Singing Christmas songs in July?! Must be a Christmas for Kids show! - by Elliot MacKenzie
After an initial crash course in puppetry with the brilliant Chris Thatcher (which left me with an aching right arm and a renewed sense of fascination in and respect for both The Muppets and Avenue Q in equal measures), this week saw us - the cast and creative team of Phoebe's First Christmas - launch head first into rehearsing and recording the music for this festive piece of joy! The first half of the week was spent learning all our vocal parts, harmonies and the bits of dialogue that happen over the top of underscoring music.
There are a wide variety of musical goodies in this show, including yuletide sing-along classics; Motown bangers and brand new atmospheric songs with Latin grooves! Two out of the three of us cast members are playing two roles each, so matching up the voices of our characters with the specific lines they sing has been a wonderful challenge (with belting out Jackson 5's version of 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' as a Geordie monkey being a particular highlight of mine!) and a special shout out is needed here for cast member Cecily who, for one song in particular, is brilliantly singing a duet with herself! Not that you'd know that listening to it, however!
The captain of our ship this week was Sue Appleby - the Composer, Arranger and Musical Director of this show. Her attention to detail on the music has been awesome, and I have so loved making music with brilliant people again. (All in the same room, as well! Who'd have thought?!)
Of course, it's no good rehearsing all this great material if no one gets to hear it. So at the end of the week it was time to record everything. On Friday, we - the cast and Sue - headed to Porcupine Studios in South East London to lay down all the material for the show. We were in the welcoming and capable hands of producer Nick Taylor who provided not only buckets of knowledge and experience, but large dashes of humour, too! Days in recording studios can sometimes be lengthy, but we were able to speed through lots of the material at some pace! Most of the day was spent recording the vocals to backing tracks to give a nice, full Christmassy sound.
For the songs that had all the characters in them we'd do one take 'tracking' the vocals of three of our characters between us and then afterwards we'd do another take recording the bits sung by our other characters: as clever as we are, none of us can sing two things at the same time, no matter how hard we try!
One song in Phoebe's First Christmas is a little bit different, however. 'In The Snow' is an original song composed by Sue and we recorded it by layering up lots of wintery sounds like wind, crunching snow and 'brrrrs' to make a rhythmic bed for two of the characters - Phoebe and Benson - to sing over the top of. This was great fun to do, adding one or two parts at a time and hearing the piece build and come alive - I can't wait for you to hear it!
At the end of a hard day's work we had all the songs recorded and were now ready to move on to the next phase of rehearsals! Watch this space to find out how those went in the next cast blog!