1970 – BERNSTEIN’s VERDI REQUIEM – ST.PAUL’S CONCERT | 50 years later – the recovered stereo mix

2020-08-05 2 By David Taylor



(Part Two covers the parallel CBS Records recording done by Bob Auger at The Royal Albert Hall.)



In February 1970 I’d only been with London Weekend TV for a few months when we broadcast a classical concert that affected me more than any other I had then experienced. This was Leonard Bernstein conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in the Verdi Requiem in St.Paul’s Cathedral.

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Wonderful visually, but with its enormous reverb time, St.Paul’s was nobody’s first choice as a recording venue and CBS choose the Royal Albert Hall for their recording made at the same time.
Photo: David Taylor

As a young sound assistant, this was an amazing experience that taught me how exciting classical music recording could be. The sound of a major orchestra at both ‘full throttle’ and ‘hushed reverence’ in the setting of St.Paul’s, stirred me very strongly. The Verdi Requiem came across to me as a mix of very dramatic orchestral work with a liturgical choir and Italian Opera…all to a Catholic Latin text of course. I’d never heard anything like it at that time, not really knowing any of the operatic Verdi at all then.

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Mezzo Josephine Veasey, and Tenor Plácido Domingo with Leonard Bernstein during the camera rehearsal for the LWT recording of the Verdi Requiem in St. Paul’s on 25th February 1970. Note that the chorus is absent.
Photo: Dick Dawson LWT


Bernstein had recently dropped himself into a political storm that caused both his wife and himself an inordinate amount of grief just prior to coming to London. A renowned ‘liberal’, Felicia Bernstein had organised drinks and canapes in their New York flat in support of the recently imprisoned ‘Twenty-one Black Panthers in an effort to raise funds for their legal defence. About 90 people attended including some of the Black Panther’s leaders and wives, completely filling the flat that evening. Leonard ended up discussing the merits of the Black Panther’s philosophy, mainly with Donald Cox the ‘Field-Marshall’ for the Panthers. The press published the details extensively and it led to considerable outrage in the New York Jewish community because the Panthers had an Anti-Zionist stance. Bernstein soon suffered picketing where ever he went and even the FBI’s draconian head J. Edgar Hoover became involved, sending anonymous letters to the attendees after the event.


Trying to put this behind him, Bernstein got stuck into a gruelling European Tour that would take him to London, Paris, Rome, Tel Aviv and Vienna. He came to London on the 18th February for the Verdi Requiem concerts and recording with the LSO.

“It’s really an insane schedule but what I need is blessed overwork. It gives me the lift I most need ans I need it now.” [1]

First off was a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, immediately followed by three days of recording the work in the same hall for CBS, with the televised St.Paul’s concert sandwiched between them.
The planned tenor soloist, Franco Corelli became ill and Bernstein hunted for a replacement as recalled by the New York Times:

By John M. Lee Special Correspondent to The New York Times

LONDON, Feb. 23 — Three tenors in three days is a bit much — even for Leonard Bernstein. But that is what the conductor has faced in rehearsals, a public performance and then a recording of the Verdi Requiem here. He arrived in England last week to rehearse the London Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra’s chorus and four soloists for a sold‐out performance at the 5,600‐seat Royal Albert Hall last night. A recording for C.B.S. Records would follow and then a videotaped performance in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The announced soloists were Martina Arroyo, soprano; Josephine Veasey, mezzo‐soprano; Franco Corelli, tenor, and Ruggero Raimondi, bass. Just before the performance last night it was announced that Mr. Corelli was, as they say in music, “indisposed.” But behind this delicate term lay a hectic tale. During the exhaustive rehearsals, Mr. Corelli was, by his own admission, not singing well. He was overworked, he was tired, he was unhappy, and he developed a throat infection.
A frantic call went out for a replacement for the concert, the recording and the telecast. Present at the rehearsal was a representative of the Norman McCann agency in London who immediately proposed a client known to Mr. Bernstein, Placido Domingo, a Mexican tenor, who sings with the Metropolitan Opera and who was appearing with the Hamburg State Opera. Mr. Bernstein agreed, Mr. Domingo was reached on Saturday night, and he agreed to the recording and telecast. In the meantime, the search was pressed for someone who could rehearse Saturday night and Sunday morning for the Sunday night concert. A 30‐year‐old Welsh tenor, Robert Tear, was proposed. He had sung the requiem only twice before, he was unknown to Mr. Bernstein, but he was accepted at the last minute for his Musicianship.
This morning, the London critics, in generally enthusiastic reviews, applauded Mr. Tear as “unfailingly stylish” and as “singing with the utmost expression without the usual Italian resort to the lachrymose.”[2]


I’ll detail the CBS recording sessions for their ‘quadraphonic disc’ of Bernstein’s Verdi Requiem done at The Albert Hall, in my next part, so let’s now look at the London Weekend TV programme.

On the suggestion of his agent, Bernstein had recently set up Amberson Productions, a company to make videotapes and films of some of his concert performances and also documentaries, as Bernstein had already shown himself to be a talented performer in front of the cameras in a series of educational music programmes on US television. This decision of Bernstein’s was very forward-looking, as ‘videos’ of any type were still unknown, there being only the brand new ‘Teldec video discs’ as a possible way of releasing them, with only an 8-minute running time. although the very first domestic video machines were just becoming available, at astronomical prices.
The Verdi Requiem in London became the first venture of the new company when the new Executive Producer, Schuyler Chapin negotiated a deal with London Weekend TV to record a performance in St.Paul’s, to be shown on UK TV and also become a ‘music video’. There were real problems with getting the Musician’s Union to agree to such a new concept, which also prompted it to be done in front of an invited audience and not at a fee paying concert.
Humphrey Burton, who had moved to LWT from the BBC, where he had been Head of Music and Arts got LWT to agree to co-produce the concert, in return for a UK television showing. Humphrey had worked with Bernstein before at the BBC, and this programme was the first in a very long list of collaborations that lasted over 20 years that he was to have making the films and videos for Bernstein.

It was probably because of the involvement of the ‘video’ and Amberson, that the LWT Sound Supervisor, John Coombs organised a Scully 8-Track recorder to back-up his ‘live’ mix of the concert.
CBS was also recording the work on 8-Track for disc with the same performers at the Royal Albert Hall, where Bob Auger was mixing with CBS Producer Thomas Z. Shepard. The CBS sessions were on the 23rd, 24th and 26th February and sandwiched in on the 25th was the LWT St. Paul’s evening recording.

“There was only time for a brief sound check but the performance was an inspiring one, marred only momentarily by the awesome boom of the cathedral chimes striking ten as the soprano Martina Arroyo sang the “Libera Me”. Bernstein was his customary drained self when it was all over. “I’d give anything for a cigarette,” he groaned as he planned the retakes.”
“Retakes – impossible for a “live” telecast – are essential for a video. It’s an agonizing procedure in which the mistakes of the performance – large and small – are redone with such precision that the viewer and listener are unable to detect the editing splices in the final product. Perfection came slowly; the fifteen-minute overtime segments mounted up. The amateur chorus dwindled by half its size as singers had to slip off to catch the last train home. But the end result was handsome enough to confirm Amberson’s decision to invest in music videos. “Much of the splendour
of a very special occasion was conveyed” reported the Times after the Good Friday telecast.”[1]

The LWT broadcast was delayed a month and was transmitted on Good Friday, March 27th.

Humphrey Burton did a great job of directing the six cameras at his disposal, capturing the important visual moments in close-ups and yet still allowing plenty of wider shots which were so important, particularly in these truly grand surroundings. Humphrey knew it was rushed and under-rehearsed and later described it as “One of the most reckless productions I have ever undertaken: happily there were only a few hints on the screen of the panic mood in which the performance was captured on tape.”[7]


For a sound mixer, planning the miking of an orchestra in an unknown acoustic presents special difficulties when the acoustic is as enormous as St. Paul’s; knowing that anything you do with slung mics will be impossible to alter later. John Coombs was therefore calling on his experience in recording orchestras and trying to relate that to the problems that St. Paul’s would give him, with the diffuse nature of the sound in the highly reverberant surroundings. Very knowledgeable about Classical music, John had worked as an assistant to Sir John Barbirolli at some time in his past and was LWT’s most suitable mixer for this job.

John rigged a ‘stereo pair’ of mics over and slightly behind the conductor’s head. These were a pair of AKG C-12As, but being a Nuvistor valve mic, they needed a separate power supply. A bracket was made to hold the pair of mics in an inverted ‘Y’ shape about 6 inches (15cms) apart, at an angle which allowed ‘crossing’ the mics without the capsules blocking each other.
A colleague Charles Fearnley and I were given the task of rigging the mics ‘up in the gods’.

“I was detailed to sling a mic from the centre of the dome, and was taken up into the void between the inner and outer domes by a St. Paul’s staff member. We stood on the huge cast iron grid in the centre of the inner dome watching the ants below, and duly slung the mics – very impressive.”

I likewise have a memory of the effort of rigging those mics and vividly remember the Whispering Gallery during the rig and of later being on a lighting tower on the left side looking down from above and watching and hearing the orchestra during the rehearsals.

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C-12A with an N-12A power supply

An AKG C-12A. The special cable that linked it to the power supply, came out of the back of that ‘cornet-shaped’ holder under the mic body and a threaded stand fitting was at the bottom. Beside it are the front and back views of the N12A power supply.

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Not the most discrete microphone cabling, unfortunately.

On the right in this photo are the slung C-12A stereo pair hanging low and slightly behind Bernstein and also visible in the above photo are two of the mics we rigged for the choir. They also were C-12A’s, with a couple mounted high up on ‘Cathedral Stands’. These homemade stands languished in the Sound Store for much of the year, only to be brought out for events like this that required a particularly tall stand…. like in Cathedrals!
John, wary I don’t doubt of blocking the camera shots with ‘ugly mic stands’, only used two of these really tall stands, positioned extreme left and right for altos and sopranos plus two similar mics on more normal mic stands lower down angled inwards for the men.

Another mic visible during the programme was a single older model AKG C-12, positioned to reinforce just the orchestral double-basses. There were also two AKG C-28s, one on each side, just in front of the podium for the four soloists.


Back in 1970 we never expected to see our programmes again after transmission but this example of one of LWT’s first colour programmes was made by Amberson with the ‘long term in mind’ and is still available on a DVD from the US company ‘Kultur’. It’s obviously from the American NTSC ‘video copy’.
The Verdi Requiem has an enormous dynamic range and this is an excerpt of the loudest…the beginning of the Dies Irae…the ‘Day Of Wrath and Doom Impeding’…..


PRESS PLAY (usually in the bottom left)

The above video is an excerpt of the ‘Dies Irae’ from the Amberson video…via a Kultur DVD (Kultur DVD D1344).

Bernstein showing his complete lack of restraint when conducting I see! I was very taken with this strong ’emotional style’ I remember back at this time….he certainly knew how to bring out every bit of feeling from the choir and players and he always showed his totally genuine, complete emotional connection to the music he conducted.
This conducting style, however, was frequently criticised and Bernstein’s first 1946 appearance in London with the LPO startled the press with his conducting “which at times seemed not only to direct the orchestra but also to choreograph the music and perform an interpretative dance for the audience.” [3]
We do however hear during the Requiem one aspect of his conducting that must have frustrated his audio producers and engineers; ‘Lenny’s Leap’, captured here during the Requiem rehearsals in this well-timed shot by the LWT staff photographer, Dick Dawson and hopefully no one will mind if I reproduce this image, taken from Humphrey Burton’s book.

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Humphrey Burton was the perfect biographer for Bernstein, having worked with him for many years.


Let’s get back to the ‘technical bits’ and firstly, let’s look at the pictures.
Shot in February 1970, as I’ve said, when LWT had been using colour cameras for only a very short while with the first night of ITV colour transmissions being 15th November 1969, although we’d been recording in colour for some months before that.
LWT eventually bought many of the EMI 2001 cameras, which became much loved by the cameramen. In viewing this programme, I’m only able to identify a TV camera caught in shot in two positions; one at the right side of the orchestra on a small tracking ‘dolly’, which is an EMI 2001. Another camera however sometimes sneaks into shot ‘within in the orchestra’, as it’s shooting the conductor close-ups, and I’m surprised to see that it’s a Philips PC80.

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A Philips LDK3 camera hiding in ‘the orchestra’….it’s on the left, behind the clarinettist’s head!

LWT didn’t use Philips cameras but the facilities company Intertel had been recently purchased by LWT and was equipped with Philips PC80/LDK3s cameras.
The LWT camera crew, headed by Ken Manning and also consisted of Ian Stanley, Trevor Hampton, Chris Brown, Mike Startup and Peter Douglas. Humphrey later praised them for helping find interesting shots during this under-rehearsed production.
Technically, some of the pictures from the cameras have some ‘colour fringing’, a particular problem on the early TV colour cameras, but overall the 1970 images aren’t too awful. The ‘blacks’ seem to lack any detail but you soon get used to these 1970 pictures. The cameras did require a lot of light to get good pictures though…and when, after lighting the choir early in the performance some of the big lights get turned off, the racket from all those ’10Ks’ switching off is very unfortunate!
The American Theatre Designer Oliver Smith was credited as one of the two Amberson producers and Humphrey Burton explains in his book:
“Oliver Smith supervised the lighting for the telecast and designed the royal blue dais upon which Bernstein and the soloists stood.”
However it was LWT Lighting Director Teddy Shankster who would have to work out where and how to get those big lights up and his ‘sparks’ had a tough job getting them, plus all the associated mains distribution and control boxes into ‘The Gods’ at St. Paul’s to provide lighting for the ceiling fresco’s and for the orchestra, soloists and choir below.


As I’ve said John Coomb’s main mics were the C-12A stereo pair, plus mics on the choir and double basses. The four soloists were so close to the ‘main pair’ that the 2 C-28 spot mics in front probably weren’t needed.
It would be his concern over the enormous 8-second reverb time that forced John to keep the main pair low over the orchestra front. His basic sound layout works well though for his mono TV mix, but there is a moment during a quiet oboe solo that he has to hunt to get the instrument up.
Here’s my sketch of the overall orchestral plan.

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The orchestra is squeezed into an excessively narrow layout to be able to include the choir in the cathedral’s area. Humphrey Burton’s 6 camera positions and John Coomb’s mic positions are shown.


What of the ‘sound mixing’? Alas, there being no suitably equipped OB ‘scanner’ or even a ‘sound mobile’ in February 1970, so John was forced to set up his gear in a ‘furniture van’!

“The “mobile” was a slightly grubby furniture van – 3 tonnes or so in size – with interior bare aluminium walls, and no acoustic treatment of any kind. Even at that stage, I wondered how it would sound inside… I remember a mixer, but no idea what, and have no recall of tape machines. My understanding of the technology was somewhat “limited” at that stage – but I do recall being impressed by the provision of an electric kettle!” 

All is revealed though thanks to a photo from ex-LWT Sound Supervisor Paul Faraday, as here’s Leo Sturgess mixing a Film and TV awards show at the Palladium with David Frost presenting, just 2 weeks later on the 8th March 1970. It’s the very same grubby ‘furniture van’.

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Two weeks later, the same ‘furniture van’ makes a make-shift control room at the Palladium for Leo Sturgess.
Photo: Paul Faraday

That’s an appalling set-up for a sound mixing a major TV recording! It’s no wonder then that LWT started ‘dry-hiring’ proper sound recording mobiles, like the Rolling Stones truck, the Island or Manor Mobiles once they came started to become available about a year or so later.

As can be seen from the photo of the ‘furniture van’, John’s ‘main desk’ was made up of two Marconi B1103s of 1965 vintage, one of the early germanium transistor sound desks. Each consisted of 12-channels, in which channels 1 to 6 routed to Group A, with 7 to 10 able to go to both Group A or B. Channels 11 and 12 only go to Group B. The two group faders go to the single Mono output.
John would have to be creative to produce the separate outputs for his 8-Track though, as there were no individual outputs from the 2 Groups, just a ‘Clean Feed’ from either one. He would have to employ the single ‘PA’ output and the ‘Foldback’ output somehow. Perhaps having the two ‘joined desks’ helped as well.
There were just two equalisers in each desk that could be plugged to a pair of channels, with 60Hz, 3KHz and 10KHz fixed frequencies
. The gain control on each mic channel had a 30dB range and the Line inputs were padded down, going into the mic amps…very old style that. [4]

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Marconi B1103 12 channels into 2 groups with a mono main output. Two of these are plugged together in the LWT ‘furniture van mobile’.
Photo: Broadcast Engineering Conservation Group [6]

John Coombs however routed his stereo pair C-12A mics first of all through a much more modern 6-channel Neve desk, fitted with the Neve 1066 mic and eq modules. It was in fact a simple ‘grams mixer’ that had recently arrived in LWT’s ‘STU’ (Sound Transcription Unit) for ‘tape prep’ work. It wasn’t a stereo desk, so had no ‘pan-pots’, but it enabled John to feed his ‘stereo pair’ to 2 tracks of the Scully 8-Track and still route the output to his strictly mono Marconi desk. It turned out to be a very good decision to use the new Neve, if only for the two main mics as the new Neve-designed silicon transistor circuits were so much better.

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Photographed on a later date, this LWT Neve Grams mixer carried the C-12A pair and routed them to the Scully 8-Track, as well as to John’s main OB mono desk.


The Scully 8-Track had probably come on hire from Dag Fellner, the US company’s UK dealer. It was possibly equipped with a set of Dolby A301 noise reduction units as well, but these were whooping 6U high devices and they took up a fair amount of space. LWT at that time had no multitrack recorders and 8-Track machines must have been quite hard to come by that February as there were only two mobile recording units that you could hire, both ‘de-rig’ units; Pye Records and Bob Auger’s Granada Recordings…..which was the one already recording the CBS disc version of the Verdi at the Albert Hall.

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The 8-track Scully 284-8.The amplifiers in Bob Auger’s were housed in 2 separate flight cases, but the ‘John Coombs’ one probably looked like this.
Photo: Gearslutz

In the next few months, LWT did buy a Scully 8-Track though, to equip a new ‘music studio’ and I was therefore able to play the St. Paul’s 8-Track tape not long after the event and John had put the C-12A stereo pair on 2 tracks and I remember 2 tracks being for soloists and 2 for Choir. There was no clever ‘pulse track’ for re-syncing to the video later though…we hadn’t thought of that yet! Alas, I also can’t remember if the tapes were ‘Dolbied’ or not. Newer Dolby A361 units weren’t released until September 1970, so he would have had to have at least 4 of the big Dolby A301 units, each with two channels per unit.
Unless two 8-Track recorders were in use, some form of tape changeover pause must have been planned into the concert as they could only record for 30 minutes on a reel at 15ips. The same problem possibly existed for the 2″ QUAD VTR machine, although we possibly could have been using Intertel’s VT truck on site, which had 2 QUAD’s on board.


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The austere cover to the 1992 Kultur DVD.

We have to be very thankful that the US company Kultur wanted to preserve some of Bernstein’s video concerts after all these years. Released way back in 1992, Kultur’s DVD ‘Bernstein In London – Verdi Requiem’ is still available (try Amazon) and is an NTSC ‘Region 1’ (US) DVD so to play it in the UK, check out your DVD player for ‘all region’ compatibility.

What then of that sound from the DVD you heard in the first video clip? Billed on the DVD as ‘Dolby 2.0’, which is a generic label for lossy compressed AC3 (Dolby) encoded audio tracks, it does not necessarily mean ‘stereo’ and in fact, that’s the case here….it’s definitely not stereo!
After a totally mono spoken introduction by Bernstein, the opening sounds like it might be stereo, but there is no discernible ‘left and right’ information, and it is just a ‘smeary mono’ that occupies about half of the space between your loudspeakers. I was seriously disappointed when I heard this, imagining that a stereo mixdown from the 8-track had at some time taken place.
It’s certainly not a complete disaster but it’s very compressed sounding….the background noises are brought up
quite noticeably and there’s some 5 or 6k mid-frequency boost added in there. It’s also a great pity they didn’t ‘mend’ the leaps in audience atmosphere audible on the DVD, which arrive badly between each of the movements. After the loudness of the Dies Irae, when Raimondi, the Bass starts the wonderful ‘Mors Stupebit’ with the big bass drum as accompaniment…..we can hear Humphrey Burton’s talkback instructions badly breaking through. Perhaps the camera ‘in the orchestra’ or the lighting crew ‘in the gods’, turned up their talkback?

So this is John’s TV mono mix, via the NTSC 525 transfer that was made with a frame converter, for Amberson, plus some fiddling with the audio to simulate stereo I guess when the DVD was made.
It does get a bit ‘edgy’ when loud, and after all analogue tape ‘peak distortion’ was quite often heard back in the mid-60s to early ’70s, as CD copies of Giulini’s EMI 1964 recording of the Verdi Requiem still prove. There is also some ‘modulation noise’ present on the two solo women’s voices…another hang-over from the analogue tape alas.


As I mentioned. LWT opened a multitrack sound studio with an 8-Track at their Wembley Studios shortly after the Verdi Concert and I was the junior of three LWT engineers that ‘moved over’ to operate it. John used our new ‘Intersound’ studio to make a mixdown of all, or possibly just parts of his Verdi recording. He told me that “Recording the stereo pair on the multitrack had saved the day” and I recall watching our wonderfully accomplished VT Editor, Tim Whiffin, use a Revox A77 tape deck to dub some of the programme back to the 2″ QUAD master. Tim was an electronic wizard, as well as a talented video tape editor and had modified a Revox A77 1/4″ tape deck to run off a 50Hz pulse track to maintain its stability, just like a film Nagra by one of the two audio tracks, so it was ‘mono’ only if used like that. Clever stuff though from the man who went on to build the Audio Kinetics Q-Lock, a hugely successful tape machine synchroniser that LWT, along with just about everyone else, ended up using for the next decade or so to sound dub TV shows.

I took John’s multitrack tapes out of the Library to discover some of the secrets of mixing Classical music …. and to enjoy again the Verdi Requiem of course.
His ‘stereo pair’ was a direct feed to the 8-Track and had no manual compression applied at all. It was the full dynamic range of the concert, exactly as Bernstein had conducted it. John’s other feeds, the choir and soloists, were ‘post fader’ and he had applied some fader gain riding as he mixed to those. He was after all mixing very wide dynamic range music for a TV audience listening on grotty domestic 1970 TVs, so he had to manually compress those wide dynamics.

My 1/4″ tapes were eventually dubbed to DAT, after passing through a Sony F1 digital recorder first in the early 80s. The DAT needed careful restoration and eventually, I was able to listen to the Verdi Requiem stereo track again. [5]

But…on playing the transferred file, I found it wasn’t very ‘stereo’. It was stereo…just not very wide. Just a bit better in width than the Kultur DVD’s ‘smeared mono’ really, however, you could at least tell it has proper ‘left and right’ channels.


I had already realised that John Coombs ‘stereo pair’ mics were never going to give a decent stereo image…they were too close for that very, very widely spaced orchestra layout.
His mics were hung just behind Leonard Bernstein on the podium and were positioned low down as well. This would have been working for John in his mono TV mix as they gave great coverage of the soloists, a decent balance on the orchestra except for the more distant strings and he had his 4 choir mics to be able to ‘tickle in’ some more choir. Plus a mic on the Double Basses to add if required.
John hadn’t set up any ‘stereo monitoring’ in that luxurious ‘furniture van’, so he never heard the ‘stereo’ until he got to the Intersound studio later.
His C-12As are set to 90-degree angles. That was the way the BBC Radio guys set up a pair of ‘figure-of-eight’ mics as a stereo pair, as originally detailed by Blumlein of course ….but they would still have needed to be further back for full coverage because as you see in the plan above, the orchestra has such a very wide layout. A couple of mono mics at the orchestra edges, suitably panned would really have helped pull in those ‘distant strings’ well.
John wasn’t likely to set the C-12As on a ‘figure-of-eight’ pattern anyway as he was fighting lots of reverb in St. Pauls, so he’d have them on ‘cardioid’ and they really needed widening to at least a 110-degree angle
to provide a good stereo spread.


In order to re-sync the stereo sound to the existing pictures I needed to use some ‘modern technology’ and in this case, it was Steinberg’s Nuendo to widen the stereo so that the image ‘makes it’ to the edges, with the bass drum on the left and the brass on the right. The sound in a really ‘big’ acoustic like St Paul’s is very diffuse anyway and would not give the well-defined image that a normal concert hall produces, which is why CBS weren’t recording in St. Paul’s anyway. But hey, it is visually superb!

The problems of re-syncing are these:
The many transfers from 8-track to 1/4″, Sony F-1 and then to DAT; all without being accurately ‘resolved’, caused drifting of the audio sync against the more stable video,
In these still fairly early days of 2″ QUAD VT editing there was no timecode. Although the editors weren’t cutting the tape with a razor blade anymore, and edits were now being done ‘electronically’ by dubbing from a playback VT to another record one, it was a hit-and-miss technique.
It was a case of choosing your edit point, backing off both the ‘Playback VT’ and the ‘Record VT’ by the long 10 secs pre-roll necessary to get them into a stable speed and then rehearse ‘the new join’. If it didn’t look right, you adjusted a little and tried again. Then you’d ‘go and do it’, hoping both decks were keeping to the same settings.
I therefore found some edits were up to 4 or 5 frames (each frame 1/25th of a second) late or early.
That sounds a lot but most of these edits would have been cutting to the retakes, either for picture or musical reasons. I don’t know if Humphrey Burton had the luxury then of a separate VTR recording an ‘isolated camera’ feed during the concert, that would have enabled him to just drop a ‘new picture’ from that ‘iso camera’ without changing the existing soundtrack, but I guess most edits were from the post-concert ‘re-takes’ with both new sound and pictures.
This brings me to another difficulty in re-synching….I had only copied the ‘concert’ sound and not any of the subsequent re-takes. So where a retake had been inserted in the pictures, I was now trying to relay the original concert sound back over it, and trying very hard to avoid any noticeable picture sync errors at all, by slipping or changing the speed very fractionally. Plus correcting the pitch to match with software.
It’s amazing what modern audio software lets you do…..but resyncing was still a labour of love! I spent many hours fiddling with sync and then removing minute digital ‘spits’, courtesy of the old DAT tape, along with some analogue tape dropouts and even
that ‘directors talkback’ from some overloud cameraman’s cans. Finally, I’m just left with a few impossible noises and the analogue tape hiss which I should try and deal with now.


I’ll start at the beautiful entry of the soloists and continue into the Dies Irae, to compare with the earlier video clip and then I’ll continue playing on because it’s certainly not just ‘the orchestral fireworks’ that make this work, and it’s really wonderful to enjoy all four great soloists and the choir. It’s a very moving piece of music throughout.
Visually, apart from ‘Lenny’, you’ve got to love those ‘eyebrows’ of the bass Ruggiero Raimondi in his solo after that ‘loud bit’! And that long-dying St.Paul’s reverb is just so, so wonderful.
(Sorry by the way that the picture quality has had to drop a fraction to get this in.)


PRESS PLAY (usually in the bottom left)

Some of the stereo version, as recorded on two mics only.

50 years on and with some help of ‘modern software’, we can hear how it would….or could have sounded. As I mentioned there’s still some analogue peak distortion present of course; those generations on tape each typically had 2-3% peak distortion!
Although it’s made with only one pair of mics without the chorus or bass section ‘spot’ mics, and it’s obvious that the chorus are slightly under balanced and needs that pair of ‘outrigger mics’ for the far strings, it still works fairly well and I’m convinced it can be enjoyed for the sound far better than the DVD, making it a more emotional experience.

Bernstein judged that cavernous echo beautifully throughout, as you can hear when he allows it to completely die before conducting.
I’ve carried on and relayed the complete work and been able to improve more on the soloists ‘lip-sync’ in the edited sections and remove some background noises and little digital glitches. It’s been an amazing experience to have gone through – although loving both Verdi’s Requiem and Bernstein’s interpretation has helped me stick at it and I now want to use some more DSP software to make a complete restoration of this sound.


After I had written this piece, I corresponded with Humphrey Burton, just as he was publishing his autobiography “Humphrey Burton: In My Own Time” (published May 2021) [7]. I urge you to get the book as it is a significant memoir from a major player in the ‘Television Music and Art’s’ world, and Humphrey does write his own story so well.
In his book, after a great chapter detailing his years at LWT, there’s a short chapter just on the Bernstein Verdi Requiem. Although he tells us more about the evening, I won’t quote from the new book except perhaps to mention the response to the playback the next day, when the Producers reviewed the VT tape for the first time:

“Schuyler Chapin wrote that tears came to my eyes when the house lights went up, ‘Partly from the emotion of the performance and partly from relief: for clearly, we had something priceless before us.”

How far-sighted of Bernstein and his Producers to do this in the days when the first domestic video machines were only just becoming available, and since there was still no way to release this full length recording other than through the existing television broadcasts, it took a great leap of faith to realise that a recording like this would be worth all the effort for preserving for future years. The commercial ‘Classical Music Video’ was truly born with this production.


Somewhere perhaps the original 2″ Master tape along with the 8-Track audio tape still resides? Did they get saved with the demise of LWT into Granada and perhaps finally get lodged in the ITV Archive in Leeds….. or it chucked into a skip well before then when the ‘shelf space’ was needed? Amberson may perhaps even have the 8-Track in a vault somewhere?
I’d be pleased to re-do the re-syncing to the original 2″ VT picture of the stereo of this wonderful concert if I could get a ‘better copy’ and that would give us a better ‘archive’ for the future I’m sure.

It was nice to see that so many of the crew were credited….which was not common back in 1970.


Apart from Charles Fearnley and myself, if you know of any other crew members, I would love to add them to this listing! Humphrey Burton’s assistant in these years was Liz Queenan, but who were the PA and the Vision Mixer….plus the Vision Engineers, the Riggers and Sparks perhaps?

Do go and get a copy of the Kultur video DVD1344 ‘Bernstein In London – Verdi Requiem’ if you want to see the whole of this great concert.


References and credits:

[1]: From “Leonard Bernstein” – Biography by Humphrey Burton, Faber and Faber 1994.
[2] Archived on the New York Times website.
[3] Quote from Paul Meyers book “Leonard Bernstein” Phaidon 1998. Paul Meyers was a Producer, involved with the CBS recording of the Bernstein Verdi Requiem in the Albert Hall detailed in my next article.
[4]: Information on the Marconi B1103 from https://www.tvcameramuseum.org/
[5]: Restoration carried out by Graham Joiner. See his Audio Restored website: https://www.audiorestored.com/
[6] The Broadcast Engineering Conservation Group are dedicated to preserving the history of broadcasting and has a great collection of ‘retired’ OB Scanners that they are rebuilding. The Marconi illustration came from an ex-Yorkshire scanner.
[7] “Humphrey Burton: In My Own Time“, the autobiography from Humphrey (at the age of only 90) is published by The Boydell Press 2021. It’s very highly recommended, and it includes a chapter on ‘The Verdi Requiem’ St. Paul’s TV recording.



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