SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Utah’s Channel 4 delivered one of the most ambitious projects in the early days of live TV with the help of our station’s pioneer engineers, ABC4’s Craig Wirth says.
Originally an NBC affiliate, the network asked KTVX, also known as KTVT in 1956, to create a live national remote broadcast from the base of the Wasatch Mountains, featuring a full choir at the dawn of a New Year’s Day.
The choir, consisting of over 100 people from the Oratorio Society of Utah, stood in the foothills of the Wasatch Range and sang George Frideric Handel’s Messiah as the sun crept over the mountain peaks, bringing in a brand new day.
After having done live broadcasts for more than eight years, ABC4 was more than ready to take up the challenging task. Channel 4 brought its remote truck and six cameras and headed to the mountains.
To make the broadcast work, engineers would send microwaves to the station’s new transmitter located on the top of the Oquirrh Mountains, which will then carry the signal all the way to New York City.
David Cunningham Garroway, the founding host and anchor of NBC’s Today, began the broadcast with a few wise words.
“So a new year has started, and we all hold in our hands this leap year, 365 more days, to match the one we are letting slip into eternity with each passing second,” Garroway said. “Rest and be a bystander on the Utah mountainside. Through the words of Handel’s Messiah, ‘The chorus crying out to the open sky—hallelujah! For the lord God omnipotent reigneth.’ The world-famed Salt Lake City Oratorio Society on New Year’s Day 1956.”
Recorded through a kinescope, the broadcast proceeded smoothly without a hitch. And all it took was a crew of 12 people, weeks of rehearsals, dozens of microwave towers and hundreds of feet of large video cables.