Through sweat and strain we finished recording Gawthrop's "Isaiah" around 6:00 PM on Thursday evening. We eventually hit a groove and found our sound for this repertoire again, and after a lofty discussion about semitones in his work and how they are similar/dissimilar to Tallis's use, we become more aware of our function in this piece, both on an individual level and as an ensemble. We shook off the stress of "getting it done" and just started to have fun. We moved fast, but slowly the tensions started to shake and we were able to swiftly cross the finish line. And the feeling of only having ten pages of Tallis left...sheer levitation.
We took an hour + for a dinner break, and returned in high spirits to get the rest of this album in the can. At this stage, this is when things really started to get wacky. With the finish line in sight, quirky little things kept popping up that tried to wreck our momentum. Over his headphones, Chris heard a ticking clock that was sitting atop one of the lecterns and searched everywhere to try to find it as it wasn't in plain sight. A whoosh of foul odor wafted over the ensemble, which we agreed came from one of the pipes in the church and not from any of us...we would get a great take and an ambulance would be screaming by right at the cutoff, and somehow, any one of the RenMen would always be in the bathroom. And yet for all of the quirks of the last session, everybody was happy. Determined, but happy. Exhausted, but happy. To look around the room and see that level of concentration and cheerfulness at ungodly hours after nearly twenty hours of recording over three days would be inspiring for anyone standing next to it. As Will reminded me at the dinner break- keep at it. Optimism is infectious.
Around 10:00 PM we finished the Tallis, and every measure, in some form, was for the keeping. We consulted with Chris to see if there was any section in any other piece that needed last minute attention. We technically had two more hours to tie up loose ends. And we all agreed that we'd be willing to work until midnight to get it all done. We took a quick break, Chris and Victoria reset some microphones to our horseshoe formation, and Kilian displayed some incredible acrobatics. By 10:30, we were in the bonus round.
We restarted, and retook some spots in Tallis, Van Ness, and Casals. So close, one more quirky event – Buffalo police showed up because of a tripped sensor. Chris announced over the talkback monitor that we had an issue, so we ceased activity briefly to see what was going on. Nobody went to jail, and it was a fun opportunity to get a photo with Buffalo's finest.
And by midnight, we were done. With everything. Under our 20-hour time limit, even! Everyone, jovial and enthusiastic and engaged right to the bitter end. And when it was done, we all collapsed, briefly. And then...a feeling I've never felt in a recording session with any ensemble I've ever worked with. There was this sense that we all were full of pride. I never sensed that people were apathetic about finishing the project, or even worse, relieved that it was over. In fact, once we took a final listen back, group thank yous and photos, packed up, left, and went back to the house, I could sense a twinge of melancholy that we were done. This wasn't simply the end of a recording gig that we were contracted for to work as freelance singers for a conductor in one singular experience. We finished a project that each one of us had a true, personal connection to, as an equal member of our band. This band we've been working at for four years. I stayed with Chris and Victoria (and our new friend Sanctuary Bat) once everyone went back to the house to help them unload and to have one last fraternal bonding moment, and when I returned to the house around 1:30 AM, I was shocked to see so many people still awake! Brian, Garry, Ben, Tony...all just lounging around and shootin' the breeze; endorphin-induced insomnia, perhaps. We talked until 4:00 AM or so before we went all forced ourselves to bed, and by 11:00 AM the next morning, we were all back to our regular lives.
We checked out of our band house on Friday morning. Peter, Will, Tony, DJ, and I had breakfast at a diner in Buffalo before hitting the road back to Boston. In our postmortem discussions, it was clear that what we have been striving for, for four years, this moment, was well worth every success, but also, single moment of fear, reticence, uncertainty, pain, and doubt we have had in this ensemble. In any startup, one might be able to see some semblance of an end goal, but cannot even imagine what it would take to get there. This recording may be a triumphant stop along the way, but we are far from over in this process, or as an ensemble for that matter. This recording broke the dam. It was a watershed moment in our ensemble's genesis. For our community. I feel more connected to every single person in our band, and in surprising ways. To the hundreds of people who helped support this endeavor, we need you to know that you didn't just contribute to another new album by a classical music group fighting to survive, but, you allowed an opportunity for many of us to grow, learn, emote, express, and heal in ways which will remain with us of the rest of our lives. To some degree, we all needed this experience for the betterment of our personal lives and for the enrichment of our souls in these times. We hope you will continue to join us on this journey, as we hope this album and our subsequent release touring will evoke you – to grow, learn, emote, express, and heal.
Renaissance Men 2017-18 is coming. Stay tuned!