At the Edinburgh Music Festival in 1980, the BBC was interested in filming a performance of Berloiz’ Te Deum for broadcast. Te Deum is a massive orchestral work, with a full choir and central to the piece is the magnificent organ score. The performance was scheduled for Usher Hall (below right) which did not have an organ that was sufficient for the orchestra, choir and filming. One half mile away, the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Mary’s (below left) had a perfect organ for the performance, but did not have a stage for the orchestra and choirs.

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

 

The idea the BBC engineers had was to use a microwave link from the Cathedral to Usher Hall and have organist Gillian Weir perform remotely. From a technical point-of-view, this was a pretty intricate undertaking – a live orchestral performance with the central instrument being played in another building ½ mile away. Issues like time delay and the organist simply being able to see the conductor in real-time were daunting enough, but replicating the actual sound of the magnificent organ in St. Mary’s for the audience in Usher Hall (and a television audience as well) was, to say the least, quite an undertaking.

 

Pipe organs move a lot of air and have frequency ranges that run pretty much the full spectrum of human hearing, but if you can’t replicate the majestic power of the organ then your audience is missing out completely. Over a casual dinner conversation, engineers from the BBC asked legendary KEF engineer Laurie Fincham if he thought KEF’s Reference 105 loudspeakers were up to the task. After some consideration and a few calculations on a napkin, Fincham indeed thought they were.

 

Now, the 105 is an awesome speaker that was way ahead of its time when first released in 1977, but it was going to take more than just a pair of them to do the trick. In fact, thirty-six 105.2 were used – 20 at the front of the theater and 16 at the back. Each one was bi-amped powered by a Quad 405 amp running in double-bridge mode which produced 400 Watts per channel.

 

St. Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh

With a few pre-show glitches and technical concerns sorted out before the broadcast commenced, the performance went off without a hitch. The audience was so enamored that local police had time to escort Gillian Weir the half mile from the Cathedral to the Hall between the first bow and the second bow, so that she was able to bow before the audience she had just played remotely for.

 

After the show the speakers were returned to our factory in Maidstone, all in working order, and with a few minor scratches here and there, none the worse for the wear after an amazing performance and an amazing technical feat.

 

We’re not good because we’ve been around for a long time, we’ve been around for a long time because we’re good, and technical challenges such as those encountered at the Edinburgh Festival are part of the fabric of KEF that keeps us at the forefront of audio reproduction.       

St. Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh

The video below is not of the actual performance of Te Deum in 1980, but is provided here to give you an idea of the piece and how integral the pipe organ is to it.