March 17, 2013

Windham High alum makes name for himself in show-biz world

Lawrence Manchester is a sound man extraordinaire, and he's got a Grammy to prove it.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

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Lawrence Manchester at the controls at MSR studios in New York during recording of the cast album for the Off-Broadway show “Dogfight.” Manchester mixes the music for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” on NBC. He also mixed the music on Fallon’s Grammy-winning comedy album “Blow Your Pants Off”; the movies “The Departed,” “Frida” and “The Red Violin”; and the NBC series “Smash.” Fallon credits Manchester with helping make “Late Night” “the best-sounding show on television.”

Steven Stuts/

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Lawrence Manchester was on the job when Fallon hosted Justin Timberlake last week.


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As teachers, Manchester's parents likely had something to do with encouraging his work ethic and determination. But they say his passion for music was simply born in him.

"When he was 4 or 5, he started using tape recorders. He'd tape himself playing drums with a Buddy Holly record or with Elvis," said his father, David Manchester of Windham. "When he was 12, he got an actual four-track recorder and started working with that."

Manchester got started on his career by landing a job as an intern (required for his degree) at a well-known rock studio in New York called the Power Station. He loaded equipment and swept floors, but got to observe recording sessions with the likes of AC/DC and Bruce Springsteen. He eventually got hired full-time there. Then he went to another studio, and soon began working as a freelance recording and mixing engineer on a wide variety of projects.

Manchester has been with "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" since it premiered in 2009. He's the guy charged with mixing the sound of the show's house band, The Roots, all of Fallon's musical parodies and the show's musical guests as they play.

He works on 200 shows a year. They're taped at 5:30 p.m. every day, but he mixes the sound as the bands play live.

"It's treated like a live show. I show up in the morning when the band is setting up, I get the song, I'm there for rehearsals," said Manchester.

It's hard to name a pop music artist Manchester hasn't worked with during his four years on "Late Night." The show's musical guest list during that time has included Prince, Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Mumford & Sons, Green Day, Neil Young, The Dave Matthews Band and Public Enemy.

"Pretty much every time I bring an artist to the mixing room to hear their performance, they say 'Wow, it sounds amazing in here.' I think that's a pretty uncommon experience for artists on a TV show," said Jonathan Cohen, the music booker for "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."

"Prince, who is pretty notoriously critical about things like this, has raved about the sound. Justin Timberlake, Springsteen, have all talked about the quality of the sound here," Cohen said. "We know word gets around, and I think it definitely helps us (to book acts). And it's because of Lawrence's skill at what he does."

Besides mixing all the music for Fallon's show, Manchester also mixes the original music on the hit NBC show "Smash," a drama about Broadway musicals. The composer of the "Smash" songs, Marc Shaiman, said Manchester's judgment has been crucial in getting the right sound.

Shaiman points specifically to Manchester's work on the "Bombshell" album, a compilation of songs from the show, as evidence of what makes Manchester's work as a recording engineer stand out.

"He has made recordings with a small group of musicians -- compared to a Hollywood scoring session -- sound like, well, a Hollywood scoring session," said Shaiman.

Doing a film score is very different than doing one for a TV show. Manchester is usually behind the studio glass while an orchestra plays and the film is shown on several screens so that everyone involved can see the action being scored.

Of his film work, Manchester says "The Departed" stands out. The 2006 film tells a dark story about a Boston mobster, and earned Martin Scorsese his first Best Director Oscar.

"Martin Scorsese is very sensitive to the music, to what it can do," said Manchester. "He'd come to play-back sessions and listen very carefully."

But as with a lot of creative work, Manchester says it can be rewarding to work on smaller-budget projects like "Frida," the biopic of artist Frida Kahlo starring Salma Hayek.

"That was one of the most fun scores, and I had a lot of involvement. It wasn't a big-budget film, and sometimes that causes everyone to get more creative," said Manchester.

"At the end of the day, when the viewer watches something, it should all be seamless. It should not be apparent where we had to make a compromise or save money.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

Twitter: RayRouthierThe


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Additional Photos

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Manchester in the control room at NBC, where he mixes the music for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

Dana Edelson photo

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Lawrence Manchester and family – wife Rebecca Kendall and children Grace and Thomas Manchester – live in Manhattan, where Manchester walks to work at NBC.

Toni Robertson/


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