Central Synagogue, New York, NY
New York’s Central Synagogue has installed LARES as part of a complete historic renovation. Central Synagogue is one of the nations’ leading reform congregations, tracing its roots to 1839. The Sanctuary building is a National and New York City Historic Landmark, and is the oldest Jewish house of worship in continuous use in the city. During the initial phase of a restoration effort that was started in 1998, a fire broke out which destroyed most of the building, including the roof. Fortunately the ark, and the torahs (scared scrolls) were saved. After much discussion and debate, the synagogue decided to pursue a historical renovation, restoring the room to its original appearance. Additionally, a member of the congregation offered to donate a new concert quality organ (now one of the largest in the country) and its installation was recently completed.

The acoustical consulting firm Walters Storyk Design Group (WSDG) was brought on board to provide technical systems that would allow high quality speech and music reproduction. These systems needed to be integrated in a manner that did not disturb the visual aesthetics of the restoration. Another high priority was the need to provide an acoustical design that would serve both spoken word and the organ.

According to WSDG's Sam Berkow, "The two biggest challenges were the need to hide loudspeakers and the diametrically opposed goals of intelligibility and support for a large (4600 pipe) organ in a 700 seat room. To help reduce the aesthetic impact of the loudspeaker system, a highly distributed loudspeaker system was designed. This is practical with the use of DSP based processing, which can provide many channels of delays and equalization cost effectively. With distributed loudspeaker system, the acoustical critical distance can be reduced, but our calculations showed that there would not be enough acoustical support for a large organ, utilizing natural acoustics, so an electric reverberation enhancement system was designed."

The LARES system at Central Synagogue utilizes four independent LARES Mainframe acoustics processors, nine LARES signal processors, and 64 independent amplifier channels distributed to over 80 loudspeakers located throughout the sanctuary. "The system uses a lot of advanced signal processing to optimize both reflected and reverberant energy throughout the building" said Steve Barbar of LARES Associates. "It is really two separate systems – each having two zones that can have markedly different acoustical characteristics."

For example, the microphones positioned near the choir and organ are fed to two LARES Mainframes. The first LARES mainframe feeds the ceiling and gallery, and the critical acoustical parameters are adjusted to optimize conditions in this large and open volume. The second LARES mainframe takes the same microphones and feeds the underbalcony. Here, the natural acoustical conditions are completely different. The low underbalcony ceiling decouples this part of the Sanctuary from the main volume, and the balcony shades the direct sound. The second LARES mainframe optimizes the early reflected energy – restoring the impact and clarity of both the organ and the choir. Acoustical parameters for the reverberant energy are then carefully adjusted to provide greater uniformity between the main volume and the underbalcony, re-coupling them to the main volume of the sanctuary. Microphones suspended over the congregation are fed to the other LARES mainframes that perform the same function – allowing independent acoustical control of these signals.

Together, these systems enable the spoken word to be clear and intelligible throughout the sanctuary, while simultaneously having clarity, richness and envelopment for music. In addition, the LARES system enables Central Synagogue to develop an active music program by creating different acoustical conditions optimized for the both the new organ, and other musical performances. The first of these is the inaugural concert for the organ:

Date: 04/10/2002
Time: 08:00 pm
Central Synagogue
123 E. 55th St (at Lexington)
New York, NY 10010

Join us at 8 pm for an extraordinary evening of music that includes a dedication of newly installed organs and the world premiere of the concerto, T’fiat Gavriel, in celebration of the life of Gabe M. Wiener, whose passion was music. Program includes works by Bach, Handel, Poulenc, Palmer and Reubke.

Performing will be organist David Higgs, chairman of the Organ Department of the Eastman School of Music and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.
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