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The Liberace Show


The Liberace Show

After a long-running hit series in the USA and straight from a European tour, Liberace arrived at Elstree. Despite jokey early derision, he quickly won over everybody with his geniality and sheer professionalism. From a sound perspective, he was a joy to work with. The middle part of the hour show was the Concert Spot. With a sixty-piece orchestra behind his special personalised Baldwin piano, Lee, dressed in one of his famous heavy brocade glittering suits would proceed to play any one of the popular classics before four cameras almost invariably in one take. Interestingly, I never saw classically-trained Liberace read a note of music throughout the three months on site. Three concert spots of approximately twenty minutes each were recorded in one short day to avoid the set having to be erected every week. The specially made Baldwin piano was something that Liberace was proud of. He always told his audiences that there were only two in the whole world -  and he had both of them

After the very first concert spot recording, he was invited up to sound control for a replay. The brocade suits were very heavy and even the walk up the sound stairs was arduous. My sound console was a hundred-channel Rupert Neve desk. To reach both ends of the desk, a sliding chair had been installed on a six-foot track. Lee sat in this chair and after joyfully sliding himself from side to side, greatly admired the desk, likening it to a Boeing 747 flight deck. I remarked that there were only two in the whole world, and he quickly interrupted saying ‘I know, and you've got both of them. His laughter was infectious.

At one point, he had made a slight error in the Tchaikovsky 4th. When director Colin Clewes asked him if he wanted a re-take, he replied, after a pause, ‘No, I think I'll quit while I'm ahead'. I had given his piano a very sharp top end sound, which he commented on and admired. ‘Especially' he remarked ‘as I can't see any microphones' (so, he noticed?)  I had hidden three mics in the body of the piano, one top end, one mid and the third at the bottom far end of the enormously long Baldwin piano. The level produced by the piano was such that even when all three microphones were faded up, no other sounds infiltrated, not even the sixty-piece orchestra. Totally unseen in shot, all the cabling for these microphones came out of the bottom end of the instrument down the hidden back leg and with the complicity of the design department disappeared under the rostrum floor.

.Colin Clewes and his wife Joy had just been presented with a baby boy. They named him Lee, and Liberace happily became the Godfather.I can think of no nicer guy, no more talented an entertainer than Liberace and I wish that we could all see, and enjoy, programmes of this stature again. More on this in CUE TAPE PLEASE, TED'