Recording the Terrace Choir
***A very long version of events of how this came together – for those who may like to know***
So trying to organise this kind of thing can be tricky.
I needed the Football ground (Berkhamsted Football Club, myself, the filmographer (Tom Willmott) and the recording engineer to all be able to line up a date with a reasonable amount of time to ask people to come along and sing!
Both myself and Tom Willmott work full-time jobs alongside being full-time musicians/photographers-filmographers (yeh the maths doesn’t work out!) Then we spend our evenings gigging, filming etc so even between us the dates were limited.
The ground is used as, well… not surprisingly,as a football ground! And their first team were in the middle of an unbeaten run sitting at the top of their league table when I started to bother the chairman for some time in his ground – The Club and Chairman Steve Davis could not have been more helpful.
So we got a a date, I could do it, Tom could do it, it was reasonable amount of notice to gather together a few choir members – although they really did need to use their outdoor voices to make the numbers up and that they did – Thank you all!
But it was not enough time to source a sound engineer to fit the date. So I cobbled together what I could and set about to try and host, lead the session and record – which doesn’t sound like a lot to do but it is a faff – trust me (when the pizza was late I almost had a breakdown)
I don’t have “good” equipment to record at home. I have access to some fantastic equipment at work so saving up for a tour van has been more important to me than buying recording equipment (yep, if I could have read the future I certainly would be stockpiling amazing audio equipment at home for recording/livestreams and not concerning myself with a van so much but …who knew?!)
So I had to make do and mend!
I recorded with one condenser mic, two handheld zooms and I used one ShureSM58
I read up a lot about placement for wind dissipation as this was my main worry – luckily we had a fairly balmy night and this wasn’t a major issue. Having the condenser embedded in the crowd helped. They sort of worked as soundproofing allowing the mic to pick up the voices of those directly around it.
I had to move the mic around a lot. The condenser (the one I used in particular) loves a quiet delicate sound – it is my microphone so that’s perfect for me – but I struggled to hear the lower end and it didn’t sound much like a football crowd!
I did a few takes with Christopher Lawley holding the mic stood in the middle (If you don’t know Christopher, he is a folk singer come town-crier come sea-shanty man and was born to sing on the football terraces)
We did a lot of takes. I ran a click through the ShureSm58 track in the hope it would give me help in lining things up later (it didnt! and Nick Harris of Spare Room Recording – Music Production did a lot of what I believe he calls “Massaging” in post production)
So when I got home I had a lot of tracks to play with.
I ended up using takes from the Zoom recorders to actually get a bit of the “background/wind” noise back in to the tracks and more of a “crowd” feel so that they sounded like they were on a terrace – the condenser had perhaps been too good at its job and I was glad I had those – Although I don’t advise you just leave a zoom running in the hope you can edit up over an hour of just streamed audio! – Editing took a while. I drank wine. Lessons have been learned!
But with a lot of tweaking and then sending to Nick for perfecting I was really happy with the outcome. It was exactly what I wanted to capture, a terrace choir but without actually using terrace choir footage.
I didn’t seek footage already recorded at Newcastle for two reasons – 1) I wanted my own and the fun of that project working with friends in that way, I am also keen to see if I can make links with local clubs and support them in some way through this project.
2) Real terraces, honest real terrace recordings, often sound like a wall of sound, they make perfect sense when you’re in the middle of them but adding them to a recording wouldn’t have quite given me my desired effect.
Thanks to the brilliant skills of Nick and my good group of friends and family who seem to be up for doing ridiculous things at the drop of a hat, I got exactly what I wanted!
Tom Willmott caught it all perfectly in this footage.
Hope you like it too. xx
Click to see the Blaydon Races