The SOAR Project

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A historic 18th century Grade II-listed congregational church in Merthyr Tydfil has been lovingly restored following a six-year bid to secure development grants.

Following a spend of £1.4m the building, which had fallen into disrepair, has been converted into a multi-cultural arts, community, educational and Welsh Language Centre, incorporating a new 250-seat amphitheatre; this has been equipped with an end-to-end Harman Pro sound system, supplied by UK and Ireland distributors, Sound Technology Ltd, and installed by our team.

The SOAR Project Installation

The project is the brainchild of SOAR Project’s chief officer, Lis McLean, who secured a total of 13 grants — including £527K from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £300,000 from Heads of the Valleys funding programme. She says the dream for a Welsh community centre of this nature had its origins as far back to 1987.

The driving force behind the flexible multimedia technology was local musician and former London-based pro audio specialist Tim Gray. Brought in to advise Ms McLean, the former Harman Pro reseller contacted his close associate Nick Bellis at Sound Technology. At a site meeting both men agreed that a line array was the only solution.

To achieve a consistent coverage pattern for a wide range of performance — from male voice choirs to musicals, community drama and all aspects of the arts — the project required a professional team of contractors that could provide a complete technical installation, working within the restrictions of a sensitive building: Enter our team, who in addition to the audio, also equipped the building with conventional lighting bars, dimmer racks and LED effects to highlight the magnificent pipe organ, video projection onto an electric dropdown screen

We introduced a custom switch panel in the amplifier rack to control audio signal flow within the Soundweb devices. The configuration uses the logic features within London Architect software to introduce additional auxiliary feeds from Vi1 console through to each zone of the FOH Loudspeaker system to best suiting each engineer’s mixing preference.

The SOAR Project Installation 1

The Soundweb also has the capacity to introduce sources from other areas of the complex on the audio network in the future. In addition to the theatre, the original chapel now houses a dance studio and an exhibition space, as well as music and multi-media rooms.

We made generous provision for tie lines which will serve the many OB trucks that will visit the building as well as those using the other in-house performance spaces. Stage boxes and patch-bays have been installed in all key areas — as a result the dance studio, for example, has already been able to double as an orchestra pit! Microphone signal inputs and returns and comms lines ensure that music from the theatre performance space and dance studio can be captured and recorded in the ground floor studio control room, while separate data lines allow camera and AV feeds signal flow between key points within building.

Now a further grant has since been secured to underwrite the salaries of qualified personnel, such as actress, turned Arts Development Officer and Theatre Manager, Einir Siôn, and house technician Gwilym Pugh which will finally enable Tim Gray to take a step back from the day-to-day running of the venue and concentrate more on his role on the management committee.

“This project has been all about relationships and community support,” said Lis. “The team really cared about the project and what’s driven this is the feeling that everyone wanted it to happen.”

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