THE HARDEST THING ABOUT RECORDING from a Producer’s perspective, is knowing (very quickly) the things you can fix and the things you can’t. Get too fixated on one thing and you will soon find yourself rushing to record the other pieces before the end of the session. It is all about making the right game-time decisions and only in retrospect do we know how we've done. Needless to say, every album is a learning experience and having finished off our seventh recording, I have two takeaways.
Go with a low-medium level of intensity as default. Renaissance polyphony needs to breathe. Often written for six or more voices (up to 19 on this album!), such dense scoring can lead to static performances unless deliberate efforts are made to vary the level of intensity. Once the level of execution is high enough and the melodic lines are phrased well, where to get soft and loud becomes more obvious—like a magic eye, where the image becomes clear once you have adjusted your focus just right. By slightly magnifying these moments we can hear the ebb and flow that is the essence of this music.
We are in the era of the ensemble singer, at least here in the Pacific Northwest. The sustained nature of Renaissance polyphony calls for the most durable voices which is why we have sought out some operatic voices in the past. This is not without its trade offs—while larger voices can endure a concert of polyphony (and then some), the sensitivity and flexibility required for ‘ensemble singing’ is sometimes not second nature. (Do not read me wrong here, I have only respect for opera singers—what they do is incredibly impressive). For this album, we have pulled together a cast of fantastic ensemble singers from the Seattle area and San Francisco; a set of voices that bring their own unique color and timbre to the Byrd Ensemble sound, a collection of vocal fingerprints that are now stamped on our album. We are so excited to share our musical painting with you in 2023.
Thank you everyone for your wonderful singing.