Rivers Church Connects to the Congregation with d&b ArrayProcessing

Rivers Church in Sandton, a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa, has built itself a new home doubling its capacity from 1,500 to 3,000 congregants. The church opened its new doors in November 2015, with its fan shaped sanctuary and large single balcony the building Rivers Church separates itself from other churches in South Africa.

However, its not just the architecture that makes Rivers Church unique. Its use of ArrayProcessing through Stageworks allows congregants to stay connected to pastors at all times. Head of Sound for worship music, Andrew Illgner explained: “Our pastors André and Wilma Olivier, never wanted it to be two churches, those at the front feeling fully engaged, and those at the back, a little removed. So it’s in how we address our audience where the benefits of ArrayProcessing have proved such a discernible difference.”

ArrayProcessing is an advanced line array optimisation tool from d&b audiotechnik, but was not yet available when the church first contacted Stage Audio Works. “In terms of audio system design, Rivers Church has used us previously at their Youth Facility and the Durban campus,” explains Stage Audio Works’ project manager Nathan Ihlenfeldt. “They first contacted us about this new-build church two years ago. I spoke with Stefan Goertz at d&b’s Education and Application Support department and we designed a sound solution using d&b V-Series loudspeakers driven by D80 amps. Then AP arrived. We looked very closely at that; it had the potential to directly address that sense of engagement which the Oliviers so clearly desired. Initially the additional amplifier channels required to implement AP made the cost prohibitive, then d&b’s new 30D install amps came along. What was once financially out of reach suddenly became entirely possible.”

As a pairing, Rivers Church benefits very much from using ArrayProcessing but to understand why we first need to understand how the church operates: “We are busy for most of the week,” explained Illgner. “On Wednesday evening we rehearse the weekend service. Across our campuses we have a membership of almost twenty thousand so on Sunday there will be three services, two in the morning, one in the evening. Once a month there is the sister’s ministry for the women, another for the men, and there are volunteer nights for specific projects, plus youth conferences and the like, so there are plenty of demands upon the audio system. For the smaller meetings we might just use the floor section below the balcony.”

Despite improved emotional engagement amongst congregants, it did not come without certain repercussions: “We soon found that elated congregations, especially the younger members, are more frequently attracted to stand up and approach the dias,” said Illgner. “This creates its own problems, not least blocking the d&b E12-Ds installed by Stage Audio Works for frontfill. A quick solution easily implemented by Nathan’s team, was to add a pair of flown V7Ps, the point source V variant. By getting these cabinets flown above head height the problem has been solved. Myself and Ed Helliwell our Technical Director got to hear the V7P at Mannheim along with the AP demo, so we knew what we were getting.”
Illgner concludes by saying “Since we’ve moved to the new church quite a few people have come to me after the service and commented on the difference of experience. They use words like ‘connected’ to describe what they hear, it’s as if the Pastor is stood right in front of us’, they say. So in that sense AP has delivered exactly what we were all looking for.”

Despite all this, its safe to say that Rivers Church has benefited very much from its new church but to be more specific their recent success would not be possible without ArrayProcessing and the support granted from Stageworks.