Psalm 66, vs. 1-4, Make a joyful noise, at Abbey Road
During the first moments in the studio hearing Paul Ayres‘ arrangement of this song being played by the London Symphony Orchestra, brought me, Jan Johnston, my brother Bryan and his wife Sarah, to tears. We were deeply moved with what we were hearing. I had always heard in my mind a choir singing this song with orchestral accompaniment, but could not have imagined that my first hearing of the combination would occur at Abbey Road with the LSO and the London Voices choir.
Paul completed the choir and orchestral arrangement of this song in 2017, which led to a recording proposal from the LSO. During this past year, he completed two other psalm-setting arrangements, Psalm 115, Not unto us, O Lord, and Psalm 48, Great is the Lord, which were also recorded on May 15th with Paul conducting both the orchestra and the choir for the three songs.
During the recording, Paul requested that I stay nearby in the recording hall, so I sat beside the violin sections. This brought back many fond memories of my playing in the second violin section of my middle school and high school orchestras in Amarillo, Texas. The sounds back then were exciting and inspirational. The sounds on this day with the LSO were thrilling. The reverberation of the hall of Studio 1 was unlike anything I had heard before.
Along with Sarah and Jan in the control room, my brother Bryan captured the beauty of the LSO with his iPhone as shown in the video below…
The recording of the choir occurred later that evening using a headphone mix of the LSO recording. The co-directors of the London Voices, Terry Edwards and Ben Parry, made invaluable contributions to this recording by assisting Paul with providing real time suggestions and recommendations for the choir. I had the privilege of sitting next to Terry in the control room, and was impressed with the ways that he and Ben encouraged and motivated the choir to give an outstanding performance.
The recording of the choir began with a first pass all the way through the song while checking sound levels and listening closely to the choir to identify things that could be improved upon. Jan captured this on her iPhone from in the control room as shown in the video below…
On the night before recording, I was so excited for the following day that I could not sleep at all. I was worried the next morning that I would probably fall asleep during the recordings, but thankfully that did not happen. I was fatigued, but the excitement that day continued unabated keeping me alert and awake for the entire experience.
Mixing for this song was done by Lewis Jones, who was our recording engineer in Studio 1. The mixes were completed on May 17th at Abbey Road. During the mixing process, Lewis commented to me that the orchestra recordings could stand alone as solid works because the melodies flow along with the choir parts throughout the arrangement, which is a reflection of the brilliance of Paul Ayres. I was glad to hear Lewis say this because I had been thinking the same thing when listening during the mixing process.
This prompted an idea of something that could be done for the release of this music. Although there are many outstanding choir and orchestra programs in churches throughout the world, one of my concerns has been that this music would be limited only to churches with advanced orchestra programs. Perhaps the LSO recording of this song could be used as a backing track for most choirs singing these songs in churches. Another possibility is to arrange a piano and/or organ accompaniment for these songs which could be used by churches with limited orchestra resources.
I would be curious as to what readers and listeners would recommend regarding the release of this music. Because this project is independent, and is funded thus far by generous donations from supporters, family, and friends, we are free to decide how and when the music is released.
Should we release all three songs on CD, each with two versions (orchestra only, and choir/orchestra)? Or should we wait until more songs are recorded to release a full length CD? Or should we defer releasing a CD altogether, and instead release the songs as singles? If you, the reader and listener, have thoughts about this, then please comment below. Your help and input will help to decide where we go from here.
I am deeply grateful to the many people who have prayed for me and supported this music. It is amazing to see how Providence works all things according to the counsel of His will, and according to His own timing, glory, and majesty. My hope and prayer is that the Lord continues to bless this work, and that I am granted sufficient time, health, and resources to develop the music that He has given to me.
Thanks be to God.