Recording Songs of Renewal – July 2018

A forest of microphones towered above us as we made our way into Millfield School’s impressive Johnson Hall in Street. Featuring a stunning Steinway and seating for 350, this light, airy concert hall was the setting for the recording of our first CD in several years, and our temporary home over three searing hot days in July.

As a relative novice to choral singing, I’ve never taken part in a recording before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve been part of the choir long enough to know that hard work, multiple cups of tea and post-event wine were all likely to be involved. But whoever predicted in this blog’s last entry that it would be a “pretty intensive” weekend wasn’t exaggerating.

Recording a CD is, I discovered, as gruelling as it is exhilarating. I love the songs we are singing for this collection: the first of Will Todd’s Songs of Renewal is a stomping, whooping joy, and Cecelia McDowell’s haunting Standing as I do before God moves me beyond words. But even the most beautiful songwriting starts to lose its shimmer after the 29th repetition…

Fortunately we were lucky enough to be in the hands of a group of professionals who worked immensely hard to make the experience an enjoyable one.

Producer Adrian Peacock kept the atmosphere light with regular (and possibly libellous) anecdotes, interspersed with deeply insightful comments and suggestions. Our accompanist for the Jonathan Dove was composer Huw Watkins, as good-natured as he is supremely talented, and on the final day we were joined by the lovely Elizabeth Cragg, who sang the soprano solo for the McDowell. And of course our conductor Benjamin held everything together with characteristic energy and humour, all while doing battle with an increasingly squeaky podium.

By the Monday evening we were all exhausted, dry-voiced and extremely proud. A large group went on to celebrate nearby; the rest of us made our way back to Bristol and a well-deserved break. It’s now a case of waiting out the months before the final product is unveiled. With all the time, energy and skill that has gone into its production it’s bound to be a real treat; but whatever the result, I’m so glad I’ve had a chance to be involved.

Hannah Shaw, Alto

This project was support by the PRS Open fund.