The tale of an Anglo-Saxon peasant
Peter Peregrine is the second album of original compositions that Terry Pack has recorded at The Playroom, Arundel and as we have come to expect it is a big one!
It is well-known that Terry writes, arranges and orchestrates for large bands such as his ‘Trees Ensemble’ project and Peter Peregrine, though not a Trees recording, is no exception.
Rather than being a collection of individual tunes, this album takes the form of an instrumental story. The music tells of Peter Peregrine, an Anglo-Saxon peasant, whose life is changed forever when he is enlisted as his Norman master’s squire. He is marched across Medieval Europe to take part in the Third Crusade of King Richard ‘the Lionheart’ to wrest Jerusalem from the forces of Saladin, the Sultan of Egypt.
Recording took place at The Playroom, Arundel during 2020 and 2021, in-between national lockdowns due to Covid-19. Basic parts were put in place by Terry using Sibelius and Logic Pro midi instruments that were ultimately replaced with live players.
Tom Phelan came in during the early days and helped give the album its sound, playing keyboards – Dolceola and Accordion. The album is littered with older traditional sounding instruments, the Dolceola (an early 20th Century zither-like instrument with a piano keyboard), Lute and Bansuri (a traditional wooden flute played brilliantly by Kate Hogg) being a few of them.
Now that the recording of the album was underway, and there was a brief opening up of the country from restrictions, Terry called on old stalwarts from The Enid (a band he had played in with international success in the late 1970’s), The Cloggz and other musician friends to come to the studio individually or in pairs (socially-distanced in the booth and live room) to add to the recording.
From The Enid, Tony Freer (Oboe/CorAnglais) added melodic lines and motifs throughout. Nick Magnus wrote some beautiful keyboard parts, including strings and sound effects (The Chair Monster is a firm favourite!) which were added before Francis Lickerish and Jonathan Beedle (from Francis’ band Secret Green) spent a day recording electric and acoustic guitars and Lute. And, from Three Friends came Terry’s good friend, local guitarist Andy Williams playing acoustic and electric parts in his fabulous jazz/blues style.
Also from Secret Green came Fran Freer playing the Cello parts magnificently (and some Viola parts on Cello). The sound of the album was coming together nicely.
Drums and percussion play a huge part on this recording. Some of the tracks are very dark and full and needed a lot of rhythmic support to portray the gravitas of Peter Peregrine’s exploits. Dave Storey, from The Enid, came to the studio for a couple of days to record Drum-Kit bringing with him his classic ’80’s 6-piece Yamaha 9000 Recording Custom kit (green)… looked big… sounded big! The couple of days with Dave really changed the vibe of the recording by putting a lot more body and drive into the tracks. The temporary drum-sampler parts could now be deleted which, though useful in building the track, were linear and uninspiring.
Next up… percussion. Nick Magnus had created some marvellous percussion loops using samples at his studio. These added great feel to tracks such as Harbinger and Eclipse. We wanted to record these sampler-loops live so that we could mix the individual percussion instruments to suit the different sections of the album. After an hour or two listening to the pre-recorded percussion loops with percussionist Richard Horne (R.P.O., Raymond Gubby Orchestra, Evanescence and Hugh Jackman) we had worked out most of the individual percussion instruments and patterns required to make the recording. We arranged for a couple of days recording where Richard would bring a van load of gear to studio and we would piece it all together.
The magnificent orchestral bass drum Richard used is 36” in diameter with calf heads and has, for the techies, a significant low frequency range centred around 30hz. Fantastic!! … we have now rehung the pictures on walls of the studio and all the glass survived! You’ll hear this throughout the album but particularly in Brindisi and Harbinger.
The Timpani were also a challenge. The larger drums were too big to fit through the existing doors to the live room (new wider doors have been fitted since!) so the 4 timpani were set up in the Control room. We don’t recommend this! Even quiet, they are LOUD!
But, Richard played them brilliantly and no damage was done to anyone’s hearing… though we did immediately adjourn to the local pub after the final hit, to get over it – ears were definitely not going to be reliable after that onslaught. (Any excuse!)
Simon Webster came in for a day to play traditional Darbouka and Djembe on some of the tracks too. There is a full percussion list in the album booklet – it was hard work but we are pleased to be able to say that there are no sampled percussion or drum sounds remaining on the final recording and it shows by the natural development and tone changes throughout.
So to the blowers. With all the heavy duty rhythm work going on below, the album needed some powerful top-line playing. Trumpets (Chris Coull, Martijn Van Galen and Nick Trish), Trombones (Mike Hext and Ellen Campbell) and Woodwind (Beccy Perez-Rork, Kate Hogg, Charlotte Glasson and Andy Pickett) were added at various times during the period of recording and provided this.
On top of the sound some additional remote recorded violin parts from Richard Jones and Charlotte Glasson helped give the sampled orchestral string sounds a live feel.
Mixing was a challenge as Peter Peregrine was more like one complete piece of music divided into 11 sections rather than individual tracks or ‘songs’. Keeping the overall picture in mind was key, like a soundtrack from a movie. Mike Saunders was at the helm, some of the tracks had 40 or 50 channels so sub-grouping made life a lot easier.
Keeping the low-end tidy was a particular focus. In addition to the bass drum, the rich string sounds, keyboards and the drum kit, Terry had played up to 5 double bass parts on some tracks so there were a lot of opportunities to end up with an undefined woolly mush.
It’s always easier mixing excellent musicians, which we definitely had on this recording, so that made the job a lot simpler than it may have been. Final mixing and mastering was completed late in 2021 at The Playroom, Arundel.
To complete the project, the fantastic original paintings by Jo Luckman (www.islandretreatswithjo.co.uk) and the full length story of Peter Peregrine, written by Terry Pack, were collated and put together in a 32-page booklet for the CD packaging and the album was complete.
This was another huge project for The Playroom, Arundel, and we are very pleased to have been involved. Definitely a huge achievement for all involved.
The album is available to buy (CD Digipack with 32-page booklet) and download from Bandcamp:
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