A couple of years ago, in 2015, we were invited to record a CD at Focus School in Stockport. This was memorable for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the choir were outstanding and certainly one of the best school choirs we had recorded for quite some time. The recording session was also largely arranged by the pupils who had key roles to play on the day of the recording as well as helping to put the artwork together afterwards. However, this particular job stuck in my mind largely because on the day of the recording session we were provided with Pizza for lunch!
Two years later, we were invited back to record a second CD with Focus in Stockport. This was great news, particularly in light of the fact I had managed to negotiate more pizza as well as copious supply of cake. This time it was also agreed to record over 2 days which meant we had longer for each track which would help to make the album even better than before.
The Choir at Focus School, Stockport
The School Choir is lead by Miss Debbie Rich and over the last few years she has done a phenomenal amount of work to develop the group into the outstanding choir we met both in 2015 and for the second time last week. Running a school choir is no easy thing to do. Aside of the fact your singers change every year with pupils leaving and new intakes, keeping control of around 100 kids can often be a challenge in itself.
Over the last 14 years through recording sessions I have come across all sorts of school choirs and choir leaders from non specialist teachers in Primary Schools leading groups of 5 year olds to Directors of Music at Independent and Public schools leading auditioned chamber choirs. There is some amazing talent in schools today and the choir at Focus School in Stockport is certainly no exception. It owes a great deal of this to the exceptional talent and dedication of their choir leader.
Day 1 started, for me at least, with a 3am departure from Wiltshire in order to be on site in Stockport by 7am. I was welcomed by the Head Teacher and quickly started setting up our mobile recording rig in order that we could begin recording promptly from 9am. Over the 2 days we had 15 songs to record, mostly with Piano accompaniment. On the second day we were joined by a fantastic Brass Quintet which had been booked to accompany 3 hymns. Whilst we have recorded a number of Brass / Concert Bands along with choirs, this was the first time I think we have recorded a school choir accompanied by Brass.
In a relatively small space, this in itself provided us with quite a challenge. In fact when the brass started playing, you could barely here the choir of over 100 pupils singing over just 5 brass instruments. Luckily with a bit of clever mic positioning we were able to capture enough of the voices to hopefully blend against the brass.
Of course, one thing which cannot go unmentioned is the amazing hospitality shown to me by Focus School. Debbie had gone out of her way to arrange Domino’s Pizza for myself and Olly and there was so much cake even I had to admit defeat! I felt extremely honoured as I believe the School Trustees had been kind enough to support the supply of pizza!
During the course of the session, the choir were given plenty of breaks to keep them fresh. This also gave the client (Debbie and Olly, their outstanding accompanist) a chance to listen back to some of the music we had thus far recorded. We also play some of the tracks back through monitor speakers on location. Whilst this is still very much an unprocessed sound, it does give the pupils the chance to hear what we have recorded and inspires them to carry on giving their best.
Over the last week, we have worked closely with Debbie and Olly to produce mastered tracks. The audio is currently being worked on in our post production studios and will hopefully be signed off in the next couple of days. Once we receive the artwork content then the album is good to go and we hope to have it available later this month. Watch this space for more details of when the album will be launched.