Quietness, Comfortable Sound and Excellent Acoustics NAGATA ACOUSTICS

News 10-03 (No.267)

Issued : March 25, 2010

[ Japanese Version ]

The Seinan Gakuin University Chapel's Pipe Organ

by Dr. Minoru Nagata, Founder of Nagata Acoustics

I wrote about the construction of Seinan Gakuin University's new chapel building and its acoustical design in our December, 2008 newsletter During the new chapel's construction, the pipe organ from the old chapel was disassembled and the university stored it on campus.

<< The Pedigree of the Chapel's Pipe Organ >>

Hiroshi Tsuji (1933 - 2005), Japan's first full-time, professional pipe organ builder, built the chapel's pipe organ. It was the 44th pipe organ he built. Seinan Gakuin University commissioned the pipe organ in 1986 to mark the 70th anniversary of the university's founding and installed it in the old Rankin Chapel building, in the stage right corner of the chapel's stage.

The pipe organ is in the German Baroque style of the 17th and 18th centuries. It has three manuals and a pedalboard, 33 stops and Rückpositive (7 stops). It is an instrument of medium size.

<< Location and Installation of the Pipe Organ in the New Chapel >>

Tsuji Organ Builders disassembled the pipe organ. For the later reassembly and voicing, the university hired Fujiyoshi Organ Builders. Overall, pipe organ builder Shogo Fujiyoshi and a team of workers with whom he regularly collaborates managed the entire process.

Photo 1: Interior of the new chapel
Photo 1: Interior of the new chapel

In the new chapel, we located the pipe organ at the front of the chapel, above the rear of the stage and at the center of the balcony. Our design replicated the original support structure used in the old chapel. We used only fir board of 30 mm (one inch) thickness and pine cross-members below the pipe organ, creating a structure that makes it easy for the pipe organ to resonate in the chapel. Also, we placed the pipe organs' air blower and bellows in a wind chest that we created in the support system below the pipe organ.

To maximize the effectiveness of the wood support system and the wind chest while creating a visually pleasing appearance, we placed an openwork fa?ade in front of the opening of the wind chest that faces toward the sanctuary. We also installed a pair of doors in front of the wind chest's opening. The doors will be kept closed when the pipe organ is not in use, providing sound isolation between the wind chest and the stage, and a sound reflecting surface in the stage area.

<< Findings from Acoustical Measurement Testing in the New Chapel >>

When the pipe organ's voicing and fine tuning was nearly complete, on January 12, 2010, we performed a combination of a listening test of the pipe organ and quantitative measuring of the chapel's acoustical characteristics with the pipe organ installed. For this activity, we requested Seinan Gakuin's organist and music director, Michiya Azumi to perform on the pipe organ.

Fig 1: The new chapel's reverberation times before and after installation of the pipe organ
Fig 1: The new chapel's reverberation times
before and after installation of the pipe organ

Our measurements indicated that installation of the pipe organ resulted in a 10% shortening of the chapel's reverberation time. The measured values can be seen in Fig. 1.

During the acoustical tests we discovered a new issue that required attention and a solution. From the opening of the wind chest below the pipe organ we could hear an audible sound of air blasts passing through the wind chest's opening. Even when we closed off the opening, the sound level of this noise reached 40 dB on stage. However, by the same token, we also confirmed the merits of the support system's design. When we listened to Mr. Azumi perform on the pipe organ with the wind chest's pair of doors open, the instrument's sound was full of excellent, bright-colored tones and clear contours.

We investigated the noise issue and ascertained that a bend in an air supply duct was causing air to eddy inside the duct at the location of the bend. We informed Mr. Fujiyoshi and asked him to resolve the problem, which he promptly did.

<< Pipe Organ Unveiling in the New Chapel >>

The university held the chapel's pipe organ unveiling on the afternoon of January 24, combining the event with the installation of Mr. Azumi as music director. A full capacity audience attended in the 904-seat chapel sanctuary. From the works of Heinrich Scheidmann, J.S. Bach and Mendelssohn to contemporary compositions, well-known pipe organ music filled the space of the new chapel with vivid, many-colored sound.

For this performance, I sat in the front row. Through the openwork fa?ade of the wind chest at the rear of the stage, I could just barely see the movement of the bellows. The unwanted air noise was a thing of the past.

In Kyushu's Fukuoka City, Seinan Gakuin University's chapel will hold its next pipe organ concert on the afternoon of Saturday, June 19. More information and tickets can be obtained from the university's office of religious affairs, through the university's Web site or by phone at +81-92-823-3339.

Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall Unveils Its New Pipe Organ

by Yasuhisa Toyota

Photo 1: New pipe organ
Photo 1: New pipe organ

Photo 2: Hall interior before organ installation
Photo 2: Hall interior before organ installation

In the Russian city of St. Petersburg, the 1,100-seat Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall opened in late 2006. (I wrote about the concert hall project and its opening in our January, 2007 newsletter.) In the autumn of 2009, the concert hall completed installation of a new pipe organ (Photo 1). In this article, I will share the story of the hall's installation and my impressions from listening to the new pipe organ for the first time.

When the concert hall opened in November, 2006, there was no plan to add a pipe organ to the hall. The front of the hall above the stage had a large glass window and located behind the large glass window was a rehearsal and multipurpose room. The architectural design enabled natural light from the out-of-doors to flow into the rehearsal and multipurpose room and, from there, to filter into the concert hall through the large glass window. (Photo 2)

In the summer of 2008, Mariinsky Theatre Artistic Director Valery Gergiev made the bold decision to add a pipe organ to the concert hall. The new plan called for removing the glass window and installing a pipe organ in its place. A portion of the back of the pipe organ would extend into the adjoining multipurpose room and the plan also included adding a section of new wall between the concert hall and the adjoining multipurpose room.

I was the acoustical consultant for the concert hall project and was again asked to participate on the pipe organ installation project. I provided acoustical consulting services both regarding the pipe organ selection and during the construction work related to installing the pipe organ. Organ builder Daniel Kern, of the Strasbourg company Kern et Fils, was invited from France to build the Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall's pipe organ. The design, construction, installation and voicing of the pipe organ began in October, 2008 and completed in September, 2009, a duration of nearly one year. Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall celebrated the pipe organ's unveiling immediately after the completion of its installation and, since then, there have been pipe organ performances in the concert hall once or twice every month.

I was eager to hear the new pipe organ, but the opportunity to do so did not present itself until recently. Through the kindness of Mariinsky Theatre organist Oleg Kiniaev, I enjoyed the pleasure of listening to this instrument's wonderful and myriad tone colors. It is not easy for me to find a concise way to describe in words my impression of this pipe organ's many sounds. If I dare to summarize my impressions, it would be with these words: incredibly beautiful, deep stereophonic sound. Mr. Kiniaev's performances captivated me as he played one passage after another of pipe organ music. I felt that I would have been content to spend eternity listening to this music, steeped in a space saturated with beautiful tones.

Churches and cathedrals have extremely high ceilings, grand spatial volumes and the very rich acoustics produced by such architecture. In general, I often feel that concert hall acoustics compare unfavorably with this aspect of church and cathedral acoustics with regard to pipe organ music. However, concert hall acoustics have the advantage of enabling us to hear the tone colors of the pipe organ pristinely and directly. Having visited many halls, I can unfortunately remember having heard more than one concert hall pipe organ that produced lackluster sound and, therefore, a diminished listening experience. However, at the Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall, the listening experience was one of total joy, and I can heartily attest that a pipe organ of the highest class has been created here.

St. Petersburg may be far from the locale of many of this newsletter's readers, but if you have the opportunity to be somewhere in the vicinity of this city, I highly recommend you make time to hear the Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall's pipe organ.

The Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall pipe organ has 53 stops and 2,942 pipes. Its physical dimensions are 602 cm wide x 730 cm high x 490 cm deep (237 in. x 288 in. x 193 in.).

The hall's Web site is http://www.mariinsky.ru/en

Understanding Stage Sound Reflection Panels - Part 3

by Nobuhiko Hattori

In our November, 2009 newsletter, I wrote about the different standard storage methods for sound reflection panels in multipurpose halls. Also, I presented the benefits, limitations and examples of the two most common storage locations: storage above the stage and storage in space at the stage rear. In this article, I will discuss other, more unusual storage location options, with examples of each one.

<< Storing Stage Sound Reflection Panels below the Stage >>

Storing stage sound reflection panels below the stage involves designing a unitary system that is housed in space below the stage and raised onto the stage or lowered into storage as needed. This method has the key benefit of leaving the entire space above the stage for suspended lighting, other stage equipment and rigging. From the acoustical perspective as well, this method offers significant benefits. The shapes of the reflection panels and any desired three-dimensional elements of the reflection panels' design can be implemented with few constraints, and the reflection panel system can be built as a unitary structure, which minimizes gaps between sections of the system.

The main impediment to implementing a below-stage design for storing sound reflection panels is the substantial amount of space this method requires below the stage. The space requirements would significantly affect a project's architectural plans. Therefore, it is not unusual for this method (as well as the implementation of stage risers) to be eliminated from consideration because of space constraints below the stage.

<< Examples of Halls with Stage Sound Reflection Panels below the Stage >>

Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, which functions first and foremost as a classical music concert hall, also serves as the venue for opera and ballet performances. The hall opened in 1961 and, at the time, had a design that stored the rear portion of the stage sound reflection panels behind the stage and stored the side portions and overhead portion of the sound reflection panels as suspended units above the stage. Storing even a portion of the sound reflection panels above the stage obstructed desired arrangements for stage rigging, resulting in limitations on the lighting and baton arrangements for opera and ballet productions.

Fig. 1: Storage methods at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan before and after the renovations completed in 1999
Fig. 1: Storage methods at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan
before and after the renovations completed in 1999

To improve and enhance the stage rigging functionality of Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, two separate, significant renovation projects of the hall gave primary focus to changing the storage design and location of the stage sound reflection panels. First, in 1970, the stage's side sound reflection panels were divided into upper and lower sections, and the lower sections became stored below the stage. (See the left drawing of Fig. 1). Later, in 1999, when the hall underwent a major renovation (featured in our August, 1999 newsletter) to address and upgrade the whole building after nearly four decades of general wear and tear, the entire stage sound reflection panel system was reconstructed as a single unit and space was constructed below the stage to store it. (See the right drawing of Fig. 1). Providing a large enough space to accommodate the stage sound reflection panel system, which measures 21 m. wide x 13 m. high x 9 m. deep (69 ft x 43 ft x 29.5 ft) and weighs 81 MT (89 short tons) required an excavation of an additional 8 m. (29 ft) below the depth of the already existing Bunka Kaikan pit.

Left: The stage sound reflection panel system set up on stage
Left: The stage sound reflection panel system set up on stage

Center: The stage sound reflection panel system in the process of being moved to its storage location below the stage
Center: The stage sound reflection panel system in the process of being moved to its storage location below the stage
Right: Tokyo Bunka Kaikan's stage when the sound reflection panel has been stored away
Right: Tokyo Bunka Kaikan's stage when the sound reflection panel has been stored away
Photo 1: Three views at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan

Changing the storage location of the stage sound reflection panel system created a large amount of free space above the stage. The renovations also redesigned and strengthened the flytower structure and added additional batons to the rigging. Before the renovations, the hall had 29 batons and the renovations increased the number to 49. The renovations also substantially increased the stage equipment's load-bearing capacity.

With regard to the hall's acoustics, because of Tokyo Bunka Kaikan's longstanding beloved reputation among performers and concertgoers alike, for the renovation specifications of the stage reflection panels and the stage floor we used the same materials and thicknesses that were used in the original hall so that the renovations would have no impact on the hall's acoustical characteristics. The reflection panels are constructed of three layers: two layers of 6 mm (0.2 in.) composite board between which is sandwiched a damping sheet. The stage floor is "hinoki" Japanese cypress and is 30 mm. (1 in.) thick.

Tokyo Bunka Kaikan required the implementation of a renovation project to become a hall that has its stage sound reflection panel system stored below the stage. In some other halls, this storage method was adopted as part of the original design. Examples of this kind of project include Izuminomori Hall in Izumisano City (part of the Osaka Metropolitan Area), Kiryu City Performing Arts Center and NHK Osaka Hall.

<< Examples of Unique Solutions for Storing Stage Sound Reflection Panels >>

Thus far, in this and previous articles, I wrote about the most prevalent and typical kinds of storage methods for stage sound reflection panels. In the final paragraphs of this article, I will introduce three unique and rarely used storage methods.

>> Acoustic Shell Storage at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts

Photo 2: Bard College
Photo 2: Bard College

At Bard College in upstate New York, the multipurpose hall of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts (featured in our July, 2003 newsletter) has an acoustic shell that requires significant manual labor on the part of hall personnel to set up and take down. The set up and take down processes use both manual labor and a forklift acquired specifically for this purpose. In general, in order for a stage sound reflection panel system to achieve the desired acoustical objectives, it must have a stable structure and be able to stand independently after it is set up. Also, setting up a stage sound reflection panel system often involves moving the structure incrementally until it is in exactly the needed location. As a result, even when a storage location offers easy and direct access to and from the stage, the set up and take down of the stage sound reflection panels can require a very significant amount of strenuous manual labor. At Bard College, the client decided to compromise ease of set up for cost-saving reasons, and accepted a labor-intensive process for storing and setting up the acoustic shell. The client understood the acoustical necessity and value of having a major stage sound reflection panel system with high ceilings and eaves and accepted that manual labor would be required each time the hall needs to be reconfigured.

>> Big Heart Izumo Hall in Shimane Prefecture

Photo 3: Big Heart Izumo Hall
Photo 3: Big Heart Izumo Hall

For Big Heart Izumo Hall's multipurpose hall (featured in our May, 2000 newsletter), we designed a system of sound reflection panels that combines fixed and movable elements. The reflection panels at the stage rear are permanently installed, while the side panel portions, and the balcony seating attached to them, can be moved to form an acoustic shell system with the fixed sound reflection panels at the rear of the stage. When the stage sound reflection panel system is set up, the balcony seating that is attached to the side sound reflection panels becomes connected to the balcony seating of the audience seating area, forming an uninterrupted perimeter around the stage and creating a feeling of unity between the stage and the audience seating area.

In addition to this concert configuration, the hall's stage can be configured as a proscenium stage that has a clear separation between the stage and the audience. To do this, a stage curtain is unfurled in front of the stage rear sound reflection panels, the ceiling reflection panels are moved to a storage space above the stage and the side sound reflection panels are moved along rails embedded in the stage floor to a storage location in the stage wings.

Other halls have also implemented the approach of stage sound reflection panels that can be repurposed to more than one configuration. One example is Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts (acoustical consultant: Kirkegaard Associates) in Cerritos, California. Another example is Iwaki Performing Arts Center "Alios" (featured in our August, 2009 newsletter), where the use of modular side-frame units and banks of seating enable the hall to be converted to several configurations.

>> Monoucho Community Center in Miyagi Prefecture

Photo 4: Monoucho Community Center
Photo 4: Monoucho Community Center

For the hall of Monoucho Community Center (featured in our April, 2006 newsletter), a truly unique, space-saving and low-cost design solution to the stage sound reflection panel system was adopted by installing panels made of exposed damping material (Photo 4) as the ceiling sound reflection panel. The panel was constructed using a sheet of rubberized damping material and a wood frame. Also, with this design, we needed only a small steel-frame foundation because, compared with typical stage sound reflection panels made of composite board, the sound reflection panel is comparatively thin and lightweight. Likewise, this design enabled the use of an easy storage method for the sound reflection panel system. When not in use, the rubberized sheet, which requires minimal space, is simply raised out of sight using a baton above the stage.

This concludes my discussion of the storage methods for stage sound reflection panel systems.

Nagata Acoustics Inc.

(Tokyo Office)
Hongo Segawa Bldg. 3F, 2-35-10 Hongo
Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan
Tel: +81-3-5800-2671, Fax: +81-3-5800-2672

(LA Office)
2130 Sawtelle Blvd., Suite 307A
Los Angeles, CA 90025, U.S.A.
Tel: +1-310-231-7818, Fax: +1-310-231-7816

(Paris Office)
75, avenue Parmentier
75011 Paris, France
Tel: +33 (0)1 40 21 44 25, Fax: +33 (0)1 40 21 24 00

E-mail: info@nagata.co.jp

[ Japanese Version ]