Sunday, 6 February 2011

High adrenaline

It’s been raining pretty solidly all day; a horrid misty rain which isn’t showing any sign of going away, and is freaking me out, because I’m wondering what we’d do if the weather was like this on one of our filming days. What a miserable time of year!

We spent the day in a studio at The Sage in Gateshead. The engineer there is called Richard, and he seems to be a very friendly and highly capable young man.

The recording sessions were slightly more complicated and stressful than I’d anticipated. Poor Alistair, who hasn't been involved in one of these ridiculous, high-adrenaline experiences before, spent a good 30 minutes at one point pacing nervously up and down! The sopranos sang a bit flat, the altos rushed, one of the midi files broke down... In short, everything, as usual, took a great deal longer than we'd expected, which meant we missed out on lunch. It was, however, an absolute joy to see all of the choirs singing without their music. They'd learnt everything off by heart, which is something I’ve never experienced in one of these sessions. It bodes well for the filming, which is often marred by people not knowing their words. More brownie points for the Geordies and Mackems!

The brass band did a grand job, which meant we grappled back a little bit of time, and the Northumbrian Piper, Chris Ormston, played beautifully, reminding me how much I love that particular instrument. It’s got such a delicate, moving sound, and knocks the absolute socks off its Scottish counterpart!

The highlight of the day, once again, was the session with the Newcastle Kingsmen. I think I'm becoming their biggest fan! I envy their lifestyle up here, which is filled to the brim with folk music, dancing and long sessions in Northeastern pubs! It reminds me of a very brief period of my teenage years when we used to explore haunted woods, search for crop circles and play Steeleye Span obsessively. We were recording their two fiddle players, who breathed the most astonishing amount of life into my music by playing an improvised rhythmic drone underneath what I’d written. Three of the dancers came along to record a “tap track”, which means the percussive quality of their dancing can now double up as a form of drumming on the song.
350 years ago, and Pepys was visited by his cousin, John Snow, who sat with him whilst he was being shaved and asked for a favour, which Pepys was more than happy to grant. Pepys ate fish and hare for dinner. The hare had been sent by his plasterer, Mr Goodenough, which has got to be one of the greatest names in the history of names!

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