In this special d'blog, audio engineer Sunim Koria lifts the lid on his studio days with Team Tess.
"The first I heard about TESS was when I met Michael Blore for the first time at my local theatre bar after a show in 2013, but it wouldn't be another two years until I finally sat down with both Michaels to discuss recording the demo.
In all honesty, I was quite apprehensive about my involvement in the project at first, but after the initial discussion I was reassured to discover that the Michaels seemed incredibly easy to work with and, most refreshingly, they were completely open to my creative input from the onset.
Being somewhat of a literary ignorant I wasn't familiar at all with the story of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, but the Michaels were very quick to remedy this by giving me a copy of their “bible" to provide me with all the information that I needed to capture the personalities of the characters and the nature of the complex plot in the soundscape that I would go on to create.
The first listen to the rough recordings of the music that were sent to me completely bowled me over. The music, even in its rawest form, was incredibly beautiful. A solid chemistry between the lyricist and composer was apparent, with the words and music seamlessly bound together - the passion of these guys was strong enough to come through even a basic digitised mock-up. My ideas for producing the demo came as soon as I heard the music and the picture was instantly painted - it’s very rare I reach that level of excitement upon the first listen! However despite this excitement I was now filled with a new apprehension - the task of fitting into this equation. Knowing how to bring this material to life and realise it to its full potential to the best of my ability.
Before I knew it I was introduced to a number of outstanding vocalists who had made a successful career for themselves on the West End circuit; namely Joanna Strand, Antony Lawrence and John McLarnon. All of them were a pleasure to record - no egos whatsoever and nothing less than extraordinary talent. They were the definition of true professionals, with each of them possessing the determination to get it right no matter how many takes it took. They nailed everything, and it’s a privilege for any engineer to have the opportunity to work with performers of such a calibre.
Musically speaking, the two key words for me in putting this demo together were "MASSIVE" and "LUSH" (the capitalisation of those words is everything!). I strived to create a sound that is both beautiful but still have the ability to really "push out" of the speakers. An engineering highlight for me was recording the choral parts for ‘I Always Get My Way’ - overdubbing every vocal line several times individually to give the simulation of an enormous choir in a single room. It was a process that was considerably time consuming, but ultimately rewarding. Also, ‘I Always Get My Way’ was the first of my studio creations where I could really indulge my influence from one of my favourite music producers of all time - Phil Spector - right up to the inclusion of 'Be My Baby' castanets during the song's climactic moments (I hope you didn’t mind, Mr Blore!). The demo we finally created was truly "magical", though the vocal interplay between Joanna and Antony in 'One Look of Love' did it for me most especially - you wouldn't think the two singers recorded their individual parts on completely different days!
I'd love to say that I worked arduously in engineering these songs, but honestly, from the quality material I was given to work with, everything just simply fell into place and nothing was laboured. And of course, no studio session is complete without the obligatory bit of banter (almost always between the two Michaels!), but there was absolutely no antagonism amongst the team; just excellent communication at all levels. The Michaels put complete trust in me and gave me the freedom that any audio engineer in the field longs to have without a single feeling of artistic compromise. This is more than exemplified by what Mr Blore said to me on more than one occasion: "Don't tell me what you want to do, just go ahead and do it!!"
It has been an absolute honour to engineer even such a small portion of this musical masterpiece and I very much hope to be continually involved as the show evolves into a life that it truly deserves.”
Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment.
We’d love to hear from you :)
Next time on d’Blog… composer Michael Blore concludes the Tess herstory and discusses the future of the show
So what was it like to record the first songs from a new musical? How does a singer approach such an undertaking? In this special d'Blog, vocalist Joanna Strand talks about her TESS experience.
"I was delighted when Michael Blore asked me to have a look at his songs from TESS. I had looked at one of his songs a couple of years ago and knew I would enjoy singing his music again.
What a joy when I received the songs and they were utterly beautiful. And not only was the melody soaring and romantic, but I loved the lyrics and believed them. Plus, best of all, I would have a chance to really explore different vocal colours and range.
I like to get a song into my voice before I record or audition and work on those little phrases or words that are challenging or could be delivered in a number of ways. I also like to try to get to know a song, if not by heart then just so it becomes familiar enough so that I can think about the overall shape - and also to stop me rustling too many pages in the studio! Having said that there was still something very spontaneous about the recording for TESS. The colour we eventually chose for the character's voice wasn't the one I had prepared. We decided, even at her young age, to give Tess a depth and warmth of colour that would reflect the deep soul she has and somehow foreshadow her future suffering.
I must admit that I love performing live more than recording as interacting with my audience and feeling their participation and enjoyment is of great importance to me. But that aside, our recording days for TESS were fulfilling in the same way - and the Michaels and (audio engineer) Sunim seemed to enjoy the process as much as I did! It makes me deeply grateful to be lucky enough to have followed my heart and become a professional singer as opposed to a more sensible and reliable profession!
I have a feeling TESS will go far. The lyrics are intelligent and the music is beautiful and truly and unashamedly romantic. In our everyday lives, being able to express such romance so unselfconsciously, and so articulately, is a rare experience.
Thank you to the Michaels for allowing me to do this for you in this recording!"
Joanna will be performing at 54 Below, New York, USA on September 16th 2015. For more information please go to www. 54below.com
We hope you enjoy Joanna's performances on "In My Hand" and "One Look Of Love". You can find out more about her at www.joannastrand.co.uk
Thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment.
Next time on d'Blog... The lyricist speaks. Michael Davies shares his thoughts about the TESS process to date.
Hello again and welcome back.
Let's talk love. It's a many splendoured thing, don't you know. To be more accurate, let's talk love at first sight. That moment you feel an instant, extreme and ultimately long-lasting romantic attraction for a stranger on first seeing him or her (take a bow Wikipedia for the description). The same attraction that Tess Durbeyfield has for Angel Clare when they first meet one May Day in Wessex - an attraction that comes back to her later in life when once more she encounters Angel who offers to carry her over a puddle (it was the nineteenth-century after all). To know more about how their love story unfolds (if you don't already know) why not come along and see the show! Which hopefully won't be too far away in the future...
In the meantime, you can always take a listen to our love duet "One Look Of Love", which will be coming out in a few weeks' time on Facebook, YouTube and the twitter sphere.
But if you can't wait for that day to arrive, then we have something very exciting to tell you. The first ever public performance of "One Look Of Love" will be taking place in London on Thursday 4th June. The wonderful Joanna Strand (Phantom of the Opera) will be joined by award-winning bass-baritone Rodney Earl Clarke (Porgy and Bess, On The Town) to perform songs and duets by Gershwin, Porter, Rogers and Hammerstein, Bernstein, Cy Coleman and... us! I know! We're thrilled! To find out more about the event at the lovely cabaret venue The Crazy Coqs near Piccadilly Circus, click on over to www.brasseriezedel.com/crazy-coqs/joanna-strand-and-friends
Oh and by the way, our second song "I Always Get My Way"? It's going to be released. Very soon...
Next time on d'Blog... Reviews and revelations
Let's start at the very beginning. Oh, go on then... "A very good place to start".
Hello! And thank you for your visit.
Sometimes that'll be me saying it - and other times, you never know, it may be the other Michael offering you his salutations and keeping you posted on the most recent "TESS" news.
Which brings me to the reason for writing. It's all about the girl. Our Tess. She's doing well (thanks for asking).
Next week we're back in the recording studio with the wonderful Joanna Strand, who will once again give our girl her voice. And what a voice! We're still overcome with the emotion of recording with her on "In My Hand" (what do you mean you haven't heard it yet?!) and thrilled she's available to provide the female vocal on our love duet "One Look Of Love".
I'll let you into a secret - we've already recorded the male vocal. I know! The wonders of technology. Still, if Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion can do it then why not us, eh? That's right. The male voice is in the bag. Can. You know what I mean. And again - what a voice! Take a bow Antony Lawrence. And that's what you'll find him doing most nights of the week in "Matilda - the musical" at the Cambridge Theatre in London. Catch him while you can. He's terrific - and a lovely guy to boot. Not literally "boot", but...
And that, lovely reader, is the first blog. There'll be more. And no doubt ones better written than this (now there's a clue as to who is typing this) with a lot more detail about the process we've gone through to get this far in the journey from page to stage.
For now, thank you for reading and following.
Next time on d'Blog... we travel to the dark side and introduce you to Alec d'Urberville.
FROM STUDIO TO STAGE
HOW WAS IT FOR YOU?
MASTER AT WORK
INTERVIEW WITH A COMPOSER
ANOTHER MICHAEL'S STORY
THE LAST 5 MONTHS
LONDON STUDIO DAYS
A DAIRYMAID'S DIARY
IN THE STUDIO WITH TAM MUTU
THE ADVENTURE ROLLS ON
IT'S PRE-PRODUCTION TIME!
WHERE ARE ALL THE D'BLOGS?
A HERSTORY (THE FINAL PHASE)
A HERSTORY (PHASE THE 4TH)
THE LYRICIST SPEAKS
RECORDING TESS - THE SINGER
A HERSTORY (PHASE THE 3RD)
A HERSTORY (PHASE THE 2ND)
A HERSTORY (PHASE THE 1ST)
REVIEWS & REVELATIONS
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT ALEC
ONE HELLO IS HOW IT STARTS