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Richard C. Burns archive of Overtone Records, Inc.

Call Number: MSS 104

Scope and Contents

This archive documents a period of revitalized interest in baroque music during the 1950s at Yale University, as well as certain aspects of twentieth century music, through sound recordings and administrative records. All seventeen issues of Overtone Records are represented through reel to reel master and copy tape recordings, including music by J.S. Bach, Alessandro Scarlatti, Dietrich Buxtehude--and several other Renaissance and Baroque composers--as well as works by twentieth century composers such as Charles Ives, Igor Stravinsky, Paul Hindemith, and Quincy Porter. Many performers featured on Overtone Records were members of the Yale faculty at the time, or in some way associated with the Yale community, such as composer, conductor, and early music enthusiast Paul Hindemith, cellist Aldo Parisot, organist Luther Noss, violinist and conductor Howard Boatwright, soprano Helen Boatwright, harpsichordist Albert Fuller, pianist John Kirkpatrick, the Choir of St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church (New Haven, Connecticut), and others.

Other recordings document special projects by Richard C. Burns, mostly in the New Haven and Hartford, Connecticut, areas, of Evensong church services; American Guild of Organist seminars and conferences; New Haven Chorale performances; the annual Spring Choral Festival of Secondary Schools; works performed by the Choir of St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church; the Albertus Magnus and Yale Divinity choirs; compositions by Paul Hindemith and Howard Boatwright; concerts by the Yale Whiffenpoofs and Alley Cats; performances by the Yale Collegium Musicum (founded and conducted by Paul Hindemith); and events and concerts involving other individuals, ensembles, and organizations. Some projects were remastered and transferred onto DAT tapes, including mono to stereo updates.

Administrative files document the organizational operations of Overtone Records, Inc., as well as special projects, through correspondence, contracts, reviews, discographies, articles, promotional drafts, and other routine business transaction receipts.


  • 1930-2001
  • Majority of material found within 1948-1990


Conditions Governing Access

The original audiovisual materials in this collection cannot be played onsite at Yale. Researchers must consult use copies, or if none exist must pay for a use copy to be made. All copies are provided as digital files. Digital transfers are conducted by third party preservation vendors that are contracted to digitize Historical Sound Recordings (HSR) collection materials. If the materials requested are already available digitally, you will be contacted with an offer to stream the recordings for 30 days, free of charge. Consult the HSR website for more information on requesting digital copies.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.


Arranged in five series: I. Administrative records, II. Background materials, III. Overtone recordings, IV. Richard C. Burns recording projects, and V. Overtone and Richard C. Burns digitized and remastered recordings.


23.5 Linear Feet (30 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


This archive documents the activities of Overtone Records, Inc., and its founder Richard C. Burns, through tape recorded material used for the publication of Overtone LPs; recordings of numerous live performances at Yale University, in the greater New Haven and Hartford, Connecticut, areas, and out of state; and through administrative files and background material used to support the operations of Overtone Records and various recording projects by Richard C. Burns.

Biographical Sketch of Richard C. Burns

Richard C. Burns was born in 1920 and raised in New Haven,Connecticut. His interest in classical music developed in his teens when he would listen to live radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera and other performances. Burns graduated from Yale University in 1942 with a degree in physics. He worked for a yearafter graduation at the Bureau of Standards, Washington DC, and then worked as a recording engineer for Soundscriber Corporation in New Haven. He began volunteering as a project recording engineer for various New Haven musical performances and church services in 1949. In the 1950s Burns began doing recording projects for Yale composer and faculty member Paul Hindemith, who also founded and was music director of the Yale Collegium Musicum. Burns then founded Overtone Records, Inc., in 1953 and served as the company’s producer and recording engineer. In 1966 he was appointed audio engineer at Syracuse University by colleague Howard Boatwright, for whom he had made several recordings in New Haven. Burns remained in Syracuse University until 1984. He also collaborated with recording engineer Tom Packard to invent and manufacture the Packburn, an analogue machine that reduces surface noise on 78-rpm and LP Recordings. Burns died in 2002.

Administrative History of Overtone Records, Inc.

Overtone Records, Inc.,was founded in 1953 by Richard C. Burns, who served as the company’s producer and sound engineer. Overtone published seventeen LP recording. The repertoire on the recordings primarily consists of baroque music, but also includes works from the Renaissanceera, as well as nineteenth and twentieth century music. Overtone’s recording of The Passion according to St. Johnby Alessandro Scarlatti won the Grand Prix du Disque at its French release. Featured artists on these recordings include Paul Hindemith, Luther Noss, Albert Fuller, Helen Boatwright, John Kirkpatrick, Aldo Parisot, and Howard Boatwright; and the ensembles recorded include the Yale Collegium Musicum, Yale Divinity Choir, the Choir of St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church (New Haven), and members of the Yale University Orchestra.

During the production of the seventeen Overtone recordings and in the years following, Burns engaged in several recording projects, mostly live events, that were loosely associated with Overtone Records and documented in the same administrative files (some recording numbers included the OV designation). Most of these projects were not released commercially.

Processing Information

Collection processed in 2014. Finding aid created in 2019.

Guide to the Richard C. Burns archive of Overtone Records, Inc.
written by Mark Bailey. Updated (2019) by Michelle Peralta.
February 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
This project was supported by a Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Part of the Gilmore Music Library Repository

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