Notes from a Recording Session

For the first part of this week I am in Savannah, GA recording some works for my forthcoming CD project, works for horn by Jan Koetsier. Things went very well today, and I feel good about the material we have so far. I’ll post more details as the project continues, but for the Savannah session we recorded a substantial piece for horn and organ, the Choralfantasie, Op. 89 as well as selections from 13 Characteristic Etudes. I was very impressed with the professionalism of both of my collaborators, Rich Mays (engineer/producer) of Sonare Recordings and Matthew McMahan, organist at Decatur Presbyterian Church in Georgia. I’m feeling a little drained, both physically and mentally, from the session today, but here are a few preliminary thoughts about the experience. First, some pictures of the venue, First Presbyterian Church of Savannah. This space was highly recommended because of its acoustics, and also the high quality of the organ, shown below.

Here’s another shot, this time of the recording setup. There is a small video camera directly in front of the horn chair, which fed into a monitor on the organ console to facilitate communication.

After tweaking the levels and microphone placement, we spent the first part of the morning doing some spot checking and rehearsing the transitions in the horn and organ work. One big issue for me was keeping my pitch low enough to match the organ. My tendency is to be a bit sharp, so I pulled the main slide some and tried to relax down into the “groove” of each note as much as possible. Timing entrances and releases with the organ also took some time to work out, but we got there eventually. Again, I was thoroughly impressed with how the session was run, and am looking forward to hearing the final product! From listening to the playback on several takes, I can say that the Choralfantasie should come off quite convincingly. The piece is around 10-12 minutes in length, with some big, heroic writing for the horn and several virtuosic passages for the organ. After the Choralfantasie we finished out today’s session with an etude based on rhythms from Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Though brief, the piece is full of challenging rhythms and intervals, and will make a nice addition to the CD. The next session is slated for December in my university’s recital hall, where we’ll be recording the remainder of the works on the album. More to come!

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No, unfortunately, given the distance between home and the recording venue. I had performed the piece at a local church in Monroe, but with a different organist.


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