Here's how I helped a hospice staff choir to record & release a fundraising CD
To record a choir AND a live band is not a small undertaking. But I'm always up for a creative challenge, especially when it's for such a brilliant bunch of people doing something so worthwhile.
It all started when Nordoff Robbins music therapist Charlotte Bailey got in touch and told me about the staff choir she was working with at Nightingale House Hospice in Wrexham. Starting for a bit of fun, they'd progressed to performing live, and had surprised themselves with how great they were sounding together!
So, Charlotte she shared her vision with me for enlisting a few session musicians she knew in order to record a few live renditions for posterity.
So, with a date set, I packed my car with my mobile-recording set-up and headed for Wrexham.
Doing all you can with everything you've got
Any audio engineer will tell you that some of the most challenging situations to record in are small boxed-shaped rooms with low ceilings. And this was precisely what we had available as our recording space – let the challenge commence! I was thankful that one of the ceilings was partially angled, as it probably did a great deal to save us from a world of auditory hurt. I also made sure that we kept as many random items (stacks of chairs etc) in the room to diffuse and deflect the sound.
My ideal scenario was to make separate recordings of the individual band instruments, and the choir, as they performed together. That way I'd have the most flexibility to mix them once back at the studio. This resulted in a rather unusual way of setting everybody up in the room – the choir facing away from the band, with only Sarah, the choir conductor, facing Charlotte & the band. Each instrument was close-mic'd or DI'd to stop as much of the sound from spilling into each other's microphones, and from the choir.
Listening back on headphones I was pleased at how well this all worked.
Back at the studio, I was able to enhance the raw recordings, adding ambiance back to the close-mic'd instruments to match the choir's natural room ambiance, and using some tasteful EQ and compression adjustments.
Here is how some of the finished tracks sound:
The power of music within community
This bunch of individuals, who joined together to form a little choir, are living the truth that music shared in community holds tremendous power. The warmth and closeness I witnessed between everyone was palpable, and it was a delight to be swept up into it for a while as we made music – and memories – together.