Making music during closure of the Cathedral for musicians
The Cathedral Choir during lockdown
From March 2020 until the end of June 2021, an adult and junior on-line virtual choir provided all of the sung music in the on-line Cathedral services available from this website.
During this period of closure of the Cathedral and its halls, when the Cathedral and Junior Choirs cannot meet, members of both choirs provided music to be added to the weekly on-line service. The Junior choir provided their own piece, and the Adult Choir provided the backing to the hymns, an introit, an anthem and the Choral Amen. Occasionally both choirs sang "together'.
Contrary to some thoughts, these were not old recordings from previous services, but were created fresh and new every week, from a total of around 25+ singers, young and not so young, in both choirs, including a singer from the Borders and one ex-chorister from 12,000 miles away in New Zealand! Whilst in the past, the live service was recorded each week to be provided on CD if requested (please click HERE if you would be interested in that) the choir was recorded only by a single microphone on the lectern used for the Bible readings. Needless to say this was far from ideal for the introit, nor did it give a balanced sound to the choir for the hymns or anthems, making such recordings unacceptable for use in on-line services. As such, it was decided to experiment with the concept of creating choirs from singers in, and friends of, the Cathedral Choir who may be interested and using technology to bring all the voices together.
How was it made?
Scottish law and Church of Scotland rules are such that the choir members could not physically meet, nor sing in the Cathedral, so every piece of music was actually created from multiple single recordings of each singer singing only their part. Kevin, the Director of Music, recorded an accompaniment - which may or may not have been used in the final service. (The unaccompanied - or a capella - singing you hear has actually been recorded against a backing track, which was then removed at the end.) This resulted in 25+ individual recording files for each musical item - around 120 music files per week.
The singers listened to the accompaniment on their headphones, and simultaneously recorded only their voice which they then provided for the service to the virtual choir administrator - there was an Administrator for the Adult choir and one for the Junior choir.
The choir administrators collated all the voices into the appropriate voice part - soprano, alto, tenor and bass (and one for the Junior Choir) - and aligned the voices with the accompaniment, and each other. Background noise wass eliminated as much as possible at this stage. The voices were "normalised" to be at a similar volume, timed to be with each other and the accompaniment, and then "blended" to try and balance the different recordings sent in. Then the Cathedral and Junior Choir is built, and again blended to provide a good, balanced mix. At this stage some technical tricks are applied - the voices are given a stereo location so spatially it sounds like a real choir standing in front of you (try listening on headphones to clearly get the effect). Finally, as every voice was recorded in their own house and room, and not in the Cathedral, we provided a echo - reverberance - to the choir which has the effect of making is sound like it is in the Cathedral.
Some electronic trickery was applied for some pieces - the long sustained "drone" notes in Tavener's 'Song for Athene' were actually the recordings of a couple of bars repeated over and over!
The purpose of these two choirs was not to get a concert-perfect version of the pieces - even live singing has flaws - but to enable the Cathedral choirs to make realistic, live-sounding, quality music to the glory of God and which is fitting within the on-line service - which is heard across the globe. We hope you find pleasure and enjoyment in hearing our offerings in the virtual services which can be heard HERE.
How can I find out more?
Should you wish to know more about the choirs - currently or when we get back together - please contact Kevin by clicking HERE. If you wish to discuss the technical aspects of the choir in more detail, please click HERE to talk to the Cathedral's IT Administrator.
The Cathedral Choir
Great church buildings have always been associated with great music, and choral music in particular. At Dunblane Cathedral we strive to match our inspirational architecture with inspirational music.
We have a choir of trebles (children) and adults, one of the finest pipe organs in the country and thriving handbell groups.
Dunblane Cathedral Choir is a busy, lively group consisting of a wide cross section of the congregation and also covering a wide age range. Its main function is to lead the praise at a Sunday morning service, singing an introit, an anthem and sometimes also an offertory. We often sing at weddings if requested, and occasionally give concerts of both sacred and secular music.
The choir goes on a major tour every three years or so. Previous tours have been to Germany, Ireland, and, in England, Wells, Chichester, and Ripon Cathedrals and York Minister. Members of the adult choir had a trip to Ireland, Italy, Latvia and latterly Denmark in 2019.
The choir has been asked to take part in several BBC broadcasts over the years, including a Christmas Watchnight Service from Rosslyn Chapel, and Songs of Praise from Dunblane Cathedral.
The choir is also often asked to sing at special concerts in the Cathedral and elsewhere. For example, the Treble Choir sang in a performance of Bach's St Matthew's Passion, with the Rosenethe Singers and the Scottish Bach Players.
There is a treble choir and an adult choir. The treble choir has both boys and girls aged 7 to 14. They rehearse in the Cathedral Halls each Thursday from 6.30pm until 8.15pm. The adult choir joins them on Thursdays and rehearses in the Cathedral Halls from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.
The Treble Choir joins with Cathedral Kids on Sunday mornings, leaving to join them after the anthem is sung, and returning during the offering to join with the Adult choir in the final hymn and sung Amen.
We would love to have you join us and sing with the choir - you and/or your family members if interested. We do have vacancies in some areas, particularly tenors and basses. If you wish to have a meeting with our Director of Music, Kevin, please click here and fill in the form to arrange a chat.
For more information about the Choir, or to communicate with the Director of Music, click here to contact the Music, Organist and Choirmaster.
If you are a member of Dunblane Cathedral Choir, please enter your supplied password and click on the button to have access to the secured Choir material.
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