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Recording for posterity

It’s one thing to sing in the shower. Yet it’s totally different when it comes to singing in front of an audience. It's the same when it comes to recording music. You capture the sound of a live performance but it's another to record those songs in a studio. Yet that's just what Sunshine Coast Oriana Choir is doing. And the experience has been full of excitement as well as apprehension.

The choir has produced five CD recordings since 2005 but they have been of live concerts. This week the choir went into the recording studio for the first time. The amount of preparation has been considerable: more than six months of rehearsals and performances led to the 65 choristers, accompanist and conductor combining with a string quartet and sound engineer David Quinn of Ghostgum Audio at Cannon Hill.

The theme for the CD follows hot on the heels of Oriana’s highly acclaimed 2016 European tour. The recording is a collection of songs performed in cathedrals throughout Europe and entitled “Cathedral Dreaming”. Choir president Melissa Innes said patrons may have heard some of this beautiful repertoire at the Cathedral Dreaming pre-tour concert in August last year.

“Ghostgum Audio is a professional studio that can fit a full-size orchestra and symphonic choir.”

Oriana music director Sandra Milliken has recorded seven CDs at this studio and was full of praise for David Quinn, who is a fine musician as well as managing the studio and providing his expertise to ensure the finished product is top quality. “The grand piano, organ and strings, solos and a vocal trio bring an added dimension to the choral works’’ she said

Sandra said recording from a logistical perspective required months and months of rehearsal ... right from the Cathedral Dreaming concert last August prior to the Central Europe tour of Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and the Czech Republic. “The rehearsals continued post tour and there are special nuances about page turning, silent breathing etc that are important in studio recording … as well as the enormous pressure on the accompanist. Rehearsals focussed on all the small details. Neatness and precision of words and tuning. A recording is forever. The choir had been concentrating for some months and were very focussed at rehearsals as well as doing their own home practice to reinforce the detail.”

“As a conductor, I needed to plan our standing positions to ensure we had the best balance across all the parts and voices as the microphones don't lie.”

“I also had to compose string parts for one of the arrangements ... a new version of “Ave Maria” by Caccini, performed beautifully by our Oriana women.”

It is important to realise that during the actual recording page turns and breathing can be audible, so special attention needed to be paid to possible noise issues. “Recording is truly an educational experience … and hard work.’’

This recording required three days in the studio plus editing time, and the musician over-lay etc. The choir travelled to Brisbane by bus each day. Melissa Innes said the recording would bring joy to choristers as well as listeners.

“As a chorister, although you can sense that the performance your choir is delivering is pretty special, we rarely hear the final, big picture product of what we are producing. As a singer, when you hear a recording for the first time, you tend to listen to your own part, sing along and focus on all of the nuances of a piece.”

“But once time has passed, to listen to that recording again stirs incredible emotions relating to where you were, what you were doing, who you were singing with, and the venues you performed that music in. It’s an extremely priceless possession; to own and share a recording that your voice has contributed to. And it’s an invaluable developmental experience for choristers too.”

“To be in a studio, listening to the sound, quality, vowels, breathing, page turns … everything that you can hear in a recording … is just incredible.” “Taking a little slice of Oriana home I hope is a very pleasurable experience for our listeners.’’

Getting ready to record at Ghostgum Studios

Cathedral Dreaming is expected to be completed in time for the Haydn Sunrise performance by the choir at Lake Kawana Community Centre in May.

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