More than a year ago, “06880” posted a request. The Staples High School music department was preparing for its 75th anniversary Candlelight Concert — 13 months away — and needed old programs and recordings for a display. They figured a few might trickle in.
The trickle became a torrent. Audio recordings — records, tapes and CDs — of every concert since that year (except 3) poured in from across the country. So did most printed programs since ’53. (It’s uncertain whether any programs or recordings were made between the very 1st Candlelight in 1940, and 1952.)
Then the fun began.
As anyone who has ever attended a Staples performance knows, the music department does things in a big way. Concertgoers tonight and tomorrow will see a lot more than a simple display.
Staples parent Jeff Hauser spent weeks processing the files. A Brooklyn company digitized the old vinyl LPs. However, they returned only 1 computer file per side. Someone had to hand-split those sides into individual songs — and consult the programs to find out the name of each one.
Staples senior Devon Murray volunteered many hours creating elegantly written software. It allows everyone to click on a particular year, then listen to whatever they want. He’ll be in the lobby, standing near laptops to help anyone (from the Class of 1953?) who needs help.
In 1979, the annual concert was already 39 years old. Some of those performers — now with their own children out of college — will return this weekend.
Staples parent David Pogue took time off from his PBS Nova/CBS Sunday Morning/Yahoo tech jobs to cut apart songs from some of the 1950s concerts. He also loaned the laptops and headphones for the kiosks.
Pogue had fun watching Candlelight evolve. He says, for example, “what we consider a lovely soloist has changed a lot over the years. In the ’50s they were usually given to girls with light, warbly voices, with very fast, fluttery vibratos.”
Pogue also noticed changes to the printed programs. In the 1960s each program says at the top: “Please do not applaud during the program, since the entire concert is being recorded.”
These days, he notes, the show is recorded ahead of time, “without any pesky audience members to ruin the effect.”
The front of the 1962 Candlelight program.
The audio and program displays are two more added attractions to this weekend’s very special 75th anniversary concert. But if you don’t have tickets, don’t bother going. They were sold out weeks ago.
On the other hand — as noted before, Staples’ music department does things in a very big way. Tomorrow’s (Saturday, December 19, 8 p.m.) performance is being aired live on WWPT-FM (90.3), and broadcast live on Cablevision Channel 78.
If you don’t live within range of radio or TV — no prob! Just click here for a livestream.
You can enjoy Candlelight anywhere in the world. All you’ll miss is the kiosk.