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Bengaluru Plays First Event ‘Service’ in COVID-19 Times

Even as the Novel Coronavirus spread continues to scare the industry rank and file, the events industry a sort of broke free from the pandemic challenge, and, perhaps, befittingly with a ‘Sunday Service.’ In what is claimed to be the first event since the LockDown brought the industry to a ruing halt in March, Bengaluru played host to the reassuring event while Reynold’s ‘drove-in’ the opportunity in a most unique way. ETA’s Ram Bhavanashi presents an account of what is hailed as ‘Worship on Wheels’:

One may want to say WOW, watching it in awe. Indeed, it was one, but in some other way- in what can be a new fancied terming: ‘Worship on Wheels!’

The morning of 14 June, 2020, Bethel AG Church at Hebbal in Bengaluru was a sort of a special day in more ways than one. While the social milieu around the place and town (the whole country, for that matter) had been ranted by an unprecedented ‘viral’ eerie, the air at the place got filled with an excitement of a different kind- breaking free from an unfamiliar situation, and ‘driving-in’ something anew, in the service of God.

“When the Bethel AG Church wanted to host an outdoor Service, and approached us for the AV set-up, it was a ‘God-sent’ opportunity for us,” recalls Felix Remedios, Managing Director of Reynold’s Inc., one of the largest rental enterprises in the country. “They obtained permission from the Government (of Karnataka) to host it on the three-acre open car park space they had; we couldn’t have asked for a better opening,” he said. “For, being locked down for so many weeks, and clueless about the future, it was indeed a God-sent opportunity.”

It was ideated to conduct the Service in ‘drive-in’ mode, i.e. the devotees would drive-in their vehicles – both two- and four-wheelers – and offer prayers in tune with the conductance from there itself, with or without getting off their vehicles.

The idea of ‘worship on wheels’ was to ensure proper physical distancing amongst the participants, and everyone stayed safe as per the guidelines of COVID-19 prevention regulations. The Church had worked out the criteria for the same.

Says Felix: “We have spent the last couple of month working on a SOP for conducting events safely. The primary goal was safety. We completely revamped our operating procedures from the time of prepping equipment at the warehouse, till we completed everything we are involved in. While working our jobs for the success of the event as we did always, the one new priority was to ensure that everything was sanitized properly.”

According to him, the entire crew was given PPE gear such as proper rigging gloves for the loading from warehouse and unloading at site, nitrile gloves for working with microphones and mixing consoles, masks and shields for covering faces all through.

“We took extreme care to ensure that microphones etc were not shared and dedicated to just one person to use right through the entire event,” explains the Reynold’s boss. “In-Ear monitors were used in such a way that the performers had to bring their own ear-buds, while we only provided the beltpack etc. After every service, pop screens etc. were changed.”

We have invested in UV-C containers to sanitise the equipment like microphones etc. post-event to ensure that all equipment is properly sanitised safely before re-use,” he explains further.

The technical crew was completely from Reynolds Sound and Lighting Services. The entire SOPs for safety was overseen by Sohel Dantes, HOD for the audio team. The Audio team on site was led by Jetheth and Suresh J took the console operation job. Lighting was controlled by Gynanaprakash while the video was handled by Christopher D’Souza and Ramesh. The truss and rigging was handled by Karunakaran and team.

The systems moved in comprised as many as 24 units of Audiofocus Ares8A for the Main PA that were augmented by six sets of Meyersound MSL4 / CQ speakers with three units each on left and right delays. For stage monitors, the team used the Audiofocus wedge monitors. The full batch of microphones was from Shure, while the console role was taken by an Avid SC48.

The video component essentially comprised six 4.8mm outdoor IP65 LED screens – distributed all over the venue, including one on the main stage. The lighting elements were all LED-based lights, comprising Reynold’s own house brand Montana fixtures.

How did it turn out in the end?

Both the church authorities, and the worshippers felt the different world. “It’s a different experience; a lifetime one to experience God on Wheels,” felt most worshippers. “We had all the safety measures in place; distance, face masks, sanitizers etc.; what was missing all these weeks, happened now- the Service. We are extremely happy,” said another.

It was first of the kind in the country. People were checked for their temperature before they were allowed onto the ground; vehicles were parked at ‘safe’ distance from one another; masks and sanitizers went on doing their job. Worship happened from inside the vehicle itself as the prayer began on stage, and seen on the LED screens.

Says the exultant Felix: “We were glad that after more than two months of doing nothing, we were finally able to get back to working on an event.”

For the devout that he is, “it’s been a ‘divine intervention’ that their first event after the long lull happened to be in the Almighty’s Service. “This is surely a blessing and a sign that the future will change for the better as the event industry has gone completely downhill and there is no other way but UP.”

The event has been a big learning experience for the entire rank and file of Reynold’s, says the man. “We have been getting several calls after this event but only time will tell when the next event will come up as it all depends on the permission from the government.”