Recordings 4 Choirs were on location in Stoke-On-Trent to Record one of the UK’s leading Male Voice Choirs
In November 2019 I was recording a Christmas CD on location at a school in Nantwich. Not being far from Stoke-on-Trent, this afforded me the opportunity to meet up with some members of The Daleian Singers on my way home. The discussion was centred around their plans for recording a CD in the early part of 2020. However, the Gents were keen that I should have a look at their proposed recording venue to assess its suitability.
Generally speaking we do not need to see a venue in advance of a recording. Ultimately the best venue is one the choir is familiar with and, in which, they sound pleasing. Ideally a recording venue should be free from ambient noise, both internal and external and obviously needs to be a suitable size for your choir and any instrumentalists.
Longton Central Hall
The chosen venue for this recording was Longton Central Hall just on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire. The place where lots of pottery is made. The Church premises are used for many varied concerts and events such as Help for Heroes, Male Voice Choirs, Band Concerts, Fashion shows & Scouts Presentation Evening.
Having seen the venue the main discussion centred around which piano to use. There were several pianos located within the main building – a couple of upright pianos and a Digital Piano. The Choir were keen to use a ‘real’ piano for this recording. However of the instruments available in the venue neither were deemed particularly suitable. Indeed pianos which have sat untuned and unplayed in pubs for many years had the potential to sound better.
It was concluded either that a piano would be hired for the recording session or the choir would use their own Digital piano – which at least had the benefit of being in tune, and known to the accompanist.
The Recording Session
The Daleians had arranged to record on a Saturday from approximately 9.30am until 4/5pm. In order to save time in the morning (and allow us time for some breakfast), we headed up to Stoke on Trent on the Friday evening. Instead of recording for a couple of hours on the Friday, the choir had opted to have a rehearsal. This is a very sensible plan as it means everything is fresh and ready for the recording session.
Setting up the kit
To save more time, and since the choir were rehearsing in the venue. we offloaded some of our kit on the Friday evening. For security reasons we tend not to leave any microphones or computer equipment in venues ahead of time, but it is often helpful to get stands and cables in place earlier where possible.
Using the Organ
Originally the plan was to include the organ at the end of American Trilogy. I was asked if it would be possible for me to play the organ for this and record at the same time. As there is usually two of us at the recording session this wasn’t a problem. And so having set up a few microphone stands on the Friday evening we decided to rehearse this with the choir.
Aside of there being a limited view of the conductor from the organ console, it was all going well, right up to the point where the organ enters with a pedal C against the piano solo. It turned out that the organ, as well as not being entirely in tune with itself, was nowhere even close to being in tune with the piano. And thus ended my short stint at the organ!
Recording the Album
On the Saturday morning we set up the rest of the recording kit. Before long the Daleians had arrived and everything was ready to start recording.
We had around 15 or so songs to record during the course of the day which is a tall order for any choir, no matter how well prepared they are. Therefore it was good to get going around 09.30am. By lunchtime we had a lot of songs already ‘in the can’ which took the pressure off a bit for the afternoon session.
Of course, like a lot of choirs, after the initial nerves and the challenge of singing first thing in the morning, by 2pm the Daleians were just warming up and getting into their stride. We therefore decided to re record a couple of songs from the earlier part of the morning session just to create options for later.
The album is currently in our studio being worked on. The first rushes of audio and the CD artwork were issued to the client within 48 hours of the recording session. The Daleians are quite keen to have the CD ready for their first concert in February so we are working overtime to try and help them achieve this!