University of Suffolk Music Production students recently integrated a Prism Sound Atlas audio interface into the recording set-up they used to capture a Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performance at London’s Cadogan Hall.
The concert featured a Brahm’s violin concerto, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.4 and the UK premier of a contemporary composition entitled Sunburst by David Gompper, which depicts a star formation through an explosive array of tonal colours. Austrian violinist Wolfgang David was among the musicians while the conductor was Emmanuel Siffert.
Andrea Healy, course director for the University’s BA (Hons) Music Production course, has been working closely with the RPO’s education and concerts team since 2013. This collaboration has now resulted in ten recordings, with two more set for this semester, including one at the Royal Festival Hall.
“Having both an orchestral and technical background has been paramount to our relationship with the RPO,” she explains. “Originally these recording sessions were just for the BA (Hons) students, but they have proved so popular that all students – including those studying on our FdA course – now get to attend at least one, with some students requesting to attend all sessions. Students are assessed whilst setting up and recording, thus giving them a real opportunity to deploy taught techniques in many different venues across the country and to work under pressure in a professional setting.”
Gary Kelly, technical lecturer for the university, helps with recording and postproduction aspects of each RPO recording session. He points out that no two sessions are the same, as each presents its own challenges depending on the venue and the amount of time students are allowed to set up.
The recent Cadogan Hall concert was no exception. “We had very limited time to set up due to ongoing rehearsals and access to the stage areas,” he explains. “We used the internal Cadogan patchbay and routing from the various areas of the building to the Green Room where we were recording. We had some technical issues with synchronisation of the main and back-up systems (word clock), but found solutions to most of these and captured a high-quality recording using 12 microphones/channels.”
The concert was recorded into Pro Tools at 44.1kHz/24BIT via the Prism Sound Atlas interface. This ensured exceptional sound quality and allowed the students to use a Prism Sound interface for the first time.
After the concert, Prism Sound’s Adam Hebbard visited the University and ran some listening comparisons for students as part of a lecture on the features and technicalities of analog to digital converters. “We were delighted that Prism Sound was prepared to lend us an Atlas and are very pleased with the results achieved.” Gary Kelly comments.
BA (Hons) student Alistair Henty-Blows said “The RPO recordings have been such a great experience, teaching me a whole host of new skills and ways to think on my feet. Above all else I have learned how to conduct myself in a professional environment within the music industry. The Prism Sound Atlas recording was compared to our last recording at this venue and you can really hear the clarity and the crispness that the Atlas imparts. The Cadogon Hall is a special place to record, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra are breathtaking to record and their amazing performance was captured with optimum fidelity using the Atlas. We couldn’t ask for more”.
Aidan Kitchen a second year student on the FdA added: “To record such a prestigious orchestra, with top-end equipment, was an honour. Having the privilege to work with incredibly talented musicians makes working with great sounding equipment all the more worthwhile. The sound difference between our old systems and Prism Sound’s systems is astounding. This, along with its ease of use, makes the recording a joy.”
The recordings from Cadogan Hall are now being mixed so that the RPO has a stereo reference CD of the event.
“The sessions we do with the RPO are for educational purposes, not for commercial release,” Andrea Healy adds. “However, we have recorded an archive recording in the past at Corby Football Stadium, which was an amazing opportunity for the students.”