Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday Morning Preacher: Amplification

Yesterday, I went to a service celebrating the 100th anniversary of a parish, All Saints in San Leandro. It was very cleverly done: a Morning Prayer and Holy Communion service, using material from the 1892, 1928, and 1979 prayer books, with Eucharistic Prayer 3 from Enriching Our Worship. The rector started with only men at the altar, and we ended with me celebrating and a range of people assisting. Really very nifty.

I found myself jarred, though, at the use of the microphone during the sermon and pondered for a bit what people did before electronic amplification, especially in big churches. Those high pulpits served a practical purpose, of course--they weren't all about setting the preacher above everybody else. Without people in front of you to muffle the sound, you were more likely to hear the preacher, plus see some lip movements to help you figure out what he was saying.

And now I will devolve into a totally unexpected amplification rant--one I did not expect to have.

Can I just say I have not yet found a church sound system that is truly effective? I don't know what lavalier mics are designed for, but they certainly don't work with alb pockets and chasubles. They have these little buttons that lie flush with the transmitter so you have no idea if what you say is going to be broadcast or not. I've learned the pocket peek, where you try to figure out if your mic is actually on, and (if on) muted or live. This is harder when one is hampered by large vestments.

I do not like those mics that hook behind the ear with a "flesh-colored" headset--if you are melanin-challenged. I'm sorry, but they just look ridiculous.

And why are pulpit mics never, ever set at the right amplification level? You'd think they'd stay the same from week to week. Then there's the SCRAWK of the gooseneck mic as the preacher moves it into position.

One thing I know for sure is that you HAVE to leave a little time for a sound check before the service. Check the lavalier: is the battery working? Is it at the right level for your voice? Is it TURNED ON??? Check the pulpit mic: is it at the right height for you? is it set at the right sound level?

Because, boy, you may have the best sermon in the world, but if people can't hear you, it's not worth a thing.


Anonymous said...

Microphones aside, I like the sound of your service alot! It reminds me of a Lent early in the time of the Trial Prayer Book where we celebrated every Sunday morning in the words and with the music of a different prayer book from the first Anglican edition of the 16th century until the then-proposed, now standard, Episcopal edition of the 20th. It was fun!

Elisabeth said...

Rant on, re: sound systems. A pox on them all!

Of course, this comment is from one who has a loud voice and is not afraid to use it!