Making a CD in the tropics

The BSO, as all you avid listeners will know, is the most recorded orchestra in the country (outside of London). In my 26 seasons I’ve been recorded on some 170 CDs of every kind of repertoire. This week we had another two days booked in to make a CD of the music of Stephen McNeff, the BSO’s one time Composer in Residence. Now a CD lasts anywhere between 50 to 80 mins but takes 12 hours (over two days) to record. The start of a session is always an intense time: we play through a section, the balance is checked, we play it again, the microphones are adjusted, we play it again, the engineers are happy, the red light goes on, we do a ‘take’, the conductor goes and listens,  comes back and says ‘it’s all marvellous/super/let’s do it again’. You check your watch and it’s ten past – only another 11 hours and 50 minutes to go!

BSO McNeff Session

Inside the oven: The BSO and Chorus roast while recording as the summer finally arrives in Poole…

Today we had the extra special pleasure of being in Lighthouse, Poole, under the spotlights while the country finally basked in some seasonal temperatures – 29 degrees at one point. We do always strive to have our playing sizzling hot, but this end is not aided by the absence of air conditioning and it was decided in the end that the large back door had to be left open even during ‘takes’ if we were ever going to last the whole 12 hours. This, however, added another unplanned, if not unattractive, aspect to Stephen’s music – that of screeching sea gulls. Ruth Rogers (leading for the sessions) started to play a delectable violin solo, rising from the depths of the texture when they started; we kept going – maybe they would not come through – they screeched louder – we conceded defeat and came to a halt. A comment was heard coming from the box (ie: recording engineers’ room) to the effect “well it is the Bournemouth Symphony, what do listeners expect?”. Anyway, despite the seagulls desire for fame, the doors were firmly shut so excluding them from our latest offering… or not? Might there be a ‘take’ featuring the local screeching talent that finds its way into the final mix? I might listen to this CD a little more closely than I usually do!

David Daly (Principal Bass)

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