Quietness, Comfortable Sound and Excellent Acoustics NAGATA ACOUSTICS


News 09-02 (No.254)

Issued : February 25, 2009

[ Japanese Version ]

Acoustics for Sapporo Kiboh no Oka Church

by Chiaki Ishiwata

The interior of the church
The interior of the church

On a delightful, clear autumn day in October 2008, the Sapporo Kiboh no Oka congregation gathered in their long-desired new sanctuary for a dedication ceremony. The congregation joyously marked the completion of this project milestone before the installation of the church's new pipe organ.

The dedication ceremony included congregational prayers, a sermon, hymns and, in addition, a report to the congregation on the progress of the sanctuary construction project. Because the dedication ceremony preceded the installation of the pipe organ, a piano accompanied the congregation's singing during the hymns. The voices of the congregation filled the new sanctuary with an uplifting resonance as the church members expressed their faith and gratitude.

In 2008, Sapporo Kiboh no Oka Church, located in a residential neighborhood near the landmark Sapporo Dome stadium, marked its 50th anniversary. After successfully completing the construction of a new school building five years ago, the congregation embarked on the addition of its new sanctuary.

<< A Telephone Call from a Member of the Congregation >>

Nagata Acoustics' participation in the church's new sanctuary project began by a telephone call from a member of the congregation. This phone call led to a long back-and-forth chain of emails and more phone calls. We answered questions about Nagata Acoustics' experience with church acoustics, the scope of our acoustical consulting on church projects, how the acoustical consultant cooperates with an architect, the importance of the audio system and what the church could expect in terms of our acoustical consulting fees. Somewhat atypically, our communications continued for more than a year without even one face-to-face meeting. One day, we received a phone call that the church's New Sanctuary Construction Committee had approved the hiring of Nagata Acoustics as the project's acoustical consultant. We signed a contract and, in the speedy timeframe of about six months, both the design and construction of the new sanctuary completed.

<< Negotiating the Best Design for the Sanctuary >>

The New Sanctuary Construction Committee specified a set of requirements entirely consistent with a space intended for worship. Sermons would need to be heard with clarity of sound and the pipe organ music would be expected to fill the sanctuary with the rich sound that is a hallmark of this instrument. As our acoustical design work proceeded we encountered practical constraints. Because of the church's location in a residential neighborhood, the architectural design needed to conform to a building height restriction. In addition, the project had a limited budget.

When an aspect of our design that we considered ideal came into conflict with a practical constraint, we discussed the available options with the Construction Committee and negotiated solutions with the project architect, Mr. Satou, of the firm Kenchiku Keikaku Kobo in Tomakomai City. We arrived at the implemented design through iterative consultations and collaboration.

<< Highlights of the Sanctuary's Acoustical Design >>

For the walls and ceiling of the sanctuary, we specified that the design have a mix of rather large convex and concave surfaces to promote sound diffusion. To avoid sound absorption of the pipe organ's low frequency sounds, we left the wall behind the pipe organ as exposed concrete and we specified thick wallboard of 21 mm. (0.83 in.) x 2 layers for the other walls and the ceiling. Along a portion of the wall behind the dais where a microphone will be used for sermons, we placed some sound absorbing wall material.

Line array loudspeakers installed to the right and left sides of the sanctuary dais
Line array loudspeakers installed
to the right and left sides of the sanctuary dais

The average interior height of the sanctuary is 7.5 m. (25 ft) and the spatial volume is 2,300 cu. m. (81,224 cu. ft). The sanctuary has a maximum occupancy of 200 persons. The pipe organ balcony at the front of the sanctuary has room for the choir and an area for the audio system equipment.

<< The Audio System >>

In choosing the audio equipment, we considered the two key requirements of the acoustics: rich acoustical characteristics for the pipe organ and clarity of speech. We selected condenser microphones and line array loudspeakers because of their ability to deliver clear audio. Also, we installed a digital loudspeaker management processor that enables precise adjustment of the loudspeaker output and ensures that the loudspeakers deliver clear speech.

<< Checking the Acoustics after Installation of the Pipe Organ >>

The pipe organ
The pipe organ

In the days after the dedication ceremony, the Japanese pipe organ builder MaNa Orgelbau AG installed and voiced the church's 13-stop pipe organ. The church began using the pipe organ in late November.

My colleague and I recently visited the church to do a final check of the acoustics, including the pipe organ music. While the reverberation time of the space is not the long ideal length for pipe organ music, the pipe organ music carries mellifluously throughout the sanctuary and I could feel the presence of the bass tones, which is considered by many to be this instrument's most desired and distinguishing characteristic. Clarity of speech during church sermons was an equally important requirement and we achieved an excellent balance between this objective and the desire for rich acoustics that showcase the pipe organ.

As for the congregation's use of the sound amplification system, the first step has been for the congregation to become familiar with the overall longer reverberation time of the new sanctuary. Now that the members are accustomed to the sanctuary's acoustics, they are becoming adept at adjusting the settings for specific situations. While we were at the church, some of the congregation's members and I exchanged tips on adjusting the sound amplification system.

<< Celebrating the Church's 50th Anniversary, and Future Plans >>

As part of the church's celebration of its 50th anniversary year, the congregation organized a chamber music concert in the new sanctuary. The sanctuary's size and acoustics make it a fine venue for this kind of concert. Members of the congregation told me that the trio performance on piano, clarinet and violin delighted the audience.

Sapporo Kiboh no Oka Church has a large parking area and is conveniently located to residential housing in nearby neighborhoods. Building on the success of the first chamber music concert, the congregation plans to schedule more concerts with programs that match the halls acoustics. The next offering will be a pipe organ concert planned for April 29, 2009.

The church's minister and the Construction Committee members unabashedly told Nagata Acoustics that the congregation truly harnessed all its dedication and resources energy to make the sanctuary construction project as successful as it could possibly be. Nagata Acoustics enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with this refreshing and earnest community to achieve the best acoustics possible in their new sanctuary.



Observation Tour of the Salzburg Festival Venues

by Toshiko Fukuchi

Outside the main entrance -- The Great Festival Hall entrance is at the right and the House for Mozart entrance at the left.
Outside the main entrance --
The Great Festival Hall entrance is at the right
and the House for Mozart entrance at the left.

Faistauer Foyer -- At left is the same day ticket booth and at right the cloak. Through the arches at center right patrons enter the Former Summer Riding School and to the left is the House for Mozart.
Faistauer Foyer --
At left is the same day ticket booth and at right
the cloak. Through the arches at center right
patrons enter the Former Summer Riding School
and to the left is the House for Mozart.

Great Festival Hall -- A view of the stage from the balcony. The orchestra pit floor has been raised to the height of the floor stage and the gilded shutter backdrop lowered. This is the configuration for chamber music performances.
Great Festival Hall
Great Festival Hall --
A view of the stage from the balcony.
The orchestra pit floor has been raised to
the height of the floor stage and the gilded shutter
backdrop lowered. This is the configuration
for chamber music performances.

A year ago January, I traveled to opera houses and concert halls in Vienna, Salzburg and Paris. In the April 2008 issue of Nagata Acoustics News & Opinions, I wrote about the four new small halls of the Musikverein in Vienna, and in the December 2008 issue, I wrote about the Musikverein Main Hall. This time, I will share gleanings from my visit to the Salzburg Festival venues and an enjoyable conversation I had there with Salzburg Festival Technical Director Klaus Kretschmer.

<< Overview of the Annual Salzburg Festival >>

As many of you who read this newsletter know, the Salzburg Festival venues are dedicated exclusively to the annual music festival (and an Easter Festival) staged every year from the end of July to the end of August. (In 2009, the dates are July 25 - August 31.) Among the venues are three large halls, the Great Festival Hall, which seats 2,179, the House for Mozart, which seats 1,650 and the open-air Former Summer Riding School, which seats 1,437.

Inside the entrance of the festival's architecturally long and narrow main structure, the Great Festival Hall is on the right, the House for Mozart on the left and the Former Summer Riding School can be accessed through a pair of arches at the far end of the Faistauer Foyer, so-named for the bold murals originally painted in this room by Salzburg local Anton Faistauer. The House for Mozart was renovated in 2006 and, when reopened, its name was changed from Small Festival Hall to its current name in commemoration of the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth.

<< Great Festival Hall >>

Completed in 1960, the Great Festival Hall truly lives up to its name as the main festival venue. The hall stage proscenium can be varied to any width between 18 and 32 m. (59 - 105 ft) and the walls at the stage wings adjust backwards and forwards depending on the proscenium width. Each wing's wall is comprised of five panel sections that can be individually set at the angle needed for a production's stage configuration and stage lighting fixtures can be set up in-between the panels. The immense size of the hall's proscenium is surely one of its most noteworthy architectural elements and, according to Mr. Kretschmer, in practice the festival uses the narrower range of 16 - 24 m. (52.5 - 79 ft).

Of course, the Great Festival Hall's stage interior is designed primarily for opera. Nevertheless, when I visited the Paris Opera Bastille after Salzburg and saw the Parisian venue's stage, I realized that, by comparison, the Great Festival Hall has a very narrow stage interior. For concerts, the hall sets up sound reflection panels that are stored in the stage's fly space when not needed. It would seem that manipulating such large panels into place would be a time-consuming task, but I was told that the setup has been accomplished in even the short time frame of 14 minutes. The sound reflection panels were made in Salzburg by the festival's own workers who also made a set of the same kind of sound reflection panels for use on the House of Mozart stage. In addition to the concert configuration with sound reflection panels, the floor of the Great Festival Hall's orchestra pit can be raised to the height of the stage floor and a gilded shutter can be lowered as a backdrop. When I visited the hall it was set up in this configuration (as can be seen in the accompanying photo).

<< The House for Mozart >>

House for Mozart -- A view from the stage looking towards the audience.
House for Mozart --
A view from the stage looking towards the audience.

The House for Mozart, first opened in 1927, was the Salzburg Festival's main venue until the construction of the Great Festival Hall, when the older structure became referred to as the Small Festival Hall. The Small Festival Hall underwent several remodels before the most recent renovations that completed in July, 2006. The most significant change implemented in this renovation was the conversion of the hall's single balcony seating from one balcony level to two tiers. In addition, the distance from the front edge of the stage to the last row of seating was reduced from 40 m. (131 ft) to 32 m. (105 ft) and the height of the ceiling was raised from 12 m. (39 ft) to 16 m. (52.5 ft). The changes accomplished improvements in the audience sight lines and the hall's acoustics. I asked Mr. Kretschmer to comment on how the hall's acoustics had changed as a result of the renovations. He replied that virtuoso performances sound fabulous in the House for Mozart and less than masterful performances sound like the performances they are.

<< The Former Summer Riding School >>

Former Summer Riding School -- On the left is the stage and to the right the collapsible seating closest to the stage has been stored with the retractable partial roof.
Former Summer Riding School --
On the left is the stage and to the right
the collapsible seating closest
to the stage has been stored
with the retractable partial roof.

Former Summer Riding School -- Looking at the interior of the collapsible audience seating. At right is the portion of the seating that is closest to the stage when set up for use. A cloth cover has been placed over the seating.
Former Summer Riding School --
Looking at the interior of the collapsible
audience seating. At right is the portion
of the seating that is closest to the stage
when set up for use. A cloth cover
has been placed over the seating.

The Former Summer Riding School venue became a familiar location worldwide when the movie version of "The Sound of Music" used it as the backdrop for the Von Trapp family's singing contest scene. As the venue's name tells us, this outdoor theater formerly housed a summer riding academy. Though it is now an opera venue, it remains roofless, though a collapsible and retractable partial roof can be set up and the audience seating is surrounded by walls. Because I visited Salzburg during the off-season, instead of seeing the Former Summer Riding School set up for a performance, I saw how the storable parts of the venue are rearranged for storage when not in use. The collapsible audience seating was stored with the retractable partial roof and the stage was covered with a large protective tarp. A lighting gantry that allows for productions to include a range of lighting effects was still in place.

The first year that the Salzburg Festival held opera performances in the Former Summer Riding School was 1948 when Maestro Von Karajan decided to perform there instead of in the Small Festival Hall (House for Mozart). According to legend, the maestro chose to perform in the Former Summer Riding School space because he disliked the Small Festival Hall.


<< The Festival's Key Statistics and Financial Stability >>

The annual Salzburg Festival lasts 40 days and offers a program schedule of some 200 opera, concert and theater performances staged at the three main venues and at nine other locations. Annual attendance at the festival reaches about 250,000 persons who come to see the 4,000 performers (including orchestra and chorus members). The festival employs a permanent staff of less than 200 employees who work for an entire year to plan and prepare for each festival.

the neighborhood of the halls -- The Great Festival Hall entrance is at the right and the House for Mozart entrance beyond it. Hochensalzburg Fortress can be seen far in the distance.
the neighborhood of the halls --
The Great Festival Hall entrance is at the right
and the House for Mozart entrance beyond it.
Hochensalzburg Fortress can be seen far
in the distance.


The festival earns about 50 - 60% of its operating budget from ticket sales. It earns the remainder of its income from a combination of sponsor donations, media broadcast and reproduction rights, the sale of program books and other souvenir items and government subsidies. Government subsidies account for about 20% of the festival's annual budget, but tax revenues from tourism and sales directly and indirectly related to the festival more than the equal the amount of the government support, proof of the festival's important contribution to the economic well-being of Salzburg City and the region. (Specifics statistics for the 2008 festival can be found on the Facts & Figures page of the festival website.

<< The Festival's Popularity, the City of Salzburg and Maestro Von Karajan >>

The Salzburg Festival began in the 1920s, but only reached its current renown and popularity following the end of World War II. In Mr. Kretschmer's opinion, the festival's rise to prominence as an annual event owes much to Maestro Von Karajan's presence and efforts.

Maestro Von Karajan was born in Salzburg. As I walked from the old part of the city to the festival's main venues, I felt as if I was walking on the set of an opera. The atmosphere in the neighborhood of the halls, their entrances and foyers all exude a splendor that made me catch my breath. Because I visited in January, the venues were unfortunately all silent. Next time I visit, I plan to go when I can experience the Salzburg Festival's wonderful performances.

The Salzburg Festival's official website is http://www.salzburgerfestspiele.at/.



Bidding Sayonara and Thank-you, for Now, to Osaka Festival Hall

by Satoru Ikeda

Osaka Festival Hall, long the venue of choice in western Japan for both classical and popular music tours, temporarily closed its doors at the end of 2008 in preparation for the teardown and reconstruction of a new hall in its same location in the Nakanoshima District of Osaka City. This hall opened a half-century ago, in April 1958. At the time, it put Osaka "on the map" as a city with a world-class hall for music festivals.

From the year it opened, Osaka Festival Hall was the venue of the annual spring "Osaka International Festival" as well as of countless classical music concerts and opera performances, ballet, popular music, jazz and rock ensembles, and traditional Japanese Noh and Kyogen theater genres. Many artists have stood on its stage. For many loyal patrons Osaka Festival Hall has a place in their hearts as a sanctuary to the arts and music, a place they will remember with affection and appreciation.

<< The Hall's Long List of Famous Performers >>

I especially recall Maestro Von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Bayreuth Festival among the many illustrious European ensembles that performed at the hall during their Japan tours, as well as pianist Sviatoslav Richter, who performed at Osaka Festival Hall during its use as a second venue for Expo '70, Japan's first World's Fair.

Of course, I also remember with much nostalgia the performances at the hall by many of Japan's top artists and ensembles, especially the local Osaka Philharmonic under the baton of Maestro Takashi Asahina. The list of classical artists and performances still fresh in my memory goes on and on. Also, for many years the popular Japanese vocalists Masashi Sada and Tatsuro Yamashita used Osaka Festival Hall exclusively for their solo concerts.

In 2008, Osaka Festival Hall hosted both numerous concerts to celebrate its 50th anniversary and year-end concerts to mark the closing of the hall for reconstruction, culminating in a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony by the Osaka Philharmonic conducted by the orchestra's music director, Maestro Eiji Oue. Over the course of 50 years, 40 million people attended concerts in the hall.

<< A Unique Finale Concert for the Hall's Fans >>

The autographs on the rear of the hall's orchestra shell
The autographs on the rear
of the hall's orchestra shell

The commemorative concert
The commemorative concert

On December 22, 2008, the hall's owners, the Asahi Shimbun Company and Asahi Building Co., Ltd. (the hall's owner and operating company) sponsored a commemorative concert with the title "Thank you for 50 years, and to the Future" that included stage and backstage access for all ticket holders. The concert gave a full house of patrons the opportunity to walk out on the hall's stage and to see the dressing rooms, other backstage areas and the rear of the hall's orchestra shell, where the hall's most famous performers have left their autographs.

At the concert that followed the tour of the hall, the program assembled works that spanned the hall's 50 years and evoked the hall's deep connection to many artists and ensembles. This part of the concert, full of nostalgia and memories, bore the title "Eternal Sounds." At the end of the concert, both performers and the audience joined together to sing words of well wishes for the future of the new hall that will be built in the same location.

<< The Reconstruction Project >>

The new hall will be part of the reconstruction project planned by the Asahi Shimbun Company and Asahi Building Co., Ltd. for land on both sides of Yotsubashi-suji Street in the Nakanoshima District. The project will replace the existing buildings with two super skyscrapers, tentatively named Nakanoshima Festival Towers. The new hall will be housed in one of these towers. The project plans a 2013 opening for the new hall.


Nagata Acoustics Inc.

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[ Japanese Version ]