Monday, 7 April 2014

Recording with the Church Choir

Monday the 7th of April. Tonight was the recording session of our Catholic church-choir. We are making a CD with all the English songs we usually sing at mass, and the profit we make with the CD will be given to the church. I had prayed that the session would go well, but I have to say; it was quite a disaster, but that makes one more funny story to tell!

So, for once I have been feeling quite well for a longer time, but of course today, on the day of the recording, I wake up with a sore throat and slight fever. And when I come to church I see that also Natalja, our strongest voice in the choir has a thick scarf around her throat and is feeling sick. (She told me it happens every year; she is never ill during the year, except the week she has a choir concert! How ironic!)

Members of the Catholic Church Choir of Tampere Parish.  © Cecilia Damström
Joao Alferes was doing the recording for us. (For free! So nice of him!) Unfortunately he hadn’t known that the piano we would use had a midi-output, so he didn’t have a midi cable with him. So I called the music technologist Petrus Tuisku and asked if he had any ideas, and he suggested I’d ask the porter of the conservatory. So I walked back to Tampere conservatory (luckily the Catholic church and the conservatory are located really close to each other), found the porter Mikko who was so nice and helped me find a midi cable that I could borrow.

Joao ready for recording the choir. © Cecilia Damström

By the time I arrived back in church the headphones weren’t working anymore. And they were of course headphones which needed a 6.35mm plug in (not the 3.5mm plug in which for instance computers mp3 players have), so the quickest solution was that I went home and got my own headphones with the 6.35mm plug in. (Luckily I live close to church as well!)

Joao and Zita listening if you can hear the mistake we made or not.
© Cecilia Damström
Then we were finally ready to start recording. Except that the piano was doing something very weird. The midi signal that the piano was giving out was automatically transposed half a note lower than the sounding range. So when you played a C, the sound came out as B. So the choir was singing a long with the sound that came out of the pianos own loudspeakers (in C) but the midi-track on the computer was the whole time in B. Neither Joao nor I had ever seen something like this before! Well, luckily Joao found a way of transposing the midi-track up half a note also in the computer, so after much effort we were finally all (piano, guitar and singers) in the same key!

Happy members of the church choir. © Cecilia Damström

Happy members of the church choir. © Cecilia Damström
Because I was the only one singing a second voice (in almost every song) we had to make a peculiar positioning with me in front of the choir (so that my voice wouldn’t drown under the other 10 voices). In one song where we didn’t have piano but instead only guitar and song, we had to position the guitar in front of the choir.

Juan accompanying us on guitar. © Cecilia Damström
The recording session was more or less what I expected: long and tiresome but fun. When you have so many people doing one recording there are always so many potential things that can go wrong, and most of them happened to us: someone forgot the words, I started coughing in one song, the pianist made a mistake, the choir forgot to repeat the chorus… But the most peculiar mistake that happened a few times was the midi-piano mistake: occasionally the midi-piano just send out randomly a mess of different notes and made it almost sound like a short Webern passage in the middle of a song. These random “midi-glissandos” as we started calling them, happened at any occasion without warning. Sometimes they were followed up shortly by a new midi-glissando, sometimes we could play an hour or so without a midi-glissando, and we had no idea what to do about it. So every time the piano decided to protest with a midi-glissando, we had to take the whole song from the beginning.

Theresa growing tired. © Cecilia Damström
People were growing more and more tired, so the amounts of human mistakes were increasing throughout the evening. We had a break at around 21 and Grace had brought a lovely cake for all us. (But this lent I’m without sugar, so I didn’t have any.)
Amazing Grace © Cecilia Damström

Quite at the end of our recording session we sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. Well, it wasn’t quite Cohen’s version, because we only sang the verses that are suitable for church, so only three verses. In this song our pianist was feeling so unsure though so we decided finally I would play the piano. The choir had a really hard time keeping in tempo, so Joao also had to kind of conduct the choir while recording. I had a slight hard time with both playing the piano and at the same time singing (alone) the second voice. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, as I don’t know about the end result) the piano was located quite far away from the singers microphones, so I think my second voice is hardly audible… But we will see.

Natalja and me.
At around midnight, after a six hour session, we were finally ready, packed and could leave the Parish hall! Yep yep, tomorrow I have my piano lesson at 9 AM, so good night!

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff... you have refreshed the nice memories of the recording session.. thanks for putting those memories in words.. i really liked reading the article.. thanks :)