A couple of weeks before Christmas I received an unexpected e-mail from Anna Lapwood asking me if I would like to be her page-turner and registrant for a recording she was making at Ely Cathedral. I jumped at the chance and made some arrangements! My Headteacher was very accommodating in giving me the time off school and my Grandparents agreed to take me. I just had to hope Covid didn’t get in the way! As it was, with tier 4 restrictions in Ely, we decided it was too risky for my Grandparents to travel and so my Dad took me instead.
We headed off on the Sunday and had a good trip down. It took just over three hours. Having unpacked the car, we went to find the cathedral. It is a stunning building from the outside, I couldn’t wait to explore some more the next day when it was open. Back at our hotel, I started work on programme notes for my DipARSM excited for the next day.
I met with Anna at lunch time, having completed my programme notes. We went over each of the pieces being recorded that evening, showing me the registration changes and page turns. Anna also played each piece over to see whether there were any moments where she wanted me to change registrations instead of her, making it easier to play. We had a break and then returned to start recording about 4.30pm and finishing after 10pm. By the end of the session she had recorded: Occasional Trumpet Voluntary (Patrick Gowers), Images (Owain Park), Taking Your Leave (Cheryl Frances -Hoad) and Andantino, doucement expressif (Claude Debussy).
That evening, Boris Johnson was making an announcement about lockdown. The mobile reception in Ely Cathedral is really poor and we only knew what was going on because my Mum was texting. I was keeping everything crossed that any announcements would not impact our recording and that we would be able to continue the following day, thankfully we could!
On Tuesday, we met just after lunch, having been at school online in the morning, and went over the Transcriptions of Britten’s ‘Images’, written by Anna. Three out of the four movements were easy to follow and the registration changes and page turning was easy enough. The fourth movement, ‘Storm’ was very difficult to follow. The registration changes were very fast and sometimes I got lost in the music and just had to use my instinct which by-and-large didn’t fail me. The other piece Anna recorded was Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Vocalise’. This was initially to be recorded on the Wednesday, but there was enough time to get it done and it meant I could assist. There were a few stop changes that I had to do last minute without any room for error.
When we’d finished, Anna invited me to play the organ. It was difficult to play the pedals (which were very narrow) in thick slippers and with cold hands. Anna, amongst others, had warned me Ely Cathedral was cold. I think it is fair to say that is an understatement! I was glad of my thick jumper, coat, scarf and fluffy slippers! I played Karg-Elert’s, ‘Nun Danket All Gott’. We left the cathedral at about 10.30pm.
The recording process was really interesting, each piece was played all the way through once, before Anna went down to the recording room to see how it sounded on the recording and discussing it with the Producer, Adrian Peacock. Anna and Adrian would on decide any registrations that needed changing and then Anna and I would set them before she played each piece in sections. These sections were played over many times until the team and Anna were both happy that they had enough takes and that what they had was perfect. My role required a great deal of concentration. I was aware that every move I made (or didn’t) could impact the recording and that if I mucked up it could jeopardise the whole take. Having said that, would I jump at the chance to do it again! Absolutely I would!
The third evening of recording didn’t require my assistance and so Dad and I travelled home. I was delighted to be gifted a copy of the music from the recording by Anna, I know a number of people have already asked if the Transcriptions of Britten’s ‘Images’, written by Anna are going to be published and I already have a copy! I can’t wait to hear the final version when the CD is released later this year.
A short video of some playing and images can be see from this link.