My name is Matt Roberts and I’m currently a pupil at St Edmund’s School in Canterbury where I have met some of the ECO outreach team when they visited the school in one of their recent projects. I have spent a week with the ECO doing some work experience, where I had the wonderful opportunity to attend two recording sessions. The second of which (25th June) I am writing a short blog for here:
My day starts with a tube journey to Borough, then a nice walk to Henry Wood Hall where I meet bassoon soloist Rui Lopes and recording team Andrew Keener (producer), Simon Eadon (engineer) and Dave Rowell (assistant engineer), along with the ECO’s general manager, Pauline Gilbertson – a great bunch of people who are always friendly and answer any questions I have with good grace.
The first recording session of the day begins at 2 pm with the orchestra taking about 15 minutes to polish up the trickier passages of Jean Françaix’s “Divertissement”, written for solo bassoon and string quintet (later adapted for string orchestra), before official recording starts. The piece is a development of the original use for divertissements, which was in opera, usually involving a small group of musicians singing and dancing. It is fast and lively, full of humour and makes clever use of the bassoon’s vast range as an instrument, filled with ornaments and double octave leaps, pushing the soloist’s technique, musicality and stamina to the very limits.
Although being a devilish piece to play, Rui performs astonishingly well, creating the most wonderful tone and character that fit the piece perfectly. The English Chamber Orchestra plays superbly, displaying remarkable talent and musicianship. They do not have a conductor. Instead, leader Stephanie Gonley directs the orchestra as well as playing 1st violin and handles it very well indeed, always giving suggestions and encouragement to create a sound standard of playing from everyone.
As I sit and shadow the recording team, with Andrew scribbling away furiously in his score at any tiny and infrequent insecurity in the performance (an amusing spectacle I can assure you), I notice the number of takes on the microphone icon on the computer screen (which I will not disclose) and realise how much work it is to produce a CD quality performance. This takes a moment to register, but after it has my respect for the orchestra – and in fact the entire performing world – grows enormously.
As a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral I sang in two recordings (Inspiration and Ceremony), but being as young as 10 and 12 for those I did not realise the full stress of all the bits and pieces that make producing a CD possible, only the stress of singing for three hours straight after a full school day and evensong beforehand. But even without the lessons and extra commitments, the ECO had a great task to undertake and I give my whole-hearted congratulations to them, the recording team and Rui for their commitment and excellent performance that day and I hope that the final result is a success for them all.
Unfortunately I could not attend the evening session as the curfew called for me to head home, though I was informed that all that was needed to be finished was done with great finesse and impeccable timing (quite literally last-minute stuff!).
Pieces recorded in the other June sessions were Ciranda Das Sete Notas by Hector Villa Lobos and Romance for Bassoon and Orchestra – Edward Elgar. Rui Lopes and the ECO also recorded Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in B flat and Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerto in C in April and will both be made part of the CD as well as the pieces recorded this June.