Unique Montana Arts Center Blends Art and Nature With Alcons

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Located deep in the rugged countryside of Montana, close to the Beartooth Mountains, Tippet Rise Art Center celebrates the concept that art, music, architecture, and nature are inextricably linked in the human experience. Opened in 2016, the venue’s centerpiece is the Olivier Barn, which features an Alcons Audio LR14 ultra-compact line-array system.

Set on a 10,260-acre working sheep and cattle ranch, Tippet Rise is the brainchild of Cathy and Peter Halstead. Inspired by their careers in the creative arts and education, it features both indoor and outdoor performance spaces, as well as large scale sculptures and stunning scenery. Tradition meets hi-tech in the Olivier Music Barn, which looks like a traditional timber agricultural building from outside. Inside, however, an Alcons LR14 system and HD digital film projection bring visitors right into the 21st century, while state-of-the-art sustainable technology ensures that its environmental impact is negligible.

When designs for the Olivier Music Barn’s audio system were being considered, Kevin Hodgson of Boulder, Colorado-based AV consultant K2 Consulting was approached by Mickey Houlihan, who has worked with the Halsteads for many years, as well as with Kevin on other projects. “Mickey thought I was the right person to design the system for the Olivier Music Barn from end to end,” says Kevin. “I met Peter and Cathy, who are very committed to classical music, so I knew that the system would need to sound very natural and not ‘amplified’. They also wanted something that was very versatile, because the venue would host other performances and film screenings.”

Peter really liked an Alcons system installed at eTown Hall - a high quality, multipurpose live venue, recording studio and community center in Boulder, which is home to the eTown broadcast, multimedia and production company. “Peter was impressed at Alcons being such an open, musical sounding system,” says Kevin. “eTown hosts a range of music styles, including folk, bluegrass, country and some rock, so we knew Alcons would have the flexibility that we wanted. I also have colleagues who have specified Alcons and they all said that I would really like it.”

To make sure the right choice was made, systems by several different manufacturers were auditioned, but ultimately none of them had the same audio quality and versatility that Alcons delivers. Supplied by Boulder-based Wind Over the Earth, the chosen system comprised eight LR14/90, two LR14/120 and four BF151 compact subwoofers, all powered and controlled by two Sentinel10 amplified loudspeaker controllers. “Olivier Music Barn was designed mainly as a classical music venue, so it’s very live. There are no variable acoustics, so we knew we had to be very mindful of how we excite the room with the system. Of course when amplifying sound in a classical music venue, you also want it to sound as natural as possible,” says Kevin. “The intelligibility of the LR14 is so high and there is almost no distortion. It doesn’t need to be turned up as loud as other systems to get the intelligibility.”

The physical characteristics of the LR14 system were also superior to the other systems that were considered.

“We didn’t want to detract from the barn’s architecture and the compact size of the LR14 makes it as visually unobtrusive as possible. This was helped by the rigging and hardware, which provides so much adjustment flexibility,” Kevin continues. “I particularly like the stepless flying angle adjuster, which adjusts the angle of the cabinets if you want to raise the system.” David Rahn of Alcons US was always available to provide information and, with Kevin unavailable while the system was being installed, David visited the site to help Wind Over The Earth with flying and tuning the system. Although 2016 was Tippet Rise’s debut season, the LR14 ensures that Tippet Rise can have total confidence in staging an increasingly varied program in the Olivier Music Barn over the coming years.

 “You can have a pretty good idea about how a system will sound, but you don’t know for sure until you set foot in there and listen to it,” says Kevin. “The LR14 exceeded my expectations, it sounds absolutely great. The staff at Tippet Rise are also really happy with it, it’s a really valuable addition to the space.”

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