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So that’s what they sound like…

August 19, 2011 3 comments

On Thursday 11 August, three accomplished musicians and one tone-deaf member of the project team congregated in the new Ensemble Room in Oxford University’s Music Faculty to record some of the pieces which are to be included in What’s the score at the Bodleian?

Our sound engineer chose to use some rather less daunting equipment than this.

The pieces recorded are all by Charles d’Albert, and were selected on the somewhat unscientific basis that the collection is being digitised alphabetically by composer, and d’Albert is by far the most prolific of those composers whose surname begins with the letter A.  That and the fact that we rather liked some of his tunes.

The Faculty provided us with microphones and some portable recording equipment (and instructed us how to use it), as well as – crucially – a piano (for which instructions weren’t required).  Twenty-seven takes and a couple of hours later, we had five piano pieces in the bag, performed with aplomb by Ben Sheen and Tim Hawken, all ready for editing and post-production:

  • Nearest and Dearest (Waltz, on airs from Audran’s comic opera, Olivette), performed by Ben Sheen
  • Trial by Jury Polka (on airs from Arthur Sullivan’s operetta), performed by Ben Sheen
  • The Rink Galop (as performed at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster), performed by Ben Sheen
  • Adelina (on Jules Cohen’s Opera Les Bluets), performed by Ben Sheen
  • The Cleopatra Galop, performed by Tim Hawken

Meanwhile, having been thoroughly entertained by some live performances of parlour songs at the project’s introductory reception in June, and with plenty of studio time left, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss to also record some non-project songs which demonstrate other aspects of domestic music which were popular in the 19th century:

  • Come into the Garden, Maud, by M. W. Balfe (words by Alfred, Lord Tennyson)
  • Home! Sweet Home! by Sir Henry Bishop (words by John Howard Payne)
  • The Lost Chord, by Sir Arthur Sullivan (words by Adelaide A. Procter)

As at the June event, these were sung by Greg Skidmore, accompanied by Tim Hawken on piano.

All of these pieces have now been made available on a new Recordings page on the project’s website, and for each of the d’Albert piano pieces a PDF file of the score itself is also provided.  Once the crowd-sourcing aspect of the project is in full swing, it is hoped that any members of ‘the crowd’ with a modicum of talent on the ivories will make their own recordings of piano pieces delivered through the project and allow us to put them online.

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