St. Patrick's Parish, Toronto
The present church for St. Patrick's Parish opened in 1908. It had then, as it does today, a wonderfully reverberant acoustic that encourages congregational singing. Unfortunately, this also left the liturgy of the word virtually unintelligible.
The renovation design was overseen by Roberto Chiotti of Larkin Architects. He commissioned us to perform an elaborate set of acoustic measurements in the Nave and help out with any possible solutions. The results of the measurements were clear. For good speech intelligibility, the (useful) early reflected sound must be greater than the (detrimental) late energy. Unfortunately, at St. Patrick's, the opposite was true.
There are two ways to address the intelligibility balance, decrease the late reverberance with a lot of soft material or increase the early energy. The first option would have robbed the room of the beautiful reverberance that was encouraging the congregation to sing. One way to improve the early energy was with a strategically placed sound system. So, rather than 1 or 2 large loudspeakers placed at the front of the room, it was decided to place many more small loudspeakers close to the congregation. Some of the speakers can be seen on the columns in the Image 1.
The church remains a splendid space to sing in and now, just as importantly, the liturgy of the word can be understood.