In my line of work, sonic integrity is everything. The essence of a good recording is to capture the nuances and details of the performer in a way that brings them to life before a listener.
This is generally achieved with the use of very expensive recording equipment and a well chosen recording space. The Military Wives Choir record was made at Air Studios in London (which I believe to be the best sounding room anywhere in the world) and literally hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of high end microphones, preamps and recording equipment were deployed in the process.
Yesterday, I was privileged to lead a small contingent from the Military Wives Choir onto the submarine HMS Turbulent to welcome home the crew after a nine month deployment. The task, to welcome home the crew (including the final husband of a choir member to return) by performing Wherever You Are in the control room of the sub.
On boarding the boat (note: “boat” and not “ship”) I learned that our musical accompaniment was to be played on an ipod connected to....the cheapest lowest quality set of iPod speakers I’ve ever come across. You know, the sort which is a brand name you’ve never heard of, is worryingly light and probably comes free with tokens from two boxes of Rice Krispies. This was the first hurdle.
To appreciate the second hurdle, consider that millions of pounds have been spent in order to create the acoustic environment in a submarine which is least likely to betray their position to any potential foes listening for their presence.
Sophisticated sonic damping and and the sheer density of material and people in the space made for a very uninspiring acoustic
In short, this was the worst sounding performance venue known to mankind.
As the music issued from the horrible, tinny and distorted iPod speakers, the ladies began singing. By half way through the song, we had switched off the music (so horrible and inadequate was it’s timbre). I’m proud to say that even in these most challenging of conditions, (and singing a capella with only about ten percent of the choir present!) the women did themselves and their choir-mates proud. They stayed perfectly in key (often unaccompanied singers will drift gradually out of tune) and the performance was heartfelt and engaging (even more so for the fact that Victoria Forth (front left above) was singing directly to her husband Tim after not seeing him for so long).
It was a fantastic day and the subsequent media coverage of the event has also been very gratifying.
We now have just over three days until the single is released. If we can keep up this momentum, we might just have a real chance at getting that Christmas number one!