Wren Choir Recording

in Blog

12 December 2008

JG records the Wren Choir’s Carol Service in the Pembroke College Chapel.

The Wren Choir in rehearsal

A last minute job with lots of unknowns before I arrived at the venue just 90 minutes before the service. The Chapel (Christopher Wren’s first building) is full of wooden paneling which provided a warm but short reverberation (further shortened by the presence of an audience). The choir and continuo was positioned in front of the audience and the organ was behind the audience.

I took a few different types of microphones, stands, mounts etc. but in the end chose to use a pair of omnidirectional microphones for a number of reasons, and that there was no safe place to put any more microphones outside of the ensemble. Careful positioning of the main microphones between the choir (front) and organ (back) helped achieve an acceptable balance between the two. In this position, the direct-to-reverberation ratio was such that it helped blend the different elements of the choir and continuo without rendering the words unintelligible. However, since the organ was behind and some distance from the microphones, some articulation was lost (because omnidirectional microphones are less sensitive to high frequencies from behind and from large distances).

The director was happy to move the players around slightly to achieve a better balance acoustically, rather than throwing in another couple of microphones. Moving the violinists two feet further back helped no end in allowing the polyphony to bind without the different lines fighting for attention.

Had this been a dedicated recording session, I would have used a cardioid main stereo pair for a little more focus, two spaced omnis on the organ, and spot microphones on the choir and soloists. Some minimal mixing could then adjust levels between the varied programme.

Excerpt from When Jesus Our Lord Was Born by Mendelssohn

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