Well we did it – coping well with time pressures, budgetary management, enormous creative questions, mass of material, orchestra, choir and assorted opera singers – and a few visiting dignitaries, celebrities and VIPS. The recording of our new classical album went off without a hitch at London’s Abbey Road Studios.
The brief was complex – pick 34 best-known pieces of classical music (plus another eight opera pieces added at the end) and adapt them to the demands of the modern media industry. Make the arrangements your own – but don’t change them so much that they’re not immediately identifiable. Don’t tread on any international copyright agreements. Cut 15 minutes of music composed by a genius down to 120 seconds; create 20 alternate endings for the Ride of the Valkyries. Make the final product immediately accessible to the busy music editor and supervisor – that sort of thing.
The logistics of a project like this are mind-boggling. Seventy orchestral players, a 24-strong choir (and the operatic soloists). 42 different tracks. Thousands of audio files recorded and logged.
And scores! Scores for everybody, more paper than an origami festival – and every dot on the hundreds of printed pages in the right place. It’s no wonder that the whole studio hummed with a sense of industry and purpose like some kind of musical shipyard in full swing.
The orchestra (consisting of many of the finest players in the world) soon get the hang of the fact that while they might – and did – know all the pieces, they’d never been called upon to play them in short bursts before. Some players even carried on at certain points; oblivious of the small gaps we’d built into the pieces to expedite editing – such was the unusual nature of what they were being asked to do.
Conductor, and our joint collaborator Julian Gallant rose to the occasion, despite being in the grips of an evil virus. The orchestra worked 11-hour days, and the engineers toiled for many more each day, often missing out on meal breaks.
In the middle of it all, the new head of Abbey Road studios came around to see what we were up to. So did News at 10 presenter Charlene White. Oh yes and Madame Anne Gravoin, a lovely lady who likes opera – and happens to be married to the Prime Minister of France.
What made things even more challenging were that nobody had ever done anything like this before, the composition and arrangement of popular classics tailored to the needs of the digital age. We were creating a methodology as we progressed. The eyes of the industry, we sensed, were upon us – not to mention the good folk at Audio Network, who had invested a lot of time and money in the project, and no small faith in the team of Meegan, Tobin and Gallant.
So no pressure there then.
Well you know what? We did it in some style. We learned a little about what we would change – which is just as well because Audio Network have asked us to repeat the process with a host of new classical tracks.
We’ll keep you updated on that project -and the release of the first classical album in due course.
England’s green and pleasant land provides the visual backdrop to one of our latest initiatives.
The Rugby World Cup will see 20 teams from as far afield as Namibia and Georgia battle for the William Web Ellis Trophy. The games will be held across 11 host cities and the competition will run for six weeks from mid-September. Our brief was to provide the soundtrack for a TV advert that would showcase all that England has to offer tourists attracted to the country for the event, from Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire and the bleakness of Hadrian’s Wall in the far north to the Georgian splendour of Bath, and immaculately suited, ageing mods on scooters on Brighton seafront in the south.
Sir Hubert Parry’s setting of William Blake’s poem ‘And did those feet in ancient times,’popularly known as Jerusalem, provided the inspiration. Our track builds from spoken text and gentle piano intro and on to a stirring conclusion.
Sumptuously shot, the film features a host of characters and celebrities and reinforces the message that there is more to England than the world cup. Among those appearing are million-selling soprano Laura Wright, Stuart Lancaster, the England Rugby coach, and Martin Corry, the former captain, Gavin Pattison, a fell runner (at Hadrian’s Wall), Graeme Moon, crowned England’s sexiest farmer (in Somerset), and Victoria McMullen and Joanna Woollcott, a pair of ice cream ladies.