Sunday, 26 June 2011

Singing Out of Time

The problem with prerecorded music of any kind is that it is unforgiving and inflexible. When singing the first hymn, and the first verse, everyone decided to leave a gap before the third line that wasn't there, and the music of the fourth line ended while everyone (except me - I stopped) was half way through and still going. So next verse, I became a kind of choir leader from behind the curtain, and punched in the early first word, third line. The tune of Amazing Grace used the piano for HL 177.

Community, supporting friends,
Hands joined in unity...
Rejoice, my friend, in fellowship,
In living, full and free.

O let us live with humankind
As sisters, brothers, true,
We'll share our joys, our sorrows share,
Becoming as we do.

We all can grow. We can become
Our finer selves set free...
Risk what we are, sure in our faith
In what we yet can be.

Doris Jeanine Stevens

Two of the hymns had choirs, one from the awful first 21 Hymns CD originally recorded in mono with a huge background hiss. For each hymn, I took off the hiss, leaving a metallic sound behind, and then by negative amplifying added a stereo breadth and then something called GVerb - basically an echo that throws the object backwards - to get rid of the metallic ribble sound, at a little cost of the esses and some clarity.

The second choir CD following that to assist Hymns for Living (1985) was much better - in stereo. The four to assist Sing Your Faith (2010) are better still. Before the two HL CDs there was a tape recorded in Harris Manchester College, Oxford, where the person recording it clunked his switches during the final echo of each hymn. The result there was I have had to cut the clunk off and then add artificial echo. My friend Mr Sedman (who installed the sound system, and what a difference it makes) says it will have been recorded with a ghetto blaster or similar. Ah yeah. Clunk - we've done that one. Nobody thinks.

While handing these CDs I have built up a stock of organ playing, piano playing and other instruments for other hymns, speeding them up or slowing them down, raising or lowering the pitch, with the correct number of verses (adding or removing) right in the depths of the wave form to achieve no clicks or joins.

Some music is 'fake', in the sense that it is untouched by human hands. The innovation today was I had taken a .MID (computer generated file) of Carmina Burana - 25 mins worth - and turned all its instruments into pianos. It's incredible to see the notes of the .MID file - saving as text effectively at 460 kb plus. It sort of worked as the lead in piece to start the service on time. In future though I'll chop out most of it. I did the same for a fugue. Thus I said for the hymn, where people sung it their way: the only thing is I could write it out and build the pause in where people want it. The music would then come from the music composing software.

However, I am more likely to reproduce HL 174, A Church is a Living Fellowship, that was the hymn in the dreadful quality CD that I had to process. This is because its tune is Lancaster (9.6. 9.6), by Unitarian music guru David Dawson, and so is simply unavailable elsewhere.

A church is a living fellowship
More than a holy shrine,
Where people can share their hopes and fear,
Less of the yours and mine;

Where bonded by trust we search for Truth
Beyond the chains of creeds,
And thought can aspire to shine with fire
From all our deepest needs.

Let's stretch out the open hand of Love,
Conquer the fists of hate,
Divided no more by voices of war,
Greeds of our mindless state;

We'll take all our building bricks of Truth,
Make of them homes of Life,
A future to face the shame and disgrace
In all our past of strife.

A church is a place of human trust
More than of brick and stone;
Of Love we will sing to make it ring
In every joyous tone.

Here's a case of where an author in a book is given a birth date and a dash, but the book becomes out of date as the Unitarian minister author has died since. The author is Frank Clabburn, self-confessed at the humanist end of the denomination. So I'm thinking that this is likely to get my rewrite treatment, depending on the time available given the next service and its demands.

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