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Basilica undergoes sound upgrades over break

| Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Several upgrades made to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus while students were away over winter break. This renovation mainly concerned new technology upgrades throughout the Basilica, Kate Barrett, Campus Ministry’s associate director of liturgy, said in an email. 

Barrett said the project was a collaboration between Campus Ministry and Notre Dame Studios and was funded by an endowment.

Kelli Smith | The Observer

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart underwent several technological upgrades over winter break. 

As this project took shape over the past several years we began to set aside funds from an endowment dedicated to Basilica renovations,” Barrett said. 

Barrett said she represented Campus Ministry in the discussions before and during the renovation. 

“The Basilica is part of Campus Ministry at Notre Dame, and I represented Campus Ministry as we selected bids for the design, worked with the sound designers, selected bids for the installation and completed the actual renovation itself,” Barrett said. 

She noted that Campus Ministry relied heavily on the expertise of the staff at ND Studios in making many of the major decisions. 

Dan Skendzel, executive director of ND Studios, noted the need for upgraded technology in the Basilica for an improved broadcasting experience of the 10 a.m. Mass.

”We often received feedback from viewers that they couldn’t hear or understand the choir, for example,” Skendzel said in an email. ”We can now address that for broadcast viewers without affecting the experience in the Basilica.”

Barrett said collaboration was key to carry out the improvement work.

“It was truly a joint project between our two departments,” Barrett said. 

Although the new speakers and microphones required “a great deal of new wiring,” Barett said, the typical viewer will not notice anything different visually.

We definitely brought in representatives from facilities design to assist us in ensuring that we maintained the integrity and beauty of the Basilica,” Barrett said.

Barrett said improving the articulation and consistency of sound in the Basilica was an objective of the upgrade.

“Spoken and sung words are so important in the Mass and other prayers — we want everyone to be able to understand the scripture readings, homilies, and the texts of the music from the cantor and choirs,” Barrett said. 

Also, the building is now better connected with the Rex and Alice A. Martin Media Center on campus, which houses part of ND Studios.

“The Basilica has seven remote control cameras that are operated from the media center for broadcast and recording purposes,” Skendzel said. “In addition to improving the sound quality in the Basilica, the recently completed audio upgrade makes it possible to mix audio separately for broadcast and recording purposes. This was not possible with the previous system.”

Barrett said the renovation allows for the widespread dissemination of services in the Basilica.

“This renovation makes it possible to share our prayer in the Basilica with the wider community through a livestream or taped video, with the best quality sound we can offer,” Barrett said. 

Father Pete McCormick, the director of Campus Ministry, said the upgrades will improve the worship experience now and in the future.

Day in and day out, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart seeks to praise God through the proclamation of the Scriptures and Sacred Hymns,” McCormick said in an email. The upgraded audio will support this important ministry long into the future.

Barrett said worshippers have already started noticing differences in the sound experience at the Basilica. 

“We were very, very grateful not only to hear the difference ourselves, but to listen to the comments of other Mass-goers who were so glad to be able to hear and understand every spoken and sung word,” Barrett said. 

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