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Prism Sound Helps Jim Stemke Caputure A You Tube Sensation

Prism Sound equipment played an integral part in capturing the latest viral hit to take You Tube by a storm – a choral rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's Messiah, which was performed by 683 singers in front of stunned shoppers at Macy’s department store in Philadelphia.


Led by the Opera Company of Philadelphia, this unique performance was captured on video and has already received more than six million hits. It has also been picked up by CNN and ABC and has been the fourth most shared video on Facebook.

The idea was conceived by the Knights Foundation in association with the Philadelphia Opera Company and Macy’s. The Knight’s Foundation is funding countless “Random Acts of Culture” in various locations all over the USA, but the Macy’s stunt has been far and away its most successful. Macy’s has been flooded with calls of appreciation and there has been a positive knock on effect on sales in the lead up to Christmas.

The recording was captured by Jim Stemke, president and owner of DSP Recordings and Chief Recording Engineer at Macy’s in Centre City, Philadelphia. Located within Macy’s spacious seven-storey court is a Wanamaker Grand Court Organ, the largest operational pipe organ in the world. This fantastic instrument is played twice a day from Monday to Saturday and more frequently during the Christmas season. It also features at special concerts held throughout the year, including events organised by the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ Festival Chorus and Brass Ensemble.

For more than 10 years, Jim Stemke has been personally involved with the Wanamaker organ, both as a technician and as a recording engineer. His career in sound began in 1969 and he has always specialized in pipe organ recordings, as well as tackling more conventional choral, orchestral, and solo performances.

Two years ago Macy’s provided space in its building for Jim Stemke to build an in-store studio control room, allowing him to record the Wanamaker and a newly installed Wurlitzer theatre organ in Greek Hall. Five commercial recordings on the Wanamaker organ have now been released, including the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Brass. These recordings are available through the Friends of the Wanamaker Organ and Gothic Recordings.

When specifying equipment for the control room, Stemke says his main criteria was to establish a very high standard of sonic excellence and quality.

“I knew that Prism Sound’s name and reputation stood for ‘Excellence in Quality’ so I decided to invest in the best,” he says.

Stemke chose Prism Sound/Maselec’s MMA-4RX 8-channel microphone preamplifiers, installing two of them along with a Prism Sound ADA-8XR multichannel converter. The studio is also equipped with a Genex GX-9000 high-resolution recorder and is linked to the grand Court and Greek Hall by numerous audio lines and fiber-optic cables for microphones in various locations.

To capture the Hallelujah Chorus, Stemke used a “High Wire” microphone rig suspended above the third floor and about 70 feet above the main floor. The rig, which has movable sleds that hold the microphones in position, is equipped with four DPA-4006TL Onmi microphones that were used to capture the organ and 683 singers in the Grand Court.

“The Grand Court is so big, it would be impossible to have microphones all over the store to capture such an event,” Stemke explains. “The overhead mics really did an excellent job. This “High Wire” rig is used for all our commercial recordings as well as other microphones positioned in the Grand Court for commercial recordings.”

After the event, several Macy’s executives, producers, organists, and guests were invited into the studio to hear the playback on Klein & Hummel 0410 tri-amplified studio monitors.

Stemke says: “Not only were they pleased with their performance, but were simply blown-over with the sonic quality of playback. Just about everyone had tears in their eyes with the emotion of this event. In fact, I played it back twice because they were so pleased with everything in general.”

Jim Stemke’s success with Prism Sound products has inspired him to try out the rest of the range and he is now evaluating an equalizer and a compressor.

“I’m most impressed with Prism Sound products because of their outstanding sonic qualities and high quality construction,” he says.


About Prism Sound

Founded in 1987, Prism Sound manufacture high-quality professional digital audio equipment for the International broadcast, film, music production, manufacturing and telecommunications sectors. The company's product range includes the Prism ADA-8XR precision 8-channel converter unit, which is regularly used for music and film soundtrack projects by clients such as EMI Abbey Road, BBC, Sony, Lucasfilm and Walt Disney. Prism Sound also manufactures a range of audio test and measurement products, including the de facto standard DSA-1 handheld digital audio generator/analyser and the dScope Series III audio analyser system.

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