Broadcasting the Colorado Symphony Orchestra

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On Location, March 2010

When the Colorado Symphony Orchestra began to feel the economic pinch this year, it came up with several novel ways of addressing potential budget shortfalls. In addition to across-the-board pay cuts, the CSO teamed with Colorado Public Radio for a three-day pledge drive that culminated with a concert with acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

Yo-yo Ma

CPR broadcast the CSO/Yo-Yo Ma concert live to 22 radio stations in Colorado in DTS Neural 5.1 Surround. All told, the drive raised more than $600,000.

When the CSO looked into having the concert broadcast, it selected someone it worked with before, Mike Pappas. Pappas has been recording "forever" in his own words. "I sold my car and bought a Scully 280 two-track, ¼" tape recorder, which I used to carry in a flight case and lug around to gigs," he says. "It weighed like 90 pounds. I had 14" reels on it so I could actually record for an hour."

Setup problems

Pappas is technically an independent consultant, though he often works with KUVO Public Radio and considers it home base. He first worked with the CSO in 2004, on a recording of Dianne Reeves playing the CSO.

Mike Pappas checks mic placements while David Day looks on.

Mike Pappas checks mic placements while David Day looks on.

"The CSO called us a couple years back to do 10 days of Beethoven, so we loaded in May 28 and were out of here on June 13," explains Pappas. "There were usually two performances a day, or a rehearsal and a performance. None of those rehearsals and performances were the same, so you'd rehearse one thing and they'd be performing something different that night. I think we had, at one time, 12 different sets of tape marks on the hall floor as to where microphone moves were for specific events. We had to take the stage apart from the morning rehearsal and then put it back up for the evening performance."

Radio magazine's sister publication Mix magazine was also on-site during the event. Read Mix's account of the event.

The Boettcher Auditorium itself is idiosyncratic, with several problems an engineer has to consider in setting up a recording.

"The whole hall is in a really weird spot," laughs Pappas. "Half the audience is behind you and none of the seating areas are symmetrical. It's hard to find a center line in that room. It has quirks, like players on the right hand of the stage can't hear players on the left hand of the stage. It's particularly interesting problems out there, so all that plays into gear we use and how we get it to work."

-- continued on page 2

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