Last year, well known conductor, Guy Noble, spoke with me and mentioned that he was conducting and supervising a project with the ABC and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. The project was to be a recording of songs from Broadway shows with Australian artists. This would be the first time a recording had been compiled of music theatre repertoire recorded with only one orchestra. Usually on compilation albums, they are recordings from various shows with different orchestrations. Guy asked me to sing some of the songs – which was a real thrill!
I had been wanting to record with a full orchestra for many years (actually since I first started taking singing lessons!!) I studied with Rita Hunter and her husband John Thomas and she always spoke very fondly about her time recording for different projects. And so it was really something I had wanted to pursue. It was also great to be part of a little piece of history in terms of being a music theatre performer and having the opportunity to sing on a recording with such an amazing orchestra as the TSO. The TSO is one of Australia’s prominent orchestras and it is constantly seeking to expand its recording repertoire, so I think it was an interesting project for them as well.
I have worked with Guy Noble in the past on different concerts with various artists and orchestras throughout Australia. For these concerts we have always included music theatre pieces from many different shows. I love classic music theatre songs – I have the type of voice and classical training which lends itself to the traditional soprano material. And it’s something I have cultivated throughout my professional career. I love the classical cross-over songs as well. So Guy and I looked at all the pieces of music that would be available to record and would suit the audiences who would come to hear me sing.
The actual process of recording with Virginia Reed, the ABC sound engineer, was quite extraordinary! She has a really interesting way of recording tracks which replicates a live performance. She’s also incredibly supportive and has a wonderful way of bringing out a performance which is fresh and interesting and absolutely hits the emotional mark. She demands precision in timing, intonation, phrasing, diction and emotional intent. All disciplines musicians strive for everyday – but on her time you are definitely on a bootcamp!! It was like working with a fantastic director. But when you have earphones on, the director is inside your head doing whatever it takes to make you achieve your best. It was an amazing experience to sing under those conditions.
I remember another sound engineer telling me a story about his work with the various labels and the TV winners of shows such as Australian Idol. He said often the recording environment is highly stressful because they have to get an album out in the minimum time available which pushes the artists, management and producers to the very limits. Whereas this ABC recording was a lot more personal and Virginia allowed enough time so we could fully explore the songs and reach our own individual potential. There was one session which lasted all afternoon but felt about 40 mins long!! Over the Rainbow was recorded in that session and there is something in the particular version of that song which is really different and yet true to the original version of the song by Judy Garland.