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Acoustics help needed to maximize sound in venue with little reverb

Today my community choirs rehearsed in a performance venue for the first time - the actual performance is in one week. We have never used this venue before and had no idea that we were in for a bit of a shock.   It is a magnificently redesigned church in the round - a great cavernous room with high wood ceilings.    However the four level stage and entire auditorium is carpeted with thick, wool carpet.
 
The carpeted stage is large and the singers stood slightly wider apart than they are used to.  The sound made by 25 singers (we will have 35+ on the day) sounded muted.   We could not believe how little reverb there was, and of course once the venue has people in it, there will be even less.  The music we are singing is particularly vivacious yet none of this  came across the airwaves.   It just felt as if the carpet was sucking all the exuberance out of the singing.
 
We do not have access to a sound shell, and nor would it be permitted in this space.   We are not using amplification, which of course, would probably solve our crisis  (budget reasons).
 
With only a week to go I am asking for help on possible solutions to maximise the singers' sound.   In a place with little reverb and a carpeted floor,  do I clump the singers together rather than space them apart?  Do I re-position them  from 4 levels of singers to 2 levels, closer to the audience?     Do we sing in the middle of this great cavern and have the audience on the stage?  
 
Any suggestions greatly appreciated.
Jane
Replies (6): Threaded | Chronological
on October 19, 2013 1:37am
I know this feeling only too well! One occasion that sticks particularly in the memory is turning up to a town in northern Spain to sing some music by a local composer and instead of the wonderful Cathedral where he had sung as a boy we found ourselves in a carpeted lecture theatre next door. Misery!
I'd say that you need to stand close together and almost sing to yourselves - it's too tempting to try to push the sound into the space in the desperate hope of getting something back, which will just end up in a lot of sore throats. Take every chance to get to sing legato (which may not help your vivacious music!) and use the voiced consonants to help bind everything together. And don't worry if you can't fill the building with sound - draw the audience in by concentrating on the texts and sounding beautiful!
Chris
Applauded by an audience of 3
on October 19, 2013 12:59pm
 Oh, my goodness, how devastating seeing a carpeted lecture room when you were dreaming cathedrals. 
 
Thanks for the suggestion to stand close together, and using legato and voiced consonants to bring it together - they were exactly the kinds of ideas I needed with only 2 more rehearsals to go before we perform.  
Jane
 
 
on October 20, 2013 8:00am
I find it difficult to believe that you will receive a better set of suggestions than what Chris Watson has written.  Go with his thoughts.
on October 23, 2013 3:40pm
Thanks very much, John.
Jane - please do let everyone here know how the concert goes.
Best
Chris
on October 26, 2013 2:26pm
Reporting back post-concert:
 
We had a resounding success with our concert!    We took all of your suggestions and also changed location within the church itself.   We moved to the opposite side of the church and sang in front of the baptismal font, where there is slightly more hard surface.  
 
All of the singers turned up so we had nearly 40.   Instead of 4 straight rows of 10 singers spaced apart on the carpet stage, we had two rows of 20, close together, forming a tight semicircle.  The singers could hear each other much better.   In the excitement of the day (this was our first concert with a paying public) the voiced consonants seemed to come more naturally to them than in rehearsals, and somehow their legato became more exaggerated than I had ever heard them sing before - songs which were just so-so in the lead up to the concert suddenly sprang to life during the performance.  
 
We got tremendously positive audience response which was very gratifying, and the singers are just buzzing about this reception.
 
Thanks Chris and to John for backing Chris's suggestions up - I would have been floundering otherwise. 
 
Jane 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on December 19, 2013 11:57am
Can anyone help me with the opposite problem?  I teach elementary music and choir, and my only performance space is a large, open gym worse than any I have had to use in the past.  Because this thread is two months old, I'm starting a new one with the title: Acoustic help needed for performances in gym.  Please advise me there.  Thanks!
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