This video has me very confused! I’m having trouble finding references or information about the IC Big Band in the videotape index other than just this single one. I do know however that this one item was from 21st June 1978 and featured on STOIC’s Lunch Break weekly programme. I can’t even get any clues to the location used. I do however recognise one person in the video as having been involved with STOIC, so I assume that pins it down to the Imperial campus perhaps? On the videotape there is no introduction, just the music session so that doesn’t help me either. More information lost in time and never recorded anywhere.
It appears however that the IC Big Band does still exist today and have their own Website and Facebook page too! Here’s what they say about themselves:
The official big band of Imperial College London, IC Big Band regularly performs top quality jazz in and around the capital. The platinum award-winning band consists of current university students at Imperial College London, and has gained an excellent reputation that grows year on year.
Back in June 2016 that month’s blog had a December 1982 performance by the Imperial College orchestra. I have discovered another recording but this time in March 1982, it’s of the orchestra rehearsing in the Great Hall. I should point out that the colour quality of this video is not that brilliant I’m afraid. This is the raw footage that was shot, that means unedited of course.
Once again the conductor is Richard Dickins, who recently retired from his role as Director of Music at Imperial College.
Back on 1st May 1982 there was a Gilbert and Sullivan marathon taking place in the Union Concert Hall. Starting at 12 noon a constant stream of over 50 people battled through 28 hours of singing all 13 Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. In the process they collected over £2000 for the Save the Children Fund. Tracy Poole was there at 4pm to report for STOIC’s Newsbreak programme.
What better way to start 2018 than with some music. 39 years ago, way back in 1979, the student TV service STOIC were recording their weekly college-wide news programme called News-Break. This particular programme from 31 October 1979 featured a college jazz group called SP3 and I have no idea where that name came from, but it must mean something, probably science related I suspect. Music was not new in the studio as we’d tried this type of thing before and again later on in the 1980’s, but then it was in colour.
Introduced by STOIC regular Dave Ghani it was also the end of the programme, so you’ll see a few end credits appearing including my name it seems. This all looks very amateur but it was all done with less than mobile cameras, in one take and with no rehearsal either.
Today marks ten years since the Imperial College Centenary Ceremony. If you click on the link in the previous sentence you can see the special page that was created with many memories contributed by past & present staff & students. See if you can spot my contribution too. But can you really believe it’s ten years since all the fun and games that marked the centenary of Imperial College from 1907-2007? The overall one-year celebration period was entitled “100 years of living science“. What you will see below are videos from that celebration period. However, in a previous blog I included the celebrations for Imperial’s 50th Anniversary Jubilee in 1957.
Things kicked off in the Great Hall on 30th January 2007 with the Rector Sir Richard Sykes giving his centenary launch lecture.
The highlight of the year was on 9th July 2007 when HM Queen attended the centenary ceremony in the college main entrance. We covered the event with three cameras running on wireless links to avoid any cables. This also enabled us to get shots from the pavement when Her Majesty, along with HRH Prince Philip, arrived and departed, in the royal car. You’ll see the latter at the end of the video. The whole ceremony was also relayed via a web-stream around the World, one of the earliest we had done. One of the cameramen got a lovely shot when the Queen was signing the visitors book just before her departure. Like many of these events you can plan well ahead, but at the time it happens you’ve not really had a rehearsal. As I always say about this type of event, you can’t ask the Queen to do a run-through and camera rehearsal for you! So, it’s nice when you can get some great unexpected shots as you’ll see in the video. Please note that unlike BBC broadcasts of such events, there is no added commentary.
A few days after the centenary ceremony a college-wide/campuses-wide staff party was held. On 11th July 2007 a party was held like nothing Imperial had ever seen, or has seen since for that matter. We covered that party during the entire time, as you’ll see in the video below, which was presented by Darren Queralt.
Because many people, including us, were actually working during the staff party, another event was put on at the end of the year in December. It was the Beach Party and here I am with my colleague Martin Sayers and Rector Sir Richard Sykes all trying to look like it was Summer, even though it wasn’t. And hey, I still had a video camera with me it seems! I must look for that tape…
I recently discovered this U-matic videotape of a 1982 performance by the Imperial College orchestra. Notable is the early appearance by Richard Dickins (right), this was before he had been appointed conductor and subsequently director of music at Imperial College.
The quality and especially the colour are rather poor, but once again I’m thankful that we do at least have this recording, brought to you for the first time since being digitised.
Back in October 2010 I brought to you an extract from a unique 16mm colour film that was residing in the college archives since 1973.
Robert W Sarnoff was President & Chief Executive of RCA (Radio Corporation of America). He was the eldest son of broadcasting mogul Brig. Gen. David Sarnoff, he followed in his father’s professional footsteps throughout his career at NBC and RCA. On October 25th 1973 he received the Fellowship of Imperial College at Commemoration Day. The citation for Sarnoff indicates that he was the benefactor of the Imperial College Haldane Music Library. News of this Commemoration Day Fellowship was reported in the Milwaukee Journal in November 1973 and the Nashua Telegraph in December of the same year, so this must have been important. Also here’s a report in Felix the student newspaper.
Sarnoff paid for large parts of the 1973 ceremony to be filmed in colour and or course with sound. Lord Flowers (1924-2010) was Rector at the time and speaking at the ceremony was David Sinclair – Student Orator; Professor Gerald Whitrow (1912-2000) – Staff Orator and the Chairman of the Governing Body – Lord Sherfield (1904-1996). Eric Brown is seen conducting the Choir. This is the earliest moving picture record the college has of one of its ceremonies and it’s thanks to Robert Sarnoff that this happened. One of the greatest achievements by RCA and Sarnoff in particular was the development and introduction of colour TV in the USA. At the dedication ceremony of NBC’s new Washington, D.C. facility on May 22, 1958, Sarnoff introduced President Eisenhower who became the first President to then appear on Colour TV. For those interested, you can see an amazing videotape that has been rediscovered of this event. The tape represents the earliest known colour television recording discovered to date.
Here then is the full 16mm colour film of Commemoration Day, being shown for the first time after its transfer into digital form.
Dr Harold R Allen came to Imperial College as a lecturer in October 1947 after completing a PhD at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory. He made major contributions to the Physics Department but more importantly to the musical activities within the college.
In this interview, recorded in 1983 and not long before his retirement, he talks about the 1960 transfer from the old buildings occupied by Physics, to the brand new building on the corner of Prince Consort Road and Queens Gate. Physics was the first department within Imperial College to move into an entirely new building. As well as this, he discusses his colleagues that were in the department during his years as a member of staff. There’s an interesting anecdote too about the initial design of the Physics lecture theatre and columns that were originally planned, but which would have reduced vision across the entire space.
Sir Roderic Hill who was Rector the time (1948-1954), is discussed as being the person to have started what was then called General Studies. Lady Hill had discovered during a conversation with Dr Allen that he had an interest in music and asked him what was the strength of musical activities going on within the college. All of this lead to the formation of a choir to sing at the then newly created Commemoration Day, the purchase of a piano followed along with the creation of a ‘space for musical activities’. He became leader, organiser and treasurer of the college orchestra.
This interview was recorded in the Imperial College TV Studio on 18th July 1983, especially for the college archives. It was intended to capture the people and history of the college for others to enjoy in the future; we are doing that now, over 30 years later!
A piece of sad news from Linda Jones in the Blackett Lab is that Harold Allen died on September 5th of this year, 2014.
On the 19th October 1988 the beginning of the mergers with the medical schools started. This was the merger between Imperial College of Science and Technology and St Mary’s Hospital Medical School, located just north of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park at Paddington. The end result of the mergers was the formation of the Faculty of Medicine.
To my knowledge this is only the second time that the college’s Great Hall has played host to a royal event. The first of these was the opening of the building (then called College Block and subsequently Sherfield Building) and the hall itself by HM the Queen in 1969. The hall was packed as you would imagine and that didn’t leave all that much room for the two cameras and tripods we had proposed for the live recording. We were also limited in terms of man-power so my colleague Chris Roberts operated the main camera whilst I located the second camera next to where I had the vision mixer and recorders. This meant that I could not only cut between the cameras, but also operate the second camera to change the shots slightly. What I could not cope with was the fact than when people stood up, they almost blocked the shots from the camera next to me.
The ceremony starts with the fanfare “St Mary’s”. There are then several musical interludes during which you’ll see a very young Richard Dickins and these 22 years later I must apologise to Richard because we got the spelling of his name wrong on our end credits. But, it’s a wonderful record of music from the college symphony orchestra playing Walton’s ‘Crown Imperial’. Also the late Eric Brown conducts the college choir with music from Carmina Burana. And finally in terms of music you’ll hear the electronic organ that’s located within the hall. Princess Anne, (The Princess Royal) as Chancellor of the University of London presented the Chairman of the Governing Body (Sir Henry Fisher) with a specially bound copy of the Imperial College Act and its revised Charter. The Imperial College Rector at the time was Professor (later Sir) Eric Ash.
As always, I’ve had to tweak the image on the video to make it look at bit better. Technology has advanced a lot since this was recorded and the lighting levels required to get good images is a lot lower these days. The Great Hall have never been fantastic for shooting video unless extra light is thrown at the stage area and that then leaves the audience rather dark, whilst the wood panels around the hall make a very warm image when light bounces off it. The whole video is around 45 minutes in duration.
One day, back in 1988, someone asked me the question “Could you do live TV from the top of the Queen’s Tower?”. Up to that point I can’t say I’d really thought about it much, but it was an interesting question nevertheless. But we’ll come back to that in a while.
Anyone who has visited the South Kensington campus would have seen the tower at some point. It’s some 287 feet tall and has some 324 steps up to the dome area. One of the main times the tower is noticed is when the bells are rung and these are as follows:
Queen’s Accession: 6 February
Queen’s Birthday: 21 April
Queen’s Coronation: 2 June
Duke of Edinburgh’s Birthday: 10 June
The Princess Royal’s Birthday: 15 August
Prince of Wales’ Birthday: 14 November
Queen’s Wedding Day: 20 November
and of course both PG Awards and Commemoration Days each year.
It was on 20 November 1997 that we recorded the bell ringers for the first time. This was to mark the Queen’s 50th wedding anniversary and a special ring was performed. Carrying cameras and recorders up the tower is not an easy tasks as the spiral staircase was never designed for this. But we made it and proceeded to capture the event. What no-one had bothered to tell us was that the tower does move a bit when the bells are being run. First one way and then the other depending on which set of bells are being run at the time. Sets of bells are hung in different ways; one set ‘left to right’ and the other set ‘top to bottom’. This therefore gives a strange effect of movement swaying one way, then the other. The combined result when all the bells are being run is a very odd circular motion. Although I’ve recorded the actual bells with hanging a mic in the bell chamber, I’ve never captured them on video…but someone else has! If you go to this YouTube video you’ll see the horrifying sight of the whole set of bells ringing below the camera lens. I can’t say that it looks very safe up there and the volume of sound must be rather high too.
Another great reason to remember the Queen’s Tower were the (now long gone) performances in May each year of the 1812 overture. These were accompanied by live explosions provided by DramSoc and the bells in the tower were rung. I’m not certain why this event stopped, maybe it was the British weather! Anyway, in May 1979 I recorded the event in colour, the same summer that we actually got our colour equipment.
And so, back to the start and that question about live TV from the top of the tower. Back in 1988 during preparations for one of the first Alumni weekends the idea came about to broadcast the weather one morning from the Queen’s Tower. Francis Wilson was, at the time, forecasting the weather for the BBC Breakfast programme. Because he’s an Alumni of Imperial he was asked if he would do it and of course he agreed.
We did weather from the tower twice and you’ll notice the reference to hearing the sound this time around. In fact we were some minutes away from the live link and someone managed to move the equipment providing the ‘line of sight’ link. You can see some photos I took at the time and two of these show the amount of equipment we had to carry up the tower. One is showing the equipment set up for controlling sound and vision and the other is showing the infra-red line of sight link from the tower down to the area now known as the “tower rooms”. One thing we were lucky to have was mains power and down in the bell ringing chamber, a telephone line.
The recording you’re now able to see of the event was made down on the ground floor where the TV monitors were located. I’m still amazed it actually worked and the quality was pretty good too. The infra-red link had to be lined up with a telescope that had a cross-hair to align with the receiver, also set up on a tripod down on the ground. All you then had to do was to feed video and audio into the unit and you were in business. The only problem, as we discovered, was not knowing IF those down below could actually see and hear anything once you had started the event.
My colleague at the time Chris Roberts is seen operating the camera whilst I was pressing the buttons, mixing sound and running-in the videotaped sequences we were given from our colleagues in Physics. It was good fun, the Alumni visiting seemed to enjoy it, but it was very hard work indeed….there are a lot of steps up to the top and I was a lot younger then too!
The day before the event we had already taken most of the equipment up the tower and tried out the link. Those down on the ground floor were somewhat surprised to see this caption on the TV screens. It was broadcast from the tower and was announcing the forthcoming live link the following morning.