“Notes from the Asylum” CD recording sessions

Clare McCaldin & Libby BurgessRecording a substantial recital disc of wildly-different repertoire was always going to be an exciting challenge. That was the point. Knowing that we had the support of Champs Hill Records, and some fantastic technical assistance in the form of producer Matthew Bennett, engineer Dave Rowell and my singing teacher Paula Anglin, it was up to Libby Burgess and me to go into the studio and take some calculated risks. It can be tricky, though, to calibrate how much energy is still available, even with a seemingly endless supply of tea and Kit Kats on offer.

Three solid days of work requires some serious tactics; how to structure the sessions in order to get the best results and still leave room for experimentation, knowing the distance we needed to cover from Purcell to Stephen McNeff via Wolf, Brahms and Rorem. Even in the best of health, with high levels of preparation, sleep and hydration, a tessitura ranging from low G flat to high C is demanding on the voice. Switching from one style to another also subtly changes how we use our voice and this can throw up extra challenges when something that was working brilliantly yesterday starts misbehaving today. We learn to anticipate and deal with these moments through experience but it’s when it’s starting to get tough that we discover how well we really understand our own technique and instrument. That’s also when we need to know we can trust the people in the producer’s box, as it’s surprising how different things can sound in there.

Clare McCaldin & Libby Burgess at Champs Hill RecordsI’m happy to say that we did everything we wanted to and more. There will undoubtedly be a moment of hesitation before I press PLAY to listen to the first edit, in which I will remember all the things that could have been different, but I am really looking forward to hearing it all from the other side of the mike. For me, one of the great pleasures of recording is tweaking each song for greater expressive detail. A CD-full of unruly female characters gave us plenty of room for creativity on that front and I’ll be really excited to hear how they come across as a group of musical personalities.