In the Studio: Param Vir at Henry Wood Hall
24th November 2020News NMC Recordings
Session update from our Producer/Engineer David Lefeber
Of course, Henry Wood Hall in happier times is normally home to wall-to-wall orchestral sessions. As things stand, they are hosting many smaller events such as our sessions to record Param Vir's song cycle Wheeling Past the Stars last Saturday (10 October). A more perfect acoustic would be difficult to find for the combination of soprano and cello. The sense of an immersive space around the artists but with crystalline clarity sets us up perfectly for our journey through Param's music. This also helped wrap its arms around a performance that out of necessity was socially distanced, though in the recording it feels entirely natural and intended. So too in the control room, producer and composer were spaced a safe distance apart, following not only the rules but a mutual respect for each other's well being.
The journey through Param's Wheeling Past the Stars is at turns both beautifully lyrical and intensely dramatic. Before we even started, I was concerned that already by page 3 soprano Patricia Auchterlonie was required to sing high B flats and Cs, and at the start of a long day, and with a cycle of nearly half an hour to complete. We are all aware how difficult it has been for musicians over the past few months. In performance, if any aspect of technique might be affected by not performing it is stamina. But luckily, that worry was misplaced, Canadian born Patricia taking all the extremes and nuance of Param's piece in her stride. Perhaps it is having recently taken up cycling to get around London to avoid public transport that has helped maintain her performing stamina. Having worked with many of the UK's best singers, I was certainly impressed with what I heard of Patricia's musicality and technique, not least considering it was her first professional recording session. Someone to listen out for!
And of course, cellist Uli Heinen from BCMG provided an ideal musical partner, at once creating a serene, mysterious atmosphere as at the start of 'Unending Love', or embellishing Patricia's highest passages of drama with all manner of emotional possibilities, to declaiming protest, questioning and disquiet in 'New Birth', the fourth and final of PV's songs in this cycle.
Param Vir's album, featuring Before Krishna, Raga Fields, Wheeling Past the Stars, Hayagriva, will be released on NMC in 2021.