For at least ten years now, we have been undertaking regular recording work with Grenville Jones in Bath. Anyone who knows anything about choirs in Bath will know of Grenville. Defined as Bath’s ‘Mr Music’, he is fully involved in just about all of the choirs in Bath – or certainly seems to be. As well as running around 7 choirs every week, most just in Bath but in the surrounding area, Grenville is also the founder of Golden Oldies. Formed in 2008, Grenville started running 4 daytime singing sessions for older people in sheltered housing schemes around Bath and NE Somerset. Grenville was very clear that these were Social Groups rather than Choirs. They give people to make new friendships whilst attending day time singing sessions.
Over the last 10 years, ‘Goldies’ as it is known, has grown to include around 150 singing sessions every week run by an army of 60 or more session leaders. Each group sings popular songs from the 1950s onwards and the charity is under the patronage of Sir Cliff Richard. As well as his charity work, Grenville can also be found on Television. And I don’t mean some obscure piece about a skateboarding duck at the end of the regional news. No, Grenville is usually featuring on the Prime time Saturday evening slot on BBC 1. His latest appearance is as one of the judges on the BBC programme ‘All Together Now’.
Recording Grenville’s Choirs
We have been working with Grenville for as long as I can remember. Flicking back through some of the albums in our archives there are recordings going back to 2012 which feature either Grenville or one of his choirs. The work we do with Grenville is always varied and we are privileged to be part of the many exciting projects that he gets involved in. Over the years this has included creating a number of albums for local primary schools through to recording Grenville’s own choirs and getting involved in various charity projects with Goldies.
Grenville is always very hands on at all the recording sessions and makes full use of the production desk we set up for clients to allow them to go through the tracks as they are recorded.
Recording The Bath Chorus April 2019
When Grenville comes to us to discuss a recording project, we know it will always be something interesting and most likely have elements of the unusual. This latest piece of work was certainly no exception. In simple terms Grenville wanted us to come to a church in Bath to record some hymns sung by his fabulous mixed voice Choir, ‘The Bath Chorus’. This seems straightforward enough and we arranged to record them on two consecutive Monday evenings, essentially in place of the usual weekly rehearsal.
Generally we don’t advise recording your choir in place of a regular rehearsal session because this doesn’t really leave enough time. However, with Grenville, firstly we only had 12 hymns to record, across 2 weekly sessions and also we knew the choir would be extremely well prepared.
We arranged with Grenville to arrive around an hour or so before the choir and soon had everything set up ready. To keep things simple we set up our recording desk alongside the stage where Grenville was to be directing the choir from. Sometimes there is an argument for putting us in a different room away from the performers. We can then communicate via in ear headphones plus a video loop. This is all very well, but sometimes just a bit over complicated for the job in hand!
The Recording Project
This being Grenville, was not just about recording some hymns. Grenville is in the process of setting up a new website – HymnSearch which will allow people to hear The Bath Chorus singing their favourite hymns. Grenville hopes this will become a popular resource to enable people to choose hymns for their wedding or other occasions.
Once we had recorded the 12 hymns, the second part of the project was to create some videos which could be uploaded to You Tube. For this, Grenville provided us with some photographs from photographer Stephen Bird. As well as the image of the city, the plan was to have the words of the hymn on the screen as the choir sang them.
Anyone who reads our blog will know that we like these different and unusual projects. We don’t specifically offer a video creation service, but we have been involved in similar things in the past, and as a result were keen to help Grenville with this creative and interesting idea.
Audio and Video Production
Once we had completed the two recording sessions, the first thing to do was to prepare the audio. Having created ‘rushes’ from the takes recording and working with Grenville’s instructions from the session we then set up a time to invite Grenville to our studio in Corsham.
To be honest, we don’t get many visitors to our production studios. In the main this is because we work with clients all over the UK and often we can go through audio takes online through file sharing. Grenville however likes the hands on approach and we are delighted to welcome him to our studios to go through the music. So approximately a week after the second recording session, Grenville came to our studio and we went through each hymn in turn to ensure he was happy with the take being used and any edits which had been done.
Orchestration / Digital Sounds
For a couple of the hymns, Grenville wanted us to add an organ sound to the recording of Choir and Piano. Using digital sounds is a tricky one – and there will always be differences of opinion on this one. On the one hand they are a cost effective way of easily adding more harmonies and a depth to a recording. On the down side, even the best samples do tend to still sound a bit electronic.
I’m not yet convinced with the organ sound we have used on a couple of tracks and may review this before they go live in August. However, the important thing was to confirm all the recordings with Grenville. Having carefully gone through the available takes, Grenville signed off on the tracks he wanted to use and we then set about embarking on the next stage of this project which was to create the videos for You Tube.
This project is being officially launched by Grenville in August 2019 at which point we will share more with you. In the meantime here is a taster video online of The Bath Chorus singing ‘O Perfect Love’.
Our next recording with Grenville
With the videos now ready for production, we are starting to plan ahead for our next recording with Grenville. This is a larger scale recording and will include a number of choirs and orchestra in Clifton Cathedral at the end of June. Watch this space for further details of this exciting project.
If you are inspired by this and other examples of work we get involved in then why not take to us about recording your Choir. You can reach us by telephone on 01225 302143 or click here to email us.