In 1546 John Heywood published his book of Proverbs. In Part 1 Chapter, XI we find the following quote:
But who is wurs shod, than the shoemakers wyfe, With shops full of newe shapen shoes all hir lyfe?
This, of course, is the etymology for that often quoted phrase which references the cobblers children (or indeed his wife) not having any shoes.
Cirencester Male Voice Choir
For the past five years I have been the Musical Director of Cirencester Male Voice Choir. Formed in 2009, the choir is relatively young certainly when compared to some of the WelshMale Voice choirs which were founded in the early part of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, over the past few years the choir has grown and built it’s repertoire which has helped to develop a reasonable following amongst the people of South Gloucestershire.
During my time at the helm, the choir has taken part in a plethora of interesting and dare I say exciting events. One of the first large scale concerts I was involved in took place at the Colton Hall in Bristol. The date was 12 September 2015 and this event brought together 350 men from a number of Male Choirs across the West of England. Hosted by Moira Stewart with special guest Wynne Evans (Go Compare), the choirs sang to an audience of around 1500 all there to raise money for the Prices Trust. Since then we have been involved in other joint concerts with local choirs which have taken place in Worcester Cathedral and Gloucester Cathedral.
Earlier this year, I decided it was time the choir went a little further afield and arranged some joint events with my friend Neil Shepherd who runs a number of Community Choirs in Cornwall. As part of their tour of Cornwall the men sang in Truro as well as at The Eden Project, which was certainly a contrast to some of their usual performance venues.
Whilst the choir has done many exciting things over the past few years which also includes joint concerts with visiting choirs from Yorkshire and the prospect of a choir from Norway visiting us next year, I was always very conscious that the choir had never made a Professional CD. Given that my day job is to run one of the few companies in the UK which offers this service, I decided it was about time we changed this otherwise I was in danger of becoming rather like that cobbler in 1546 who hadn’t provided shoes for his wife.
And so, last night, in place of our usual rehearsal, the mobile recording rig was taken over to Cirencester and set up to give the Men their first experience of a professional recording session.
The Recording Session
Recording an entire album in the time the choir would normally rehearse is a very tall order. Indeed I would argue it’s not practical. However, a Monday night is the usual time the men are committed to the choir and in order to get as many as possible it seemed the only feasible option. We did however agree to extend the usual time slot so the recording could start at 7pm and finish at 10.30pm. This is still nowhere near enough to record the required number of songs for a CD and so we have arranged 2 sessions in October of which this was the first.
The biggest challenge for this recording was splitting my role as Musical Director for Cirencester MVC and Sound Engineer for 4 Part Music. Luckily however, I had Shelly to help run the recording desk which meant I could focus most of my energy on the choir.
By issuing multiple sets of headphones I was able to listen in to the recording whilst conducting the choir. We often provide headphones for the Musical Director at a recording session anyway so they can hear exactly what is being recorded. But this also afforded me the chance to be both Musical Director and Sound Engineer at the same time.
Cirencester MVC Accompanist – Lorraine Wild
Lorraine joined Cirencester MVC as accompanist in May 2017. Her piano studies began at seven years old when she attended the Conservatoire of Besancon (France). In 2008, she achieved a first class honours diploma in piano performance at the Conservatoire of Dijon (Burgundy, France), having studied with the pianist Thierry Rosbach, as well as composition, musical analysis and chamber music.
Despite winning the Leeds University Union Music Society Piano Competition two years running in 2014 and 2015 and holding a Masters Degree in Performance, Lorraine admitted this was the first time she had been involved in a professional recording. Given her brilliance as a performer we certainly hope to change this soon too! Initially Lorraine was sceptical about the headphones. We provided them so that she could hear all parts of the choir despite the piano being slightly removed from the usual place near the basses. Ultimately, only the performer can decide what is helpful and what isn’t.
Lorraine was particularly pleased we were recording ‘She’ – this had always been the plan and we were saddened to hear the death of Charles Aznavour earlier in the day. This made our recording of this song somewhat poignant.
Last night was the first of 2 proposed sessions for Cirencester MVC and we will return to the Church of John the Baptist later in the month to complete this recording. In the meantime I shall now put my sound engineer hat back on and listen to the tracks in our production studio in the hope we have recorded something which will show the choir in their best light.
Some other photos of the recording session