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New Celtic Performing Arts Centre applies science to accentuate the art of acoustics

Singer Christine Gallant is accompanied by the beautiful flowing notes of the bagpipes.
Singer Christine Gallant is accompanied by the beautiful flowing notes of the bagpipes. - Contributed

Behind seemingly insignificant or merely decorative details is meticulous planning that helped assemble the Celtic Performing Arts Centre into a world-class sound reality for Summerside

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. - Lattice curves create a visual cloudlike beauty above 300 red cascading chairs, but behind these seemingly insignificant or merely decorative details is meticulous planning that helped assemble the Celtic Performing Arts Centre into a world-class sound reality for Summerside.

“When you hear the bagpipes here there is no noise or clutter on top. The sound is amazing. There’s nowhere else on the planet where you can you hear bagpipes as good as you can here,” remarked Doug Hall, Honourary Pipe Major.

Jay Perry, owner of Points East Audio and technical director at the Celtic Performing Arts Centre, noted before the engineering marvel was even built, “computer aided auditioning technology was used to move around the space virtually and with some degree of accuracy predict how sounds would react.”

Surface areas were changed during design, from the overhead acoustic panels, tapered side walls to the acoustic slat wall at the back of the auditorium, to effectively absorb and reflect sound back to the audience.

Pipes have a dynamic range that produce a muddy sound in other theatres, but in this high-tech ‘invented’ facility even the most complicated rhythms are “refined and real” according to well-known Canadian bagpiper and composer Bruce Gandy. He performed at the Centre in April this year.

“As I blew up the pipe, I was immediately given wonderful harmonic feedback from the floor and surroundings. As I circled around the floor finding my way, it became evident that there were no hot and cold spots on the stage and the pipes seem to vibrate wonderfully no matter where you were positioned,” said Gandy.

Before and after audio clips highlight the muddy notes of the bagpipes played in the old venue, and in stark contrast the soulful, rich and clean sound produced in the new Centre. “If you don’t like this, never listen to the pipes again because it’s truly amazing the difference. It blew me away,” commented Hall. 

Even the light fixtures go beyond making sure the audience can see the stage. It enhances the mood and atmosphere, establishes a time or location, and creates shadows across the cast or plays with a theme.

Lights, stage and sound is effectively used in the spectacular summer production called Great Scot!

But the opulent multi-purpose facility is not just intended for students of the College. It can cater to weddings, business, conferences or social gatherings. And half the seats are retractable allowing the floor to open with extra space, so productions can range from colossal to intimate throughout the year.

Fact box:

  • On Monday, August 6 to 9, haggis, neeps and tatties will be served at the fully-licensed bar in the multi-purpose V.I.P. reception area during the intermission of Great Scot.  
  • From Monday, Aug. 13 to 17 a ‘wee nip’ of double gold award-winning whiskey will be served during the show’s intermission. This will be the first time in Canada people get to taste the imported “water of life,” while enjoying the second-half of the spectacular production.

For more information or to book tickets to see the summer show Great Scot, visit www.collegeofpiping.com/events/summer-production-great-scot.

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