The Awakening

The Rockford Aces second CD, “Close Harmony,” was essentially a record of the songs we performed at the 2012 World Choir Games – eight songs from our two competition sets, plus one pop song (“Good Old A Cappella”) and one classical piece (Joseph M. Martin’s “The Awakening,” accompanied by then-student Matt Vermeer).

That was the plan, anyway.

I took the raw multitrack recordings home with me after the sessions to do the grunt work of mixing the album. That’s when I found that the piano and a single Tenor 2 track were all that remained of our two-hour recording session of “The Awakening.” This was in September: eight of the twelve Aces on the recording had gone off to college and another had moved away. There was simply no chance we could re-record it before the album came out in December.
So we cut that track from the disc. Happily, in my back pocket I had a beautiful recording of a high school quintet, Quintessence, singing “Landslide.” My gift to them in the spring was to bring them into the studio and produce the session. We added that to our album as a “special guest” track to make an even ten.
But I still wanted “The Awakening” – many parents and students called it their favorite piece they had heard the Aces sing. So we went back and forth to find a time in the studio with as many of the guys as possible; we ended up meeting at the studio in the late afternoon on the last day of school before Christmas break.
We ended up with eleven out of the twelve original singers (Tyler had work) and after a brief warm up, they went into the studio to start re-recording this seven minute piece.
Oh. No.
What was I thinking? They hadn’t sung together for months, and I wanted to record their first notes together? After ten minutes, I was certain I had made a horrible mistake and was ready to throw in the towel – there was just no way we could get to a quality performance.
Then, in a blink, they were an ensemble again. The muscle memory was there and suddenly they knew how to blend, how to phrase, how to negotiate tricky music with finesse. As a team.
An hour later, they had recorded the piece and the results were beyond my dreams. And certainly beyond what they had recorded in July. In fact, the time went a little too fast – I wished it had taken them longer to finish!
I think all teams that have been through great challenges together – like this group had – never really disband. They’re apart, but not separated.
We finally released the piece in July, 2013, after mixing and mastering, on iTunes and CD Baby. I hope you’ll listen to it and remember the story that goes with it.