The Classical Academy in Colorado Springs has equipped its new 635-seat theatre with advanced beam steering and beam splitting capabilities through an audio reinforcement system based on Meyer Sound CAL 64 column array loudspeakers. The discreet loudspeaker installation ensures clear articulation for spoken word and amplified events within a relatively reverberant room acoustic that is eminently suitable for jazz bands and choral performances.

The new theatre building at the academy’s North Campus was designed by LKA Partners of Colorado Springs, under the direction of Principal Architect Jim Cook. The audio, video and stage lighting systems were designed and installed by Bob Langlois and Daryl Porter of Second Opinion Audio (SOA), also of Colorado Springs.

The Classical Academy theatre

Consulting on use and performance requirements on behalf of the school were Theatre Director Kaye von Kessel and Secondary Fine Arts Assistant Brittany Thiele along with Fine Arts Department Lead Carrie Stedman and Bands Director Christina Schwartz-Soper.

For Thiele, who is principally responsible for theatre technology operations, the new system has been a revelation: ‘We have had several different events in the room so far, including a choral presentation that was mostly acoustic and a full Broadway-style musical performance,’ she reports. ‘The coverage was even and smooth whether I kept the levels low or whether I had multiple, highly amplified instruments and singers. I’ve walked the space myself, and I’ve heard only good things from the audiences. I love the headroom I’m getting, as it makes mixing above a live pit orchestra much easier. Also, the CAL loudspeakers are extremely low profile so we don’t compromise aesthetics as we had to in previous years.’

The main proscenium system comprises two CAL 64 loudspeakers, each in a beam-splitting configuration with coverage tailored to the theatre’s two seating tiers – the lower beam with a 20° vertical spread and 4° down tilt; the upper beam with a 10° vertical spread and aimed straight ahead. The Meyer Sound complement also includes two 750-LFC low-frequency control elements, two stand-mounted UPJunior loudspeakers for stage-side foldback, and two MM-4XP miniature self-powered loudspeakers in the orchestra pit for the conductor.

‘The CAL-based system was an ideal and affordable solution for this theatre,’ says SOA’s Bob Langlois. ‘They wanted a fairly long room reverb time for their band and vocal concerts, but they also needed control and intelligibility for jazz concerts and musical theatre. When we arranged a demonstration of CAL technology in the school gymnasium, with its very long reverb time, they were quickly convinced.’

The Classical Academy theatre

The new system received its first major workout with the school’s production of Disney’s Broadway musical version of The Little Mermaid. For Thiele, the clarity and linearity of the system eased some of the complications that often accompany high school productions.

‘We were running 15 body mics for a cast of 50 kids, so there was a lot of switching,’ Thiele says. ‘I had to do some EQ for different voice qualities, but I didn’t have to do corrective EQ to fix things. Also, I didn’t have to worry about fuzz or the system being less conducive to one frequency range over another. Whereas most other systems have a significant volume drop from front to back, which shrinks your headroom and increases risk of feedback, I have not experienced this with the CAL system. The volume decrease is very slight in comparison.’

Although deferring to Thiele on technical matters, TCA Theatre Director Kaye von Kessel is equally pleased with the results: ‘The sound system is awesome,’ she states. ‘Brittany handles the technical side and I get to sit and soak up the results. Also, we have been very pleased with the responsive service of Second Opinion Audio and their readiness to answer all our questions.’

SOA’s AVL package also included a Midas M32 digital mixing console with three DL16 stage racks, a four-channel Clear-Com theatrical intercom, and 70V backstage ancillary systems. SOA also provided the full theatrical lighting system and a 26ft-wide video screen.

Established in 1997, The Classical Academy has an enrolment of more than 3,700 students in seven programmes from kindergarten through senior high, making it the largest ‘brick-and-mortar’ charter school in Colorado. TCA has been recognised with awards including the John Irwin Award for Academic Excellence, a number one ranking from Colorado Grades Schools, and The Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award for the TCA High School and College Pathways Program.

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