After 32 years at the Herbst Theatre, San Francisco’s City Arts & Lectures has moved its presentations two blocks away to the Nourse Theatre. Through a Meyer Sound MINA™ line array loudspeaker system, audiences of up to 1,680 are drawn into intimate, thought-provoking conversations with leaders of thought and culture. They include luminaries such as former Vice President Al Gore, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and best-selling authors Michael Lewis and Joyce Carol Oates.
“This new Meyer system has taken the sound to a level of quality that amazes us,” remarks Sydney Goldstein, the founding executive director of City Arts & Lectures. “With the spoken word, standards for clarity are extremely high, and in that regard there are simply no bad seats anywhere in the Nourse.”
Limited resources were available for acoustical treatment when City Arts & Lectures relocated to the Nourse Theatre, a 1920s high school hall that later fell into use as a storage facility. As a result, loudspeaker system intelligibility became a top priority for Mark Roos, audio system designer and project manager for local systems integrator BBI Engineering.
“MINA arrays were an ideal solution,” says Roos. “They are a perfect fit for the room, and we split the arrays into two zones so that balcony coverage could be turned off if those seats aren’t used, resulting in better clarity below. The fact that they are self-powered was also a plus, as we had little room for amp racks.”
In addition to the 16 MINA loudspeakers, the Nourse installation also comprises seven UP-4XP 48 V loudspeakers as front fill, four 500-HP subwoofers, and a Galileo® loudspeaker management system with two Galileo 616 processors.
Goldstein notes that the new Meyer Sound system is capable of supporting folk and jazz musical events as well as speech. “Sound is by far the most important factor when involving the audience in a personal conversation,” says Goldstein. “With this Meyer system, if you close your eyes, you imagine yourself in a smaller, more intimate space.”
For most presentations at the Nourse, Technical Director Masae Aitoku gives the guest speakers and interviewers Countryman E6 headset microphones with Shure BETA 87 handhelds for audience Q&A, which are all transmitted via Shure UHF-R wireless systems. The mixing console is a Yamaha M7CL.
Launched by Goldstein in 1980, the non-profit City Arts & Lectures offers more than 50 lectures and onstage conversations each year, along with occasional surprise performances, film tributes, and concerts, which are broadcast nationally on over 170 public radio stations. Presenters include outstanding writers, critics, scientists, performing artists, and cultural figures from around the world.
The Nourse Theatre is owned by the San Francisco Unified School District, with operations managed by City Arts & Lectures.