A Mosaic of Music: Stereophile's Clarinet Quintet CD Blue Heaven Studios

Sidebar 3: Blue Heaven Studios

Mail-order retailer Acoustic Sounds was founded by Chad Kassem in the early 1980s to sell LPs and CDs. One thing led to another, and Chad got into reissuing his favorite recordings, as well as original blues recordings, on his Analogue Productions label. To help with this, he opened his own mastering facility, AcousTech, with LP pressing company Record Technology Inc. Then came Blue Heaven Studios.

Chad acquired the First Christian Church in Salina, Kansas, to use as offices and warehousing. But, struck by the beautiful acoustics of the 77'-long, 52'-wide, 40'-high former sanctuary, he wondered if the building could be converted to a recording studio.

To have his idea checked out, Chad flew in three top music-business professionals: producer and recording and mastering engineer David Baker (Shirley Horn's You Won't Forget Me, on Verve; Medeski, Martin & Wood's recordings, on Gramavision; most of the Vanguard and Everest CD remasterings); producer Joe Harley (AudioQuest Music, JVC XRCD); and acoustics consultant Neil Muncy (Eastern VP of the Audio Engineering Society). They gave Chad an enthusiastic go-ahead; Muncy, who specializes in the design of recording and broadcast facilities and who was responsible for setting up AcousTech Mastering, redesigned the church to be a state-of-the-art recording facility.

Construction of the First Christian Church in Salina was begun in September 1924, and the sanctuary was dedicated in January 1927. The structure, in a modified Gothic style, is built of brown brick, limestone, and wood with a castellated bell tower, wooden window tracery, and stained-glass windows. The interior features walnut pews, beams, and woodwork, all of a Gothic flavor. The unusual construction and design include four Gothic-style stained-glass dormers on the west roof, and all of the bell tower's window cusps, arches, and muntins are in an unusual brick pattern.