Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The CD Becomes Reality

Now we return to the history of my Gena Branscombe Project. With a few fantastic diversions for performances in Texas and Georgia, plus the purchase of Gena’s sheet music, we revisit the development of my CD and one-woman show.

Martin and I continued recording throughout mid to late 2001. Sessions were intense yet with the support of wonderful Martin and our recording engineer David Smith we continued to make progress. One session during this time comes to mind. Just four days after the events of 9/11 here in New York City, we were scheduled to record. I seriously thought about cancelling our reserved time in the studio yet thought better of it as we needed to move forward.

Saturday, September 15, 2001 was a particularly arduous recording session. We were trying new microphone placements in relation to the piano to get a better balance and sound. Maybe a small piece of carpet under my feet would help, maybe the piano needed to be closer, maybe a different microphone would work better - stop and start, stop and start. We only succeeded in laying down two songs. Nearing the end of our time, David Smith called up from the sound booth and offered to give us an additional half hour to compensate for all the technical adjustments. How great, we could do one more short song.

I quickly looked through the songs we had planned to record that day and decided on “Dear Lad O’Mine.” From the sound booth I heard David paging through the music he had for the session, then heard him say, “Oh” and from Martin just a slight gasp. Not realizing the words of the song at the time of my decision, I had surprised myself and found the opening line of the poem appropriate for what had happened in our beautiful city. The line - ”War gods have descended, the world burns up in fine!” Those words written by Canadian poet Katherine Hale could not have been more true. In our fervor we recorded the song in one take feeling the devastation that had happened to us all four days earlier.

The word “fine” is correct and having gone to the dictionary to make sure I understood what the poet meant, I found one of the extended definitions to be “ominous and in darkness.” How true.

Martin agreed to record four of Gena’s piano pieces that were written for her daughters. Several sessions later I sat back and listened to Martin imbue these charming works with his beautiful playing, tone color and sensitivity! What a gift to this recording. I know Gena Branscombe would have been pleased.

By June 2002 we had our final recording session laying down four songs. I was thrilled to be finished recording as it is an arduous task. Recording is nothing like performing as there is no audience, mistakes and glitches are stopped and you can re-record with as many takes as you like. In the editing process one can cut and paste cuts together until you have a product that satisfies the music, the performers and the record company. The technical recording process at times seemed cold and clinical all the while I was pouring my heart and soul into making Gena Branscombe’s music come alive for the 21st century audience.

With extensive editing, discussions of song order, program notes written by Dr. Marlow, cover art, photographs for the booklet and many other details, our finished product, “Ah! Love, I Shall Find Thee: Songs of Gena Branscombe” was sent off to Albany Records and released in November 2003. We celebrated the release that November with Martin, his partner Tom, my sister Judy to whom I dedicated my CD, my voice teacher Stephanie Samaras and of course, wonderful husband Dan. Champagne was opened and we toasted the newly released CD.

Now it was time for me to continue my Gena project and figure out how I was going to create a one-woman show!

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