In April 2007, the Huddersfield Singers made a recorded contribution to Greg Hersov’s prestigious production of The Tempest at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester (starring Pete Postlethwaite as Prospero). This engagement came about through the good offices of choir member Catherine Rice, whose husband Peter was the sound designer for the production.
The choir devoted two of its weekly rehearsals to the venture. On the first occasion, Peter Rice and composer Arun Ghosh brought the specially-written music for the choir to sight-read and made a test recording. On the second occasion, they visited again with slightly revised music to record the version to be used in the production. The choir recorded both the piece itself and, additionally, a number of sustained individual notes which were used to create atmospheric background sounds throughout the entire production.
Peter Rice recalls:
As sound designer for The Tempest, I knew I’d have some difficult creative problems to solve, not the least of which was the Masque section of the play, which had been reinvented by our director, Greg Hersov.
As well as recording actors from all over the world, contributing lines from Shakespeare’s previously produced plays at the Exchange, and a sonnet spoken by the company, we decided to have a choir sing one of the pieces of text normally spoken within the Masque section.
The obvious choice to record such a thing was The Huddersfield Singers. After hearing them at numerous concerts (my wife being a member!), I knew they had the ability and professionalism to carry off such a contribution, and, after consulting with our composer, Arun Ghosh, we started to work towards an arrangement.
An initial rehearsal to work through the composition was organised, and Arun, working closely with Philip Honnor, the conductor, familiarised the choir with the piece while I made some test recordings. We ended the session by putting the choir on the stage of the rehearsal venue with curtains drawn in order to dampen some of the acoustic. It was very hot work for the singers!
The demo version we’d recorded was approved by the director and used in rehearsals for the actors to choreograph the scene.
The next time we met, further work had been done on the arrangement and, after a little rehearsal, the piece was recorded in under two hours. It slotted perfectly in place of the demo version that we’d been using in rehearsals, and gave that part of the play the sense of dynamic awe that had always been hoped for.
—Peter Rice, Sound Designer, The Tempest
The choir was delighted to be involved in this high-quality production, and those members who were able to see the play were extremely impressed by the final result.
After the recording session, 23rd April 2007
From left to right in each image:
Philip Honnor, Conductor, The Huddersfield Singers