We’re delighted to announce that we have another CD on the way! We’ve just returned from a wonderful weekend in Oxford where we’ve been recording our latest disc with the help of Gary Cole and the team at Regent Records. The recording will comprise a beautiful selection of choral pieces with connections to the Celtic nations – Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Cornwall – and it’ll be out later this year.Following the fantastic success of our last CD, Nativity, we couldn’t wait to get back into the recording studio again – and this time our beautiful, but distinctly chilly, studio for the weekend was the gorgeous chapel of Keble College, Oxford. Several of us noted the similarities between the distinctive polychromatic brickwork in Keble Chapel and that at St Augustine’s Church, Penarth, the venue for our last recording. No surprise there, as both Keble and St Augustine’s were designed by the same Victorian architect, William Butterfield! With both buildings boasting high ceilings and fabulous acoustics, it’s hardly surprising that they’re in such demand for recording choral music.
Keble College chapel, designed by William Butterfield (photo: Rebecca Williams)
We arrived in Oxford early on a gloomy January morning. With most of the students still away on their Christmas break, the place felt very quiet, apart from the sounds of Gary and Andy busily setting up their recording equipment and Peter King, our organist for the weekend, discreetly putting the Keble’s 2011 Tickell organ through its paces. After the usual jostle for position in front of the microphones – trying to find a perfect position not too close and not too far away, whilst still being able to see Huw, isn’t as easy as it sounds – we started off with a few warm-ups and sound checks before getting into the repertoire.
A quick catch-up before the first session (photo: Rebecca Williams)
Nope, nobody feeling cold here. Nobody at all…..(photo: Andy Quick)
The rest of the day was hard work, covering a huge range of composers ranging from John Rutter to Benjamin Britten. Yet it was highly rewarding, too, with some of the pieces we feared would take longest to record being nailed in just a handful of takes. While it’s too early to share any of the audio just yet, we can assure you that Helen Pugsley’s sublime solo in “The Blue Bird” will be more than enough to justify buying this CD!
Setting up for “The Blue Bird” (photo: Andy Quick)
Our first day of recording was a long one, with the final session ending at 7.30pm. Feeling pretty exhausted from hours of standing, we couldn’t wait to sample the food – and the wine lists – in some of Oxford’s finest hostelries, with a few choir members (who shall remain nameless) even having the stamina to continue partying into the small hours….
Much of the recording time the following day was devoted to recording some spirited Welsh folk songs set by William Mathias. Although great fun to sing, some of the Welsh words in them were challenging to say the least. We were hugely grateful for the assistance and patience of Mared – Cantemus’ resident Welsh language expert – for sitting in the recording room with Gary for the first take and then taking the time to offer us kind and constructive feedback on our pronunciation. Yet again we covered a huge range of repertoire, ranging from the familiar “Beati Quorum Via” to the Mathias folk songs, which are less well known but no less beautiful and interesting for that.
A quick chat between recording sessions (photo: Matthew Mudge)
It’s always a privilege to sing gorgeous music in a stunning venue, but it’s even more special to know that the fruits of our labours will be preserved for posterity on a recording. As one of our sopranos commented, “Amazing two days, shut off from the rest of the world, recording beautiful choral music in majestic surroundings. Truly good for the soul and the spirit.”
We couldn’t agree more!
A huge thank you to all those who helped make this recording possible – Gary and Andy from Regent, Becky our Chair, Caroline our Projects Manager, and especially to Huw for all his efforts in making this recording come about. We can’t wait to hear the disc later in the year – watch this space!