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Shows at Dryden’s concert hall will soon be looking and sounding even better.
The Dryden Entertainment Series (DES) and the venue, managed by the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board will put two federal grants to use to install a new sound system and more versatile LED (light emitting diode) stage lighting.
Canadian Heritage will provide $58,000 in funding — $38,000 through the Canada Cross Cultural Spaces Fund and an additional $20,000 through the Canada Arts Presentation Fund. Kenora MP Greg Rickford announced the funding at The Centre Feb. 20.
The upgrades will take place in the coming months with special training sessions for entertainment series volunteers who assist in sound and lighting production.
One immediate change patrons will notice will be the permanent installation of a sound mixing table to be recessed into the space of four or five seats at the top of the first section of seating. The building’s original design placed the sound booth in the back, upper reaches of the space — far from the optimal positioning.
The new dedicated sound mixing space will occupy the typical position favoured by most sound professionals visiting the building without blocking the corridor between the two seating sections.
“Working together with the other northern communities, our tendency has been towards expanding the kind of entertainment we bring in,” said the Dryden Entertainment Series’ Judith Hamilton. “We’ve had a number of big names and big names need more capacity. So this really allows us to bring in a lot of performers that we have not been able to look at before. We’re now able to say to them, ‘come we can pretty much give you all that you need’.”
Behind the scenes, stagecraft volunteers like Rick Smith are brimming with delight over the new possibilities offered by better lighting. The powerful LED upgrades can cycle through any colour in the spectrum without the need to install coloured ‘gels’. A new lighting board will be installed in the upper booth.
“Rick has been itching for the last year or two to be able to offer more,” said Hamilton. “He’s certainly planning to take the training course. Since he works with not only the entertainment series but a number of other organizations that put stuff up on stage, he’s really thrilled.”
Facilities manager John Carlucci shows a sonor-generated acoustic map of the concert hall space revealing ‘dead spots’ — areas of diminished sound pressure that exist under the current speaker configuration. A second acoustic map, projects a much more even distribution of sound under the new system.
“It’s a very high-end and simple system to operate,” said Carlucci. “The system now is ten year-old technology and you may notice that if you move around there are differences in the sound. The new speakers will fill every gap.”
Carlucci adds that many visiting performers opt not to use the ‘house’ sound system at present. He expects that might change in the near future.
“We’re going to try and make them use it,” he said. “I mean if you have a really high-end, big production show then we just don’t have the equipment. But if they have a digital system then they should be able to easily plug into our stuff and have it work for them. It’ll make a big difference.”
By Chris Marchand