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  by Captain Susan Marinescu
Director of Music
Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra

Demonstrating the pursuit of musical excellence, the Bands of the Household Division recorded performances in the Guards’ Chapel between September and November 2020, produced by Sally Shebe, Director-General of Commonwealth Music International and award-winning producer Simon Kiln and his team of sound engineers.

The Foot Guards Bands recorded regimental marches and music, both old and new, inspired by historical or geographical connections focusing on heritage and culture. The Household Cavalry Band highlighted works from contemporary composers, and the Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra performed works from two famous British composers. What unites all these recordings is the absolutely clear demonstration that, despite the challenges, the bands are ready and able to perform to the highest standard.

The musicians of the Household Division are well used to live performances in a multitude of different settings, but a different skill set is required for recorded music. The demand for pre-recorded music grew exponentially during 2020 because of Covid-19. Events supported early in lockdown included weekly musical support to the Guards’ Chapel podcasts, pre-recorded audio-visual contributions to events overseas and closer to home, and television broadcasts. This demand highlighted the requirement for developing and honing skills in the recording environment.

Major Halliday directing the Band of the Welsh Guards

Captain Marinescu directing the
Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra

In normal times, classical music comes with a set of challenges when recording, mixing and mastering. The unique hurdles of training for and operating in the Covid-19 environment exacerbated these challenges, requiring some changes for all involved, from the musicians and the production team to the Directors of Music.

The training prior to the recordings was adapted to the new regulations and was time-limited due to a lack of facilities to allow each band to rehearse together in a suitable distanced manner. Preparation was key, as the performance has to rise to a very high degree of accuracy and the skills of the performers have to be at the top level for a quality recording. The musicians were spaced in different directions throughout the Guards’ Chapel rather than being in close proximity. The acoustics here are very different to the one that is fed through the microphones to the sound team and this, compounded by the distance and visual obstacles, was a difficult but not insurmountable hurdle to overcome.

This training has contributed significantly to the pursuit of excellence across the Household Division Bands, while motivating and inspiring people during difficult times. The skills developed during the recording process have enabled the bands to meet the contemporary demands on Army music and will reap dividends in the standard of preparation and performance of live music in the future.

To listen to the music and hear more from those involved, please visit the State Ceremonial Music page at www.householddivision.org.uk/scm


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