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St. Malachy Catholic Church

Bobby Boyer • InstallationsSeptember 2019 • September 10, 2019

Chroma-Q Inspire fixtures were spec’d for house lights

Detroit-Area Church Successfully Blends Liturgy and Light

Steeped in tradition, the vast majority of Catholic churches have avoided the color-mixing theatrical and entertainment lighting that have become a familiar part of services at many Protestant houses of worship. In October 2017, St. Malachy Catholic Church in Sterling Heights, MI, a suburb of Detroit, decided it was time to break from the norm.

Led by its pastor, Father Joseph Gembala, the then-53-year old Catholic church embarked on a program to incorporate more contemporary elements into its weekly services including a versatile color-mixing LED lighting system that features the Rogue R2 Wash and COLORdash Batten-Quad 12 from Chauvet Professional, the ETC Source Four and the Chroma-Q Inspire.

Chauvet Rogue 2 wash fixtures bathe the stage in light

‡‡         Tradition, with a Twist

For St. Malachy, the introduction of color-mixing fixtures added a modern twist to the Catholic Church’s tradition of creating aesthetics with stained glass windows. “Color and lighting have always been critical elements to the Catholic mass, even before lighting fixtures were invented,” said St. Malachy LD Dave Corbat. “This parish takes a proactive role in reaching out to worshippers, which led to the idea of introducing colorful lighting to create an immersive environment in the sanctuary.”

St. Malachy engaged system designer Nathan Cole of Sound Planning Communications to create and install a new lighting system that augmented the 800-seat church’s existing rig with LED fixtures. His design added four Rogue R2 Wash fixtures to the main lighting pipe and called for two more units to be arranged on the ground near the altar. A collection of five COLORdash Batten-Quad 12 linear wash fixtures was also arranged on the ground behind the altar for color uplighting.

“The combination of color rendering fixtures gives us unparalleled flexibility in what we can do with the lighting in our space,” said Corbat. “We are able to get creative with our lighting design and use it in a way that enhances the liturgical experience for our congregation.”

ETC fixtures are used for key light

St. Malachy relies on the 11 ETC Source Four Series 2 Lustr fixtures on the main pipe for stage lighting during its three Sunday services and for special events. Aside from providing key lighting, the 180W ellipsoidals are also used to colorize the stage. For the few areas of the stage that are missed by his ellipsoidal, Corbat relies on fills from his moving fixtures.

“As moving fixtures, with the ability to create a wide range of colors, the Rogues greatly expand our capability to support services,” said Corbat. “We use them to support our main stage lighting from the ETC Source Fours, and also to highlight areas during liturgy as well as to project colors onto our ceiling so we can better reflect the mood of the liturgical season.”

Completing the immersive colorization inside the church are the 32 Chroma-Q Inspire units located throughout the sanctuary. Serving the traditional house light role during Sunday services, these RGBW fixtures are also used to set moods with color during special events.

Similarly, Zachary Murphy, technical director at St. Malachy, notes that the moving fixtures in the church’s system are reserved for special services and events unless they are used for static stage or architectural accent lighting.

Among those events are the standing room only concerts put on by the St. Malachy Music Ministry. Featuring performances by a variety of artists covering different musical genre, ranging from the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club to a one-person orchestra performing on the church’s Allen Q370 organ, these musical events are another example of how the church is reaching out to worshippers.

These efforts are apparently paying off. According to Detroit Catholic magazine, St. Malachy is one of the few churches in its area to hold three masses every Sunday. Each one is well attended and colorized by dynamic lighting.


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