Monday, 17 June 2013

BBCNOW and then (see what I did there?!)

Last Thursday was the recording for Wizards vs Aliens Series 2 with The BBC National Orchestra of Wales and what a triumph it was, even if I do say so myself.

It was a fun day.  I have to thank every single one of the players, they really played their hearts out.  We had a few technical problems in the first session and a hell of a lot of music to get through but we still managed to finish the second session 15 minutes early.  Most of that was because of how few takes we had to do.  On average three takes of a cue would mean the orchestra had nailed it, and some we only had to do two (the second being purely for safety as the first was so good).

I don't know what Huw, the engineer at Hoddinott Hall did, but the recordings sound fantastic.  I thought they sounded good last year, but this year they are amazing.  The level of separation is unbelievable so Dan has loads of control when mixing, which can be difficult when you're recording the whole orchestra at once.

Mark Wyllie's fantastic prep meant the sessions ran really smoothly, even with technical hitches, and his calm head saw any problems quickly rectified.  And as for Jeremy Holland-Smith... well... The man makes me feel like an impostor, he really is Mr Music.  The way he conducted the orchestra and directed their performance you would have thought he'd written the music himself.  He has an unnatural ability to interpret music and improve it greatly through that interpretation.  To you composers out there, if you ever have need of a conductor you should spend your money on him.  I know I always will in the future.

It's always tough in a recording session to make the calls and be sure you have the takes that you need but Dan and I seem to have managed, with the odd "Are you sure?" from Mark and Jeremy.

It was great to have my other brother Joe there too.  He kept an eye on the time, doing quick bits of maths to make sure we stayed on track and whether or not we had time to do another take of a particular cue.  It's a very useful thing to have someone doing that as it's one less thing to think about so I could concentrate on whether I had the performance I wanted or not.

Principal cellist John Senter is retiring from the orchestra next month (after 36 years) so it was an honour to have him playing on the score and also to have recorded a solo from him.  It's great to work with an orchestra that really cares about the music they are playing, regardless of what it is.  Associate Leader Nick Whiting (who was leading the orchestra for the sessions) popped into the control room in the first break to check that we were all happy with it so far and principal trumpet player Philippe Schartz also popped in to check we were happy.

As we had finished early I asked them to play through one cue one last time so that I could sit in the hall and hear them as live.  What a feeling.  There's nothing like a great orchestra going hell for leather right in front of you.  After I'd said my thank yous and told them all to go to the pub a few players came up to say how much they'd enjoyed the sessions.  That was such a lovely thing.  One of my aims with writing music (along side it working well to the picture, of course) is that the players will enjoy playing it.  Music should be fun for everyone involved, well, that's what I think, anyway.

I also need to thank Thom Robson who did the lions share of the copying (preparing the music for the players on a piece of software called Sibelius) without whom I don't think we would have been ready in time.

So all that's left to do is mix episodes 5-10, write the music for episodes 11-14 and then mix that.

Not a lot then...

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