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

You think Jimmy Fallon is funny? You think he's charming on TV?

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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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Well, Fallon is quick to give the credit to a Mainer for making him sound good -- literally.

"He's a genius. He's brilliant. He has such an ear for music, he's so easy to work with, and I trust him with every single thing," said Fallon. "He will mix anything and make it sound amazing. I think we have the best-sounding show on television."

Fallon is talking about Lawrence Manchester, who grew up in Windham and now works as the music mixer for "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" on NBC. He gives Manchester a big chunk of credit for the Grammy Award they both won in February when Fallon's album of parody songs, "Blow Your Pants Off," won the Best Comedy Album category. Manchester recorded the album, mixed a number of the songs and co-produced.

"We won a Grammy. We wouldn't have a Grammy if it wasn't for him," said Fallon, who took time to answer questions about Manchester before taping his show -- with musical guest Justin Timberlake -- on Wednesday. "He made these comedy songs actually sound like good songs. I mean, they're not just jokey songs. You can listen to them and you go, 'Hey, that's pretty good.' "

Although "Blow Your Pants Off" was Manchester's first Grammy, the 41-year-old graduate of Windham High School has compiled an impressive resume during the past 15 years as a New York-based recording and mixing engineer on TV shows, film scores and albums.

For most of his projects, Manchester is the man behind the glass during a recording session, pushing a lot of buttons and adjusting dials to make sure the sound comes out just right. For film scores, he's the guy in charge of getting a 90-piece orchestra's sound perfect so that it becomes a vital part of the film.

Two of the film scores he's recorded -- for "The Red Violin" (1998) and "Frida" (2002) -- won Oscars for Best Original Score. He also recorded the score for Martin Scorsese's "The Departed," which won the Best Picture Oscar in 2007. He's done Broadway cast albums ("Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" and "Godspell"), and he's recorded artists from Art Garfunkel to Justin Timberlake.

It might seem like a long and winding journey to get from Manchester's beginnings as the son of two teachers growing up in Maine's Lakes Region to his current status as a touted, go-to recording and mixing engineer working with rock stars, TV producers, Hollywood directors and successful composers.

But he thinks of it as a straight line. This is basically what he's always wanted to do, and he never had a fall-back plan.

"I never worried about not making a career in music. I'd always been able to find employment as a musician; that's how I paid most of my bills in college," said Manchester, who lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children and walks to work at New York's famed 30 Rockefeller Plaza building. "I never thought about a back-up plan."

But he did cover all his bases.

While in college at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Manchester had a double major. He got a degree in percussion from the college's Peabody Conservatory as well as a degree in recording arts and sciences.

Manchester said that as a youngster, he took guitar lessons from Rick Charette, a longtime Maine children's song performer. Later, he focused on percussion, playing in school and in various theater productions. He met his wife, Rebecca Kendall, during production of a show at Portland Players in South Portland.

(Continued on page 2)

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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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