Cathedral opportunity

Last month we had our second opportunity to record in the Cathedral of Saint Pierre in Geneva on the occasion of the Lutheran World Federation world wide council meeting. Many local Lutheran communities gathered  for worship, hosted by the local parish of Saint Pierre.
Forty singers of three Lutheran congregational choirs under the direction of Terry MacArthur, with two cathedral organs played by Regine Kummer, performed the Estonian Mass Number 3 by Urmas Sisask.

There was hesitation on our part to attempt a recording, and until the eve of the presentation we were unsure of the layout, whether we would gain permission to set up mics and cameras. It was the weekend of the “fête de la musique”, so Saturday’s program had choir and other performances right up until 22:00.  On the Sunday morning, we arrived early with just about every piece of equipment in our inventory, with the hope that we could make a useful set up in time. The choir had been moved to behind the altar, microphones had to be at the side, and camera positions needed to be quite far away. In addition, two soloists had been brought in and also a percussionist with cymbals and tympani.  There was a 30 minute rehearsal before the service, so at least sound levels could be adjusted; but there was no certainty as to how the acoustics of that giant space would sound on the final recording.

All five sections of the mass were edited – Kyre, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei – and presented on three videos.  Aerial video of the outside of the cathedral, and our own stock film of the interior, was used during the organ introductions and to avoid showing too much of the congregation taking Holy Communion during the Agnus Dei.

So, we have a recording which benefits from closer mic position for soloists and the right hand side of the choir. In retrospect it is unlikely we would have had objections to setting up a central mic pair.  And, another pair of mics for the main organ would have been useful – it seems strange when listening live to the mighty organ at good volume, that the recorded sound would be weak without those extra microphones.

We also recorded the sermon and other speaking parts of the worship and were fortunate to have good cooperation from the cathedral staff who record all permanent microphones onto an SD card; we made a copy before leaving.

Upload permission was required as the music is copyrighted – the composer is in Estonia, but the copyright holder is a German publishing house – those contacts took some time to work out, and we have a local pastor to thank who is actually Estonian. Without him and his further connections we might still be searching !