offers many benefits for both venue and congregation alike. For example, in an environment where two distinct styles of worship music are involved, the challenges of multiple input lists during the course of a single day can become unnerving with an analog mixer. Such was the case with Parkway Presbyterian Church in Cumming, GA, where worship director Gregory Case leads upward of 300 people during two services every Sunday.

The church serves a variety of needs, ranging from weekly traditional and contemporary worship services to children’s programs.

Identifying a Need

“We have two completely opposite types of services every Sunday,” reports Case. “Our early service is traditional with our choir, hymns and a considerably lower overall volume, but it is our second service that has more contemporary Christian music with a lot more going on.” For the later service, Case shares the stage with a digital keyboard player, bass player, background singers and, in some instances, two acoustic guitars.

Parkway Presbyterian Church is approximately 15 years old, but the structure is closer to 25 years. The old system’s capabilities presented more than a few challenges in terms of the church leadership’s plan to improve audio quality and versatility, as well as control of the monitor systems by the musicians. They contacted AV integrator Sound Enterprises (in nearby Lawrenceville, GA) to help them determine the appropriate improvements. Working with the specific needs, budget and potential for expansion presented by the church, a Yamaha TF5 digital console and Yamaha Tio1608 compact, two-rackspace 16x8 stagebox with Dante were selected for the install.

Integrator Devon Patrick was familiar with the needs of the church.

Understanding the Learning Curve

The Sound Enterprises pro-audio contractor working with Parkway Presbyterian is Devon Patrick, who was already connected with the church after serving there on a special ministry. “We work with a lot of churches that are this size, and the board of directors contacted me to help address this upgrade,” says Patrick. As is often the case with many houses of worship, the people mixing for the church are typically volunteers, and anything new can present a learning curve.

“Technology relies on operator knowledge, and there are times when a heart to serve may not come with as much experience, but that’s one of the areas where the Yamaha TF5 helps us out,” Patrick explains. “It’s more straightforward, especially with the presets the consoles offer for branded microphones that make getting a sound easier, especially when our volunteers are running sound. They are more inclined to ask for help, and they seem less intimidated by this mixer.” Parkway Presbyterian also makes use of the Yamaha MonitorMix iOS app that replaces their older, bulkier hardware for setting levels on the stage.

Regarding its tech team, Case agrees: “We have a few volunteers at front of house that run our Yamaha TF5, and it’s great, because the mixer is so novice-friendly.” Prior to the upgrade, Parkway had a 32-channel Behringer analog mixer. After considering several brands and models of digital mixers, the church felt that their volunteers needed something more intuitive with greater growth potential for their long-term needs.

Working with Sound Enterprises to address all of their needs, both technically and musically, the clear choice was the Yamaha TF5. According to Case, “the TF5 really boosts the confidence of the volunteers [running sound]. They are less flustered and more encouraged knowing that they can do a better job with this board. Also, there is huge brand support in the worship community.” Their entire team agrees that the TF5 adjusts EQ, gain, and compression easily for their volunteers while viewing the changes on screen.

In addition to the TF5, Parkway added in-ear monitoring with Rolls personal headphone amplifiers and the Yamaha MonitorMix app for iOS devices, which allows praise band members to control their own monitor input levels. In this situation, where the church presents two distinct worship services with dramatically different input lists, the volunteers make use of both the simplest and the more involved TF5 features. From scene recall to mute groups, the TF5 saves time.

Worship director Gregory Case in the church’s sound booth, with the Yamaha TF5 console.

Ready for the Future

Case also likes that the TF5 offers expansion capabilities, which can grow as the church’s needs continue to develop. “There are more renovations possible,” says Case, “and based on this success and reliability, the idea of adding more instruments and vocals is something we can plan for."