A Smokin’ New System

What’s that sound? It’s everywhere, it’s everywhere.

What you hear may be the new surround-sound system at St. Elias Convention Centre in Haines Junction.

With a rollicking concert on September 23, Nicole Edwards and the Joy Seekers “unveiled” a new and sophisticated sound system at the project’s grand opening.

The “joy” was shared by the audience, musicians and – especially – volunteers with Junction Arts and Music (JAM).

“The whole system performed beyond our expectations,” says Dieter Gade, JAM volunteer and kingpin of the three-stage project. “I’m very happy this project is successfully completed.”

Edwards described the improvement as “a smokin’ new sound system – improved dramatically with the panels and such. What a pleasure to play there!”

The new system includes both fixed and rotating acoustic panels on the walls and ceiling.

JAM worked on the $320,000 project for three and a half years – researching, fundraising, designing the system, hiring architects and engineers, and supervising every detail of production and installation.

Gade, a creative and musical audio engineer, designed the actual system, which includes two control rooms with storage spaces, improved control room lighting, and a flexible sound system that works well with or without the bleachers set up. It will even work outdoors.

Part of the system includes pre-cabled sound control for unskilled users. This version accommodates the video projector, disc player, microphones, computers and internet connection.

Weddings and meetings made easy: push one button, the whole system is on.

“No more (cursing while) messing with cables like with the old system,” notes Gade. “And no more borrowing or renting equipment for major events such as the Bluegrass Festival.”

The old system could handle only about two artists with two instruments, he says.

“Performers often told us they were really challenged to do their best with the old equipment.”

Ted Arnold and his crew at Unitech Sound and Lighting used almost 8,000 feet of audio cable to assemble the audio system.

Built-in audio connector panels along the walls and stage area of the Grand Hall provide for extra microphone, instrument, and speaker connections to the main control room.

The front-of-house system has six monitor speakers with its own mixing console and audio racks. The stage has its own monitor mixer and another six speakers.

“That means the performers can hear themselves better, thus can perform better,” said Amy McKinnon, a JAM volunteer, in her welcoming address at the grand opening.

Annie Avery, keyboard artist for the Joy Seekers, is elated.

“Thanks for obtaining such a great sound system,” she said. “I always had my own amp (out there) so I could hear my playing. This time, I turned it off; the monitors are so good.”

Part of the system includes high-definition video projection with surround sound. At the September 23 event, JAM showcased that by screening the jolting animated film, Sintel – the closest thing to IMAX sound that Haines Junction will likely ever experience.

It was loud – and DEAF-initely everywhere.

“It’s a rich, powerful sound experience,” said David Sillery, who attended the opening. “And the high-definition projector puts out a crisp image. I am impressed with a capital I.”

Other snippets overheard at the celebration: “Crystal clear.” “Clarity and warmth.” “Present sound.” “In every seat in the house, the sound is the same.”

The new system is the brainchild of past festival organizers Bob Hayes, the late Richard Godson, and Gade. JAM’s board of directors pounced on the idea, researched it, and followed it up.

“Without Bob and Richard, the project would never have started,” McKinnon told the audience at the unveiling.

McKinnon also commended Gade, who spent more than 700 volunteer hours on the project, and was named Haines Junction’s volunteer of the year on Canada Day.

The new sound project employed a variety of both local and out-of-territory contractors and consultants. Funding came from the Community Development Fund, Lotteries Yukon and Canada’s Cultural Spaces Fund.

No municipal dollars went into the project; Haines Junction’s contribution will be maintenance, insurance and housing for the enhanced equipment.

Before cutting a ribbon at the opening, Mayor George Nassiopoulos told the audience, “I am sure this new system will result in many major events at the convention centre.”

JAM now plans to facilitate weekend workshops in Live Sound Reinforcement and Stage Management.

“We need a few trained people to operate the new system for all levels of events,” says Gade.

For JAM, there is excitement in the wings – considerable fun, learning and economic spinoffs for the community and the territory.

Seems like a smokin’ good deal.

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