New album in the can!

Hello, all. I hope you had a good summer! Mine was hectic, to say the least, mostly due to the ten days I spent recording my new album in Ireland, the frantic period of preparation that preceded them, and the ensuing frantic period of trying to catch up with all the things I’d let slide while getting material ready for the new album.

It’s going to be called The Plum Tree And The Rose, and features six of my own songs (including the title track) together with nine pieces from the 13th-16th centuries. In the latter category are Elizabethan songs and instrumentals as well as songs in Old French, Old Occitan, Italian, Middle High German and Latin. On advice from Joseph Baldassarre (a professor of music history at Boise State University, who very kindly scanned and emailed pages from several books in his collection), I’d taken the precaution of buying Timothy McGee’s excellent book and CD set Singing Early Music: The Pronunciation of European Languages in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, and it became my bible for the duration of the recording. I can only hope that I’ve done an adequate job of getting the pronunciation right.

Like my previous two solo recordings, the new album was recorded at Trevor Hutchinson’s home studio in Dublin, with Trevor engineering and Gerry O’Beirne engineering. It was lovely to be able to work with the two of them once again, and lovely as well to be able to enjoy the brilliant hospitality provided by Trevor and his wife Frances.

NiamhNiamh Parsons, who last recorded with me on my first album When Two Lovers Meet, came along to sing on two tracks: my canon ‘In Gratitude I Sing’ and the rather earlier ‘New Oysters New’, written by Thomas Ravenscroft back in 1609. Tom Barry sang on the same two tracks; other guest singers on ‘In Gratitude I Sing’ included Frances Hutchinson (who was roped in at the last minute after being overheard warbling in the kitchen whilst preparing dinner for the rest of us!), Gerry O’Beirne and Emer Ní Bhrádaigh.

Noel Eccles (of Moving Hearts fame, now principal percussionist with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland) arrived with a bewildering array of drums, cymbals and other percussion instruments, which he used to brilliant effect on several tracks.

Repeat guests from I Won't Go Home ’Til Morning included fiddler Rosie Shipley, Trevor Hutchinson on double bass, and of course Gerry O’Beirne on tiple and classical guitar.

And I got to try out a new instrument of my own: a Shruti box made by Stefan Cartwright of Stroud, Gloucestershire (see for more info), which we thought worked very well on the Occitan troubadour song ‘S’Anc Fuy Belha Ni Prezada’ by Cadenet (c. 1160-c. 1235), despite the clash of periods and places!

Amazingly, we managed to finish on schedule at a very civilised 7:30pm on the final day of recording. Here are Gerry, Trevor, myself and Frances raising a glass to celebrate the occasion; unfortunately, all of us except Gerry had our eyes not on the camera but on the antics of Nina – Frances and Trevor’s beautiful and hilarious Irish setter.

I’m not entirely certain when the album will be out, as it hasn’t even been mixed as yet, but I imagine that it will be sometime in 2010. Watch this space.