It goes without saying that if you are planning to record a choir you should plan the programme and lots of rehearsal time, but what else is involved?
So let’s imagine a scenario. You’re running a community choir which is going well. They’re doing lots of concerts and membership has been steadily growing. The members love singing and particularly like performing. Anyone who has been in a choir will always say they get a buzz from the performances. This is great. news, but as a choir leader you always need to be thinking up the next new challenge for your group.
A lot of choirs will typically follow school terms to give some structure to their rehearsals and concert performances. A ten week term is usually a good length to learn a set of songs which can then be performed in concert.
When is the right time to make a recording?
If you are thinking about making a recording with your choir the first thing to decide on is when. Obviously you also need to decide what to record. In some cases these two discussions run hand in hand with each other.
First, let’s consider the time to make a recording. It goes without saying that if you are going to the effort of a professional recording you want it to sound as good as possible and be something everyone can be proud of for years to come. Therefore it’s always good to pick a moment when the choir is sounding particularly good. This might be some repertoire which they particularly enjoy singing, or it could be that you have a really balanced group and you want to ‘capture the moment’.
Aside of the choir sounding musically good, perhaps the most common reason for choirs making a recording is to celebrate something. Typically this might be a choir anniversary for example. We have recorded a lot of choirs who are celebrating / marking their 5 year anniversary by making a CD. Equally we have also recorded some male voice choirs celebrating their centenary – although it’s unlikely any of the founder members featured on that recording!
Preparing for a Recording Session
Once you have decided to record your choir, the next thing to do is to plan for the recording day. Most choirs will contact us at the beginning of this process which often means there can be several weeks or months between the initial enquiry and the recording day.
The Recording Date
Good planning is key to a successful recording. Having established that you want to record an album the first thing is to then find a date.
This can be quite a challenge. It’s one thing getting choir members together for a rehearsal or a concert but a recording is often more of a challenge. A choir recording will typically be 1 or 2 full days. It’s often possible to record a CD in a single day – most choirs will record between 10 ad 15 tracks at the most. With regular breaks this can be achieved in just the one day, although 2 days does make it easier.
However, the important thing is to ensure as many as possible of your choir are available for the recording day. This is particularly important if you do decide to record over a couple of days.
What to put on the album
For most choirs the biggest challenge will be what to include on your album. When you get to this stage, the most important thing to remember is that it’s your album. Essentially there are no rules. No right or wrong. No accepted norm. Obviously you will want the album to showcase your choir. This doesn’t necessarily mean singing all your big crowd pleasers. But equally you do want to choose the songs your choir do best.
Some albums will naturally have a theme – Christmas for example is an obvious one. Songs from shows is another popular choice or songs from a particular period in time. Sometimes, however the ‘theme’ will just be songs which celebrate your choir. If you want to make it as democratic as possible you could open this up to the choir. Maybe pick 20 or so songs which the MD thinks would record well and then ask your choir to vote for your favourites and say the top 10 songs will go on the album?
Rehearse, rehearse some more then plan an extra rehearsal
Certainly this post is not here to tell you how to run your choir. Your music team and MD will know best what needs to be rehearsed. But it’s certainly worth planning a few extra rehearsals with your choir. Interestingly we have done some recordings where the choir has recorded in a single day but met the previous day or evening for a rehearsal. This can often work well. Obviously the assumption is you are going to record songs you know well and so we don’t need to tell you to rehearse!
But in recent months we have recorded a number of choirs just on a Saturday but they have met on the Friday evening for a long rehearsal. We have noticed that in these instances a lot more of the songs are recorded in just one or two takes as everything is fresh in choristers minds.
Ultimately any choir music team will know best how to rehearse their choir. We do not like to give too much advice here because it almost sounds as if we are telling you how to run your choir. That would certainly never do. The advice we do give is based on nearly 20 years experience of working with and recording choirs.
We therefore hope this post is of some help to you when preparing for your recording session. If you have any further questions then please do give us a call on 01225 302143 or contact us via email.