A beautifully renovated museum boasting Europe’s largest collection of street organs has had its central space turned into a live performance area, attracting top Dutch artists, with its acoustics tamed by a Renkus-Heinz IC Live system installed by TM Audio.
Dedicated to Europe’s largest display of street organs, Museum Speelklok was founded in 1956 inUtrecht, theNetherlands. In 1984 the museum acquired a large church, whose restored interior now houses the collection.
Visitors are given a guided tour with explanations of each organ’s backstory. Some of the pieces – which range from hand-cranked barrel organs to vast, mechanically driven multi-instrument extravaganzas, rate among the world’s first and finest digital instruments, programmed by the equivalent of computer punch tape, a long strip of tough paper dotted with differently shaped holes that the organ’s ‘tape reader’ translates into instruments, notes, ‘channel’ volume and more.
Says Dirkjan Haspels, the museum’s head of events: “All the instruments are real instruments, there’s never a loudspeaker: you’re always hearing a string or a bell, an organ pipe or whatever. So throughout the history of this museum we have very much been against all sorts of amplifiers and loudspeakers, because that is the enemy of what our instruments did beforehand.”
He explains that the one part of the building that was rarely used was the central space, originally the church’s nave, due largely to its poor acoustics. However, all that changed recently when the vacant nave was transformed into a live performance space, allowing musicians and singers to perform in combination with instruments from the museum’s collection. The idea was inspired by earlier collaborations with musicians in theatres and at festivals, and by the museum team’s ability to program new tracks onto the paper strips.
Haspels continues: “For us the shows were a great success because new audiences came to see and hear the instruments and said ah, an organ doesn’t only play Tulips fromAmsterdamor whatever – it can also play new music like hip-hop and jazz, which really opened their eyes.”
Bringing those performances to Museum Speelklok itself entailed a €1.5m Dutch BankGiro Lottery grant, used both to acoustically treat the space and finance a PA system.
“To transform this part of the church into a concert hall,” continues Haspels, “I took a lot of expert advice and several sound systems were tested in the nave. Many people came to listen, including our resident system engineer, GertJan Schoutsen – and the verdict for us all was clearly the Renkus-Heinz IC Live.
“It is quite hard to see, which makes me happy; just two little columns and the subwoofers. Yet it’s the first time that it’s been possible to have 500 people listening to amplified sound from the stage here without problems.”
The IC Live system consists of four 8-channel Renkus-Heinz ICL-R digitally steerable columns, mounted in one double stack per side atop matching IC215 2×15″ self powered subwoofers. These take their signal via RHAON (Renkus-Heinz Audio Operations Network) from a 16 channel Yamaha 01V96 with an Allen & Heath iDR8 digital mix processor. The stage is covered by four Renkus-Heinz CF121M2 12+2″ self powered monitors.
TM Audio project and application engineer Olaf Landzaat comments: “IC Live dealt with the acoustical issues, which are typical for a church. With conventional loudspeakers you’d get a lot of reflections whereas with IC Live you can manipulate the beams to reduce reflections, to get as good speech intelligence and sound as possible.”