Derri Joseph Lewis: Recording Something Exciting

24th January 2022

Features NMC Recordings

Derri Joseph Lewis, one of this year’s National Youth Choir of Great Britain’s Young Composers, explores the electrifying and nerve-wracking experience of recording his brand new piece, Something Exciting. Listen to the finished recording on NYCGB Young Composers 3, which is out now.

Committing music to disc is an exhilarating process. An ecstatic mix of nervousness and excitement. The culmination of countless months of work hangs on just one studio session.

Recording my new piece, Something Exciting, with NYCGB and NMC Recordings was an incredibly overwhelming experience. The main hall of Cecil Sharp House in Camden was packed to the brim with 100 energetic young singers and a jungle of microphones, stands, and cables. At the helm was conductor Ben Parry (NYCGB Artistic Director), and producer David Jones, who was listening in from the next room.

Hearing your own music brought to life is an absolute gift. It’s a chance to hear the ideas that have been whizzing around your head finally take shape. But it’s a moment tinged with anxiousness: will the music sound how I imagined? 

The red light comes on. 

The singers take a deep breath.

“Derri Joseph Lewis, Something Exciting, Take 1.” 

We worked through Something Exciting as a ‘rehearsal—recording.’ The choir practiced a small chunk of music, about one page at a time, before recording a few takes. It was like crafting the individual parts of a musical patchwork-quilt that gets stitched together later in the editing suite. 

This was my only chance to hear Something Exciting live before it was recorded for release. It’s a piece about coming out as LGBTQ+ to my family, depicting that strange, adrenaline-induced feeling of time passing both slowly and quickly at once. The music is built upon lots of repeated rhythmic cells, so the pacing is absolutely crucial.

Are there too many repeats? 

Are the dynamics clear?

Are my feelings coming across? 

There was a moment in the piece that I felt was too crowded: the ideas were stacked too closely together, creating an opaque, confused sound. I made a split second decision to add in an extra bar to give the music some space. Listening back to the final edit, I think I made the right decision! 

Since we had so much new music to get through, the recording session absolutely flew by. The NYC singers demonstrated such commitment and self-discipline to get everything spot-on, whilst still retaining the unique musicality and verve that the choir is renowned for. 

As well as Something Exciting, we also recorded a gorgeous new setting of a classic Wordsworth poem by Kristina Arakelyan, a fabulous conjuring of a woodland scene by Anna Disley-Simpson, and a powerful reflection on identity by Alex Ho

To me, recordings are more than just a fixed, unchanging artefact. They capture the fleeting and ephemeral qualities of the specific circumstances under which they were captured. Listening to a track is like diving in to a slice of frozen time. The vivid emotions of the performers and the fizzing atmosphere of the space are preserved forever in sound-waves.

Listen to Something Exciting below.

Find out more about NYCGB Young Composers 3

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