Two years ago, almost to the day, in February 2015 we made the 450 mile trek from our studios in Wiltshire to the South East coast of Scotland to record the St Andrew’s University Madrigal Group. This resulted in a fabulous album which was titled 1946! So successful was this album that 2 years on the Madrigal group asked us to come and record another album with them which we did last weekend.
This time the journey didn’t seem quite so far, although we did stop off for a spot of lunch in the Lake District. It turns out that if you are not overly keen on motorway services then if you turn off the M6 at Penrith, you can find yourself in the lovely village of Pooley Bridge which nestles at the edge of Ullswater. This made for a very pleasant break in our journey to Scotland.
Arriving in St Andrews by late afternoon, we settled into the Premier Inn, which it seems has only just been opened and was very convenient for our purposes. As it was still light for another hour Shelly & I braved the cold and headed into St Andrews, firstly to have a nose around and also to find the venue for the recording session the following day.
The Recording Venue
The original plan had been to record in St Salvator’s Chapel which is one of two collegiate chapels belonging to the University of St Andrews, the other being St Leonard’s Chapel. However, for various reasons we ended up back in St Leonard’s Chapel where we had recorded in 2015. This is a perfectly suitable venue, in fact in many ways it is perhaps the better of the two chapels for recording a small madrigal group. Our only complaint was that it was absolutely freezing – apparently those in charge had requested that we did not use the heating as this damages the organ…
Setting up in the same corner as we did in 2015, we braced ourselves to spend a cold few hours. Fortunately the singing from the St Andrews Madrigal group was outstanding which distracted us from the temperature of the venue! As you can see from the photograph above, the chapel is essentially split into two halves by the organ mounted in a central gallery. It therefore made sense for us to locate on the other side of the organ to the choir. More to the point there are more pews in the East end of the chapel and therefore nowhere for us to go!
This time round there was a wider variety of music, not all of which could be categorised as strictly a madrigal, but there was nevertheless some outstanding A Capella singing from the 18 strong choir. In some cases split into 8 parts.
Amongst the music to be recorded there were some crowd pleasers such as Beati Quorum Via by Stanford, some Scottish influence (Loch Lomond, arranged by Vaughan Williams and Lassie, Wad Ye Low Me). There were also of course a number of traditional madrigals from the Oxford Book of Madrigals. We particularly enjoyed I Love, Alas, I Love Thee by Morley.
The album is now in our production studio and the first set of ‘rushes’ have been sent to the client for comment. An album like this will generally not take too long to produce as there were not too many edits required. As with all recordings there is a balance between going through every note in fine detail versus putting together a performance which you are happy with. There is always a danger that, taking advantage of the technology, you can go on for ever making changes and trying different edits and takes together. Realistically, however, sometimes it’s better just to present a good take which everyone is happy with.