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Out of the question

06 May 2009

Your answers

Do PCCs and those who advise them and approve their decisions take into account the detrimental effect on church acoustics of introducing padded chairs?

I responded to a similar question with reference not to chairs, but to carpets, on 3 August 2007. I said that, while it was true that the installation of carpet would alter the acoustic to some extent, it was a matter of judgement whether or not this was an improvement.

The perceived effect must depend on what the acoustic is like in the first place. Most churches suffer from an excessive reverberation time, and some reduction is an improvement. It is a prevalent myth that the effect is always large: carpet is thin com­pared with the size of the building and affects only the higher fre­quencies; it has little effect on the low frequencies. Carpet reduces the noise of feet, chair legs, etc.

I said that my experience was that diocesan advisory committees (DACs) were well aware of the potential effect of carpeting. Many DACs have members or advisers with expertise in acoustics, and the architect members know that furnishings affect acoustics.

My answer to this question would be broadly the same, except that padded chairs are more interesting than carpets.

The reverberation time of a space (the fundamental char­acter of its “acoustic”) is inversely proportional to the amount of sound absorption present. One of the problems in many churches is that, since human bodies absorb far more sound energy than pews, the acoustic depends significantly on the number of people present.

Padded chairs, however, have an absorption characteristic approaching that of a body; so the acoustic remains more constant regardless of the number of people present. This is usually considered an advantage. But padded chairs still have less absorption effect than human bodies. Once a person is sitting on the chair, the effect of the chair is nullified.

The effect of padded chairs is, therefore, less than the effect of having people on them. It is not usually considered advisable to pre­serve the acoustic of a church by preventing people from attending.

(The Revd Dr) Jennifer Zarek
Acou­stics adviser to York DAC

Your questions

What is the legal basis of dioceses’ requiring incumbents to pay their fees to the diocese when they have not assigned those fees? Is this in order to reduce stipend received? What legal right has the incumbent to be paid the full diocesan stipend (now for all new appointments diocesan augmentation, since the guaranteed annuity has been abolished), whether fees are retained or paid to the diocese? S. G. S.

Out of the Question, Church Times, 13-17 Long Lane, London EC1A 9PN.



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