FOREST LAKE, MN—Increased musical diversity is opening up houses-of-worship to the influence of songs and hymns of other denominations and genres. This fusion of the familiar and the novel can introduce a huge range of musical styles and arrangements that are not just orchestrations, but part of a growing trend toward a musical hybrid for services, featuring both traditional and contemporary selections.
Hosanna’s worship and music director, Rob Anderson, (at right) with volunteer Max Kelly, pictured with the Yamaha TF-5.
In order to accommodate both sides of this hybrid, many worship venues recognize the need to update their audio systems. Many upgrades aim not only for better sound quality, but also to allow for more inputs, more modern instrumentation and improved monitoring by those on the stage or dais.
Hosanna Lutheran Church in Forest Lake, Minnesota successfully combines both its music and worship styles by adding new technologies that address all of these elements. The church has three services between two meeting areas: the Great Hall is the main sanctuary for weekends, and the Garden Chapel is set up with tables and chairs for Wednesday evenings.
Originally, the church only presented hymns and conventional worship songs, but more recently, changes were made. “We started with very traditional music from a few acoustic instruments and our choir, but the leadership made the decision to present a second service that offered some more modern songs,” offers Rob Anderson, Hosanna’s worship and music director. “People were able to choose which type of service to attend and, eventually, we brought everything together by combining the styles for both services. The response was great.”
At Hosanna, the selections for contemporary music and traditional hymns are mixed together, with both styles employing updated arrangements to include the full band and, in many cases, the 30-voice choir. “Imagine worship songs from Rend Collective mixed with a traditional hymn like ‘How Great Thou Art’,” explains Anderson. “We can perform combined, as the worship band alone, or the choir can sing on their own.”
In most cases, the worship band is comprised of three vocalists, an electric bass player, digital keyboardist and acoustic and electric guitar players. However, in keeping with the fusion of styles, there may also be an upright bass, banjo, ukulele or other acoustic instruments in the mix. The needs of such an ensemble played a large part in the decision to upgrade the audio systems to include digital mixing.
Until recently, the church maintained two aging mixers in the worship spaces. “We knew that upgrading would make a dramatic improvement,” explains Anderson. “The Yamaha TF mixers offered everything we needed for our configurations, but with the same operating system in each model, so it was easier to train our staff and save scenes as we went. The way that Yamaha has designed the system to include one-knob control, and the overall simplicity of the mixer, makes everything easier for us, given that not everyone [involved] has a pro-audio background. Plus, we find that using the Yamaha iOS apps on an iPad or iPhone has been huge, since our placement of the mixers is not always ideal.”
The church replaced its original Mackie analog mixer in the Great Hall with a Yamaha TF-5 digital mixer, and the change was immediately evident. Also part of the Great Hall audio system are Electro-Voice FRI+ loudspeakers for the house and SX300e loudspeakers used as wedges, all powered by QSC CX series amplifiers.
“We liked the first TF mixer in the Great Hall so much that we got a second TF Series mixer, a TF-3, for the Garden Chapel,” recalls Anderson. There, the console feeds a system based around Tannoy VX8.2 loudspeakers and VSX subwoofers, and EV ZX1 Loudspeakers, along with more SX300e loudspeakers used as wedges, all powered by Lab.gruppen E series amplifiers. In both worship spaces, Audio-Technica 3000 series wireless microphones are used to capture speakers and vocalists.
Although the church has several volunteers—ranging in age from teens to 40-plus—handling the mixing duties at front-of-house, no one other than Anderson had much experience with digital mixers. “They’ve grown with the music and systems by necessity,” he says. “The younger kids were able to dig into the mixer and work well with some of the more involved abilities of the TF-5 while the entire team found that they could just jump in and mix easily, as well.”
The worship band uses a combination of monitors. Anderson has wedges for vocalists and guitar players, while the drummer and piano player (Anderson), who are on Shure PSM 600 IEM systems, use the Yamaha MonitorMix app on their iPhones and iPads to control their mixes from the TF-5.
“People are fascinated when they see the iPad as the person mixing moves around the room,” offers Anderson. “It’s fun and interesting incorporating this technology; it’s made a dramatic difference, and it’s a good thing for us.”