Beethoven Festival has 37 years of audio and video archives
July 7, 2016
During the next six weeks, the Park City Beethoven Festival will focus on live performances at various venues around the town.
However, that's only a portion of the goal founder Leslie Harlow and her husband Russell want to achieve.
For the past three months, Russell Harlow has been archiving the recordings of past performances that reach back into the 1980s.
"We've recorded all of our concerts since late 1983, and we really hadn't archived any of those concerts," Harlow said. "We just had stored tapes."
So, this year, Harlow decided to convert the recordings into digital files.
The idea came to Harlow while he was archiving the work of one of his late friends, violinist Charles Libove of the Libove Lugovoy Duo.
"I have been archiving some things of his and there were hundreds of recordings that we received from his widow, pianist Nina Lugovoy," Harlow said. "That's what led me to think of our Beethoven Festival.
"After 37 years, we forget what we have done," he said. "So, I decided to sit down and put together an archive. I felt an urge to do this because of the tapes, because tape deteriorates over time." So far, the Beethoven Festival recordings in the Harlows' possession only go back as far as 1987.
"The ones that we did earlier are a little sparse because the person that recorded the concerts hasen't given Leslie all of the tapes," Harlow explained.
"We kept all of the tapes at our home," Leslie Harlow said. "Our house doesn't look very big, but between our basement and our first floor, we have a strange space that we called the atticus."
Other tapes were stored in the basement and cabinets in her husband's office.
"We have nearly 700 festival concerts," she said.
The concerts the Harlows do have from 1987 to 1989 were all recorded on cassette tapes.
"Then we moved to another form of ancient technology — DAT tapes," Harlow said with a grin.
"That's when we started doing more concerts in different venues including the Sundance Resort," Leslie Harlow said.
In 2002, the engineers began recording the concerts on CD.
"That moved the process along a lot quicker, because I could transfer the music in a few minutes, rather than what I had been doing, which was transferring it all in real time with the tapes," Russell Harlow said. "I'm almost up to 2006 with the audios."
Last year, the recording technology changed again.
"That's when the engineers started recording the concerts directly into the computer," Harlow said. "They would send us mp3s through DropBox. which will make it even more easier to deal with."
In addition to these audio recordings, Harlow plans to start archiving the accompanying concert videos after this year's festival wraps up in August.
"Some are on VHS, but we also have some that were professionally recorded by TV stations that are a totally different kind of tape," Leslie Harlow said. "We also have Beta tapes and DVDs as well." "It will be interesting for me because I will have to find the right equipment so I can transfer them," Russell Harlow said.
Harlow also knows that some of the concert videos in the collection feature sub-par audio, but he has that glitch covered.
"The videos were filmed on different cameras and some were quite small," he said. "So, if a concert on a video doesn't sound as good as it should, we have the audio already and can put the two together."
To complement the audio and video, Harlow has scanned the original printed programs of each performance.
"Sometimes we changed a performance after we printed the programs, so I am editing the programs by hand to reflect what we actually played," he said.
Harlow plans to post everything on a website.
"That way, people from all over the world can call up any of the concerts and play them," he said. "It will be like going through a real-time picture album."
"That will be great for our guest performers because they can hear what they have played with us," Leslie Harlow said. "It's also nice for us as well, because as Russ said, you think you remember what you played, but you don't. Also some of the guests who have played during these concerts are no longer with us. So, it's nice to remember them this way."