Curiously Nottingham doesn’t seem far from our studio in Wiltshire. Maybe this is because it is nearer that Yorkshire or doesn’t involve a trip up the M5 and M6 which are both currently full of roadworks. However, it did involve a trip potentially up the M1 which apparently (at the time of writing) is also mostly full of holes and men in high viz jackets wandering around drinking tea. Nevertheless Nottingham still felt as if it was nearer than anywhere most of the way up the M6 and certainly didn’t need us to invest in a hotel the night before.
The Journey to Nottingham
Departing our studio at 04.30 in the morning, we set off in a Northerly direction. Armed with a flask of coffee and a croissant from the only service station which was open at that time of morning our team of two intrepid sound engineers headed first towards Oxford and then across to Northamptonshire and then Nottingham.
Making good time we arrived on the edge of Nottingham by 06.45 and in the absence of other options presented ourselves at the doors of a McDonalds on the main road into Nottingham. However, it seems that unlike the rest of the country where such establishments open for breakfast around 05.30 or 06.00 this one didnt open until 07.00! Having said that, we passed a number of nice pubs which seemed to think that offering breakfast from 09.00 was a useful thing.
Having failed, on this occasion, to invest some of our funds in McDonalds we headed on towards the school. The centre of Nottingham seemed to offer even fewer options for breakfast – at least none which didnt mean parking and wandering around to find anyway. So in the end we found a Co-op near the school and grabbed some more croissants and sandwiches for lunch later in the day.
Arriving and Setting up
A few days ago when we discussed this recording with Jonathan Barker, the Head of Music, he sent through a schedule for the day. This is always useful and helps us, and the school to plan. Generally speaking we allow 15 minutes per song and in a lot of cases this still ends up running ahead of schedule but usually not by much. However, for this particular recording, the idea was to record a couple of songs from the whole school in the school hall and then move to the music classroom for the rest of the day. Sounds simple in principle!
However, factor in we usually allow an hour to set up and suddenly this becomes more complicated. Fortunately the recording in the hall was singing to a backing track so we established a kit list for this recording and took as much as needed but as little as possible to the hall with everything else going to the music room. Despite this, there was still a lot of kit to be moved. This is why for this recording there were two of us. In the majority of cases there are usually 2 sound engineers for most of our school recordings, but in busy periods this cannot always be guaranteed!
Once we had recorded the school song, most of the rest of the day was spent recording Ukulele’s and pupils singing. Apparently the school had recently held a competition entitled battle of the bands. In this instance the bands were Ukulele’s and singers. We had around 20 different groups of children in all and a lot had produced and written their own songs. Regardless of whether you are a fan of the Ukulele or not, it was absolutely fantastic to see so much really good music going on in a school.
Keeping on Schedule
As with most things the key is always planning. And the important part of planning is understanding what is required. I always like to think that anything is possible, certainly within reason. This didn’t seem in any way insurmountable. We simply adopted our #nofaffing policy and got on with it. By 9am we were ready to record in the hall and had lots of microphones already set up in the classroom. Once we had recorded the whole school song we then started shifting kit back. The schedule said 09.45 in the classroom – we were ready by 09.30!
Consequently the rest of the day ran slightly ahead of schedule. This was a good thing because at lunchtime we decided to go for a walk. Whilst there is some effort in putting up all the stands and, on this occasion, moving the kit. surprisingly my Apple Watch regards recording days as quite lazy. I suppose once we are set up there is potentially a lot of sitting around.
So to keep the tech happy we went for a half hour walk and in fact wandered past the main Nottingham Academy and the National Basketball stadium. We were then back at the school ready to record shortly after 1pm and the day finished by 2pm.
End of the day
We don’t impose time limits on schools, other than of course the school day. But it’s always nice to finish a little early, particularly as most evenings of the week I run choirs. This being a Monday meant I had to be back in Cirecencester to run a rehearsal with Cirencester Male Voice Choir. But by leaving at 2pm we were in fact back in Gloucestershire by 5pm and this afforded us the luxury of having tea in Waitrose cafe there prior to the rehearsal.
We thoroughly enjoyed recording the children at Nottingham Academy Primary. The album is currently in production and will be available shortly.
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If you would like to find out just how easy it is to record at your school then please give us a call on 01225 302143 or click here to email us