Christmas came early for me this year; what a wonderful surprise! What a unique opportunity to sit in on Trio Céleste while they recorded an upcoming album at Soka’s Performing Arts Center, here in Southern California.
I was asked by Kyle Pyke, the recording engineer of Trio Céleste, to lend monitoring equipment for an upcoming recording session at Soka’s Performing Arts Center in Orange County, California. Soka is the first, and only, university in the United States to receive a maximum ten-year accreditation in its fourth year of existence, simultaneous with its initial graduating class. Soka has quickly become a highly-acclaimed academic institution, ranking first nationally in its support for faculty research: ahead of Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton and MIT. It is an extremely well endowed non-sectarian liberal arts college and graduate school founded upon Buddhist principles of peace, human rights and the sanctity of life (sincere apologies for our mistaken designation of the university as a “Buddhist University” in the previous version of this post). Soka’s 1,000 seat concert hall was designed by renowned acoustic engineer YASU TOYOTA. His performing arts hall in Osaka, Japan, along with Soka’s, have been celebrated by cellist-extraordinaire YO YO MA as among the greatest acoustic spaces he’s performed in, quite possibly the two best in the world. Trio Céleste performed a Beethoven Piano Trio in G major, Op. 1, No 2 & Dvorak Piano Trio in E minor “ Dumky” and a Beethoven Variation that they had commissioned by 10 leading modern composers. Trio Céleste was formed in 2012 by Kevin Kwan Loucks (pianist), his wife, Iryna Krechlovsky (violinist) and Ross Gasworth (cellist), I enjoyed the great privilege of being the only layman in the audience who witnessed their recording session on Thursday morning in the control room and later on Thursday afternoon in the concert hall as they ran through a Beethoven Piano Trio movement as well as part of the Dvorak piano trio.
Here is a young trio of great energy and vibrancy playing with gusto & élan assisted in the recording process by the talented producer Jesse Lewis. It was fascinating to watch Jesse at work, after each take Jesse would ask one of the performers to play again, “this time with a little more warmth from the cello”. Jesse not only wrote down each take that he preferred for subsequent editing but clearly had a great rapport with the performers and knew how to address them and coax the best performance that otherwise might not be achieved in a live event. Jesse & Kyle recorded the performances with a Merging Technology “Horus” digital audio workstation in double DSD, using approx. twenty microphones, but primarily using a five mic tree for a multi-channel set-up that could be mixed down & mastered later on in both stereo and multi-channel mixes. Grammy award-winning classical music recording engineer Tom Caulfield was effusive in his praise for Jesse Lewis’ work while they worked together at Mechanics Hall in MA.
Our small contribution to the recording session was the loan of a pair of Eclipse TD 508’s nearfield monitors along with a Luxman M-200 stereo amplifier that were used in the control room to monitor the recoding process. It was interesting to note how different the sound was, sitting 24’ away from the Céleste Trio and listening to the same performance in the Control room. As the multi-channel microphone tree was only 8’ away from the performers it picked up way more detail than what I heard in the closest listening chair in the audience.
Jesse Lewis (Producer) and Ross Gasworth (Cellist) swung by in the afternoon and we listened to a few raw recordings, just complete takes, no edits, of the multi-channel recording processed to stereo. The Adagio movement from the Beethoven Piano Trio in G major, Op. 1, No 2 (the early Beethoven chamber music is so melodic and a joy to listen to, please be adventurous and explore this wonderful chamber music and the opening movement from Dvorak’s Dumky; this is interesting as it starts with a cello solo, with an absolutely gorgeous melody. It was so real, it sounded just like the concert hall that I sat in the previous afternoon, I was the only member of the audience in a thousand seat auditorium. You could clearly hear the hall and how super quiet it was, with just the right amount of reverberation. The microphones were placed approx. 8’ from the performers, whereas I was seated 24′ away from them, the recording picked up away more detail than I heard in the hall. Two completely different experiences, both equally valid.
Jesse promised to send me the finished product in a few months time, after the editing & mastering are complete , though I must say I love the sound of the raw takes, really immediate & you get the sense that you’re in the hall, (on stage) listening to these talented musicians pour their soul into this performance. The album is not due to be released until next April, but we will be sure to return to Trio Céleste with a review next year. In the meantime, check out Trio Céleste at http://www.trioceleste.com/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/trioceleste
I for one, look forward to heading out to hear Trio Céleste when they play in Southern California next.