A visit to an old place of work


She often stood here: Christa Gugeler in the MPS studio in August 2023 © Photo: MPS-Studio e.V.

Christa Gugeler began working in the Black Forest MPS studio in 1973. Rolf Donner, the sound engineer and manager at the MPS studio, was looking for professional reinforcement with a degree. Criss Gugeler had been tipped off to apply to the School of Broadcast Technology, SRT in Nuremberg, where she was trained. Even during my preliminary internship at the SDR in Stuttgart, the recordings with the Erwin Lehn Radio Dance Orchestra were particularly exciting. So she took the opportunity at MPS to gain further work experience in a music studio.

Rolf Donner, who was born in Leipzig, had gained experience at Südwestfunk after the war and was instrumental in setting up the SABA studio (MPS studio from 1968) back in the early 1960s. The highly praised “Most Perfect Sound” would not have existed without Rolf Donner. For Christa Gugeler it was a blessing to gain further professional experience with this expert.

1972 in the MPS studio. From left to right: Peter Trunk, Tony Inzalaco, at the mixing desk: Rolf Donner, Willi Fruth (recording Bora Rocovic “Ultra Native, MPS 2121289-0) (Photo: German Hasenfratz exclusive use and owner Archiv Hasenfratz is: ©MPS-Studio e.V.)

That’s how the young sound specialist came to Villingen: “My father drove me and Rolf Donner had to promise to take good care of me, which he did.” She rented a room, met her husband in the same year in the town of Zähringen, and had not only a passionate sound engineer and accomplished technician of the old school at her side in sound engineer Donner, but also a sympathetic, fatherly friend to whom she owes a lot and who devoted a lot of heart and soul to her further training in the MPS studio.

During this time she accompanied groundbreaking recordings, was present when Friedrich Gulda, Volker Kriegel, Albert Mangelsdorff, Monty Alexander, Peter Herbolzheimer and many other stars of the international jazz scene visited the studio. Jazz was an almost exclusively male bastion in the MPS studio as well. Look on Discogs at the credits of the MPS releases: all male producers and sound engineers are mentioned. Christa Gugeler’s name can be found on just one record by Swiss composer and pianist George Gruntz, despite the long time she worked for the studio. “Those were the days” – she says with a laugh.

Rolf Donner and Christa Gugeler in the MPS studio in the 1970s. (Photo archive Christa Gugeler)

When Christa Gugeler talks about Rolf Donner today, her eyes sparkle. “Back then, the women studied sound engineering for two semesters, the men for three.” With Rolf Donner I learned a lot in addition, whether it was laying cable harnesses, perfect recordings or soldering, he willingly explained everything to me in detail.” And it was he who, even before MPS ended in 1983, recommended that his protégé apply to SWR in Mainz. …. “He looked at my application and said with his unmistakable Saxon tongue “Mensch Kleene, you absolutely have to mention that you have worked with Friedrich Gulda or Monty Alexander, otherwise it will be nüschd!”

Of course, Gugeler got the job at SWF, now SWR Mainz. Her knowledge gained from nearly 10 years of experience at MPS has helped her take on a wide variety of duties in the office and field of radio broadcasting. Her knowledge was particularly in demand during the challenges of digitization and the new construction of the studios in Mainz in 1996. Since this time in Mainz, it has also become native to the Rhine-Hesse region. She still works with clay today, but to create sculptures from it. She has remained a critical listener. When she attends concerts with her husband, she enjoys good sound and appropriate volume.

50 years after starting her career as a sound engineer, Christa Gugeler visited the MPS studio for an interview and told exciting stories. We say thank you and look forward to seeing you again soon.

Far left at the 24-track Ampex tape machine: Christa Gugeler. Standing: Barry Finnerty. At the controls: Joachim Ernst Berendt, standing: Rimona Francis and HGBS (with tie). Far right back at the production mixer: Rolf Donner. October 1977, MPS studio for the recording “Rimona Francis” (MPS 0068.187) (Photo: German Hasenfratz exclusive use and owner Archiv Hasenfratz is: ©MPS-Studio e.V.)