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Broadcasting the SSO in the 80s and 90s

Broadcasting the SSO in the 80s and 90s

Working at the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), I was involved in the “OB” (Outside Broadcast) recordings of SSO concerts at the Victoria Concert Hall between May 1987 and February 1992, for SBC’s Radio 5. We’d record the SSO concert on Friday night, then broadcast it the following Thursday.

The recordings were done by SBC sound engineers — I recall a Mr Chin — who would set up these massive recording machines up in a tiny room above and to the side of the stage. The engineers would have been there all afternoon during the SSO rehearsals, to set up the microphones for these massive analogue tape recording machines, which looked something like the one shown here.

These machines would be in the tiny room two levels up, which had a tiny window overlooking the stage. I’d turn up 30 minutes before the concert, get the concert programme, then sit in said tiny room for the duration of the concert. After the concert, I'd pack up the analogue quarter-inch tapes into large – each the size of a large pizza box and weighing about a kilogram each – and lug them them home with me that night. Back then, the open-air car park behind Victoria Concert Hall was about 500 metres away, so let’s just say these OB recordings improved my fitness level too.

The next morning (yes, we worked Saturdays in those days) I'd take said tapes back to the station. There, I’d research the pieces performed, before scripting the programme, including anecdotes and highlights to listen out for in each piece. Then it was into the studio where I’d record my script, introducing each piece, manually editing and splicing the tape – no digital editing tools in those days! – to tighten the “gaps” that are inevitable in “live” recordings. Packaging the programme also included writing cue sheets for the radio presenter to read before he or she played the programme the following Thursday on the classical radio station, back then known as Radio 5. Publicity for these broadcasts was regularly carried in SBC’s weekly Radio and TV Times magazine.

A radio listing of SSO’s recorded concert in Radio & TV Times

Today, the SSO is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. I feel privileged to have been a small part of the SSO's early recordings, and am absolutely delighted that the SSO continues to reach people outside the concert hall.