Monday, February 16, 2009

Dress Rehearsal

Overall, I was very pleased with how things turned out in the dress rehearsal. You'll recall that the objective was to make sure there were no real disasters in the arrangements, and that our stage set up was good for balance. The decision to put the chorus on risers in the pit, and band on the stage behind them was a good one. If you remember far enough back to when we did Carmina Burana, you'll recall that we ended up with something completely different.

All of these recordings were made with a Zoom H4 on a tripod. I positioned the tripod in front of the first row of seats in the auditorium to the right of the piano (which was in the center) so consequently, we got a bit more of the sounds on stage left (actor's left) of the stage and a bit less of what was going on over on stage right (sax section). Still I think we need to move the drumset and tuba further back on the stage for better balance as they are rather heavy on these recordings.

There were really only two pieces that need a lot of work- Within You Without You and Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!. With both of these tunes, it is the lack of rehearsal time on the difficult sections that is to blame, and that is my fault. Rest assured, I'll be spending more time on these when we return from vacation. Lovely Rita gets an honorable need-to-rehearse-this-one-too mention because the ending totally fell apart. It is 5 against 4 in some places, so it's not easy, but then again, most of this stuff is not easy.

I'm very proud of this group and how far you have come with this music. We are playing in some unusual keys, and performing a new style of music for us. We are also attempting to do what the Beatles never did- perform this stuff live.

You can learn a lot by listening to yourself. Click away. :-)

Mr. Rabuse

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band and Segue to With a Little Help

This sounds good to me. Just a few tweaks:

The band needs to clean up the ensemble solo section just after "may I introduce to you...", (We've been working on it for some time, and it's getting there.)

No timpani rolls in the chorus.

I'd like to have a vocal soloist perform the opening line, then ensemble play the interlude (cleanly), then have the full chorus come in on "We're Sgt' Pepper's Lonely...".

Harmony in the voices on "we're Sgt. Pepper's Lonely". I'm only hearing the top note.

With A Little Help From My Friends

I love the call and response in this. Good duration on the quarter note figures in the woodwinds. Brass entrances and cymbal crashes could be a little more aggressive. Bass needs to come out more.

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

This is one of my favorites. I love the way it builds from the verse to the chorus.

The only thing I think we need to address is a bit of the phrasing in the voices. "Tangerine trees" "Somebody calls you" "Bridge by a fountain" "Drift past the flowers", "train in a station" etc. all have slightly different rhythms to them, and they seem to roll off Lennon's tongue on the recording. We seem to be a little stiff.

Getting Better

The only thing that really sticks out on this one is the absence of the background vocals. They shouldn't be too hard to throw in though, so I think this is going to be one of our stronger numbers. As always, let's try to keep the phrasing as close to the original recording as possible.

I'm going to use a keyboard patch to add the tamboura sound in the "I used to be cruel" section.

Good job. This tune really grooves.

Fixing A Hole

I'd like the clarinets to be a touch louder with the quarter note figure, and I love the sound of the trumpets with the bells. I think I'm going to add flutes to that figure. Low brass could be a little more sensitive in the tone color area. We have to rehearse the solo a bit more, and tighten up the ending.

Great sound on the chorus. Way to go!

She's Leaving Home

The tempo was a bit on the slow side, but I really like the harmony in the women's choir. To improve, I'd like to hear more of the phrasing that's on the original recording. Not all of the quarter notes should be sung straight. Some are rushed, and some lay back a bit.

In this recording, the chorus had turned around and sang directly to the band on stage, so the microphone was behind them. I don't think balance will be an issue as long as the trumpets keep bells in the stands and the woodwinds take it easy on the volume.

Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!

This was one of the band's weak points largely because I didn't finish the arrangement yet. Thanks for muddling through. Remember, the point was to hear the balance of band and chorus together in the auditorium, not give a polished concert. We'll do that later. I'm still considering our options for the weird part at the end, and think I may have a solution with my guitar synth.

The flutes have to have a more solid swing feel in the beginning, and at the first ending. Speaking of flutes, nice job on the attempt at the chromatic run.

Within You Without You

I'm adding a keyboard drone sound to this when we do it in our next rehearsal. I found a great sound of a tamboura on line which will be perfect. The chorus sounds great, and we just need to iron out the form with entrances, cutoffs, etc.

The percussion really needs to come out on this. bongos, conga and timpani can all be louder. Anyone know somebody with real tabla drums?

The instruments backing the vocals (muted trumpet/ soprano sax) could be louder, and more playful (trills, and other ornaments). I couldn't really hear the other instruments that play backing lines on the repeats of verses. We'll have to address that in our next rehearsal.

We didn't attempt the outro solo on this because the band wasn't quite ready with it yet.

When I'm Sixty-Four

The tempo is a little slow, and I'm not crazy about the full choir on the opening line only because the band instrumentation is sparce and features just 6 clarinets (which I like). After they play the intro, the choir comes in with guns blazing, and it's a little overwhelming. Maybe it should be a smaller section of chorus until "Will you still need me..."

Tenor saxes and bass clarinet need to get the triplet thing at the end of each chorus, the bouncy feel in the 8th notes is not always there, and the chimes part is not in the right place. Upper woodwinds need to check accidentals.

Chorus overall sounds great. Be careful on the entrance of the last verse. I like this one a lot.

Lovely Rita

You can really tell we were having a good time on this one. When Devin's voice cracked, everyone got a little fit of the giggles. I liked the use of the microphone on Devin (and Devin's work on this tune), and I love the full sound of the chorus. The solo section is getting better, but we need to really work the ending. It's tricky, but well within our grasp. A stronger entrance by the chorus on the opening "Ahh" is crucial, and we may want to consider using the women's choir, or a soloist for it.

Good Morning Good Morning

We need a more aggressive sound in our saxophones here. The overall tempo is also a little slow. The guitar solo section (played here by flutes) needs a lot of attention, and I may end up doubling this with a real guitar in performance. To the credit of the flut section, the solo sounded much better in rehearsal the week after this recording was made. For a finishing touch, we need to add our animal sounds. The rooster at the beginning, and the parade of animal sounds at the end. Dan's keyboard may come in handy.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band Reprise

I'm happy with this. The chorus wasn't ready on the evening of our rehearsal so they didn't sing, but I'm sure it's going to rock when they are ready.

A Day In The Life

This was our last take. I think our performance can be improved by phrasing the lyrics more like John Lennon did on the original recording. It sounds very stiff here. There are places too where there are accents on some of the lyrics "Upstairs and had a smoke" for example. I also think that by opening the piece with a solo voice instead of the full chorus might allow the piece to expand more dramatically. The maracas have got to be spot on in the beginning, and I think we have resolved the last chord issue with the new chord (not appearing here).

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Day In The Life

This was our second take. We need to bring out the acoustic guitar a little more, and in the section where the ensemble has unison whole notes (the John Lennon "Ahhh..." part), we really need to crescendo. We hit it full gas too early. I'm looking forward to tweaking the big glissando together, and refining our final chord.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

She's Leaving Home

The tempo may be a bit slow, and there were some key signature issues with this one. I rewrote the sax parts, but they had some missing measures at the time of this recording. We fumbled through it, and came up with a file the chorus could use for rehearsal.