The composer describes the vicissitudes of modern-day contemporary music recording, and how her individual approach produced a successful outcome
In the Summer of 2011, Lee Ward (then director of the London Oratory School Schola) said he would like to record a plainsong mass I'd written for them and my last choral-orchestral work, Love Abide. Whilst we were deciding what else to put on the CD, I realised that everything we considered was on the theme of love and from a different religion! The concept of Love Abide the CD, with its musical bridges between faiths, was bom and Warner Classics, with whom I'd recorded several time, were keen to take it on.
You would think it stops there and the rest is a fait accompli... Malheureusement, NON!
Most classical contemporary music recordings barely make back the money they cost to produce. This was a massive production, which involved four choirs (VOCES8, Colla Voce and Exultate Singers as well as LOSS), two operatic soloists Heather Shipp and Mark Stone), two organists (Tom Little and Richard Johnson), the London Mozart Players and Kiku Day-a wonderful shakuhachi player from Denmark. I also wanted to bring in animator and VJ (video jockey, aka Mischa Ying) Mischa Giancovich, whose first classical project this was, to give the disc a visual presence on the internet. With projects like this, the artists are expected to finance the recording up to finished master stage, and then license it to a record label. This project was no exception and once I'd totted up performing fees, producer, sound engineer, venue, post production, music hire travel for all concerned and added a 15% contingency fund, I was left with a terrifying quest for £55,563.24!
In these straightened economic times, the prospect of finding such a large figure was daunting, to say the least. I immediately discarded the idea that I might find one or two big sponsors to take this on. The best way to proceed seemed to be to find a sponsor for each of the 14 tracks. I divided the budget by its 67 minutes running time and allocated prices to tracks according to their length. In the end, prices ranged from £1,500 to £7,990.
Who would want to by a track for that kind of money, and why? Because this was a CD about love, I conjured up a romantic package, whereby a sponsor would buy a track as a gift for someone they love. It could be a wedding anniversary present, something for a special birthday or even in memory of someone loved and lost. There needed to be perks for further incentive - so I proposed a printed dedication to their loved one in the CD booklet, signed and framed score pages and CDs and, most importantly, the recipient's name, photo and dedication would be shown to the performers at the start of recording the sponsor's track, to ensure that the music was performed with their beloved very much in mind.
With the help of Lee Ward, the Schola Trustees and the wonderful Jenny Sinclair (mother of one of the choristers), I launched the fund-raising with two presentations and plugged it all over Facebook and Twitter. The most expensive track went first because I announced that the sponsor of this one would get a free song written especially for them, to words of their own choice! …