By Dominic Derasse
While in Vermont performing with the Craftsbury Chamber Players (www.craftsburychamberplayers.org) during the summer of 2003, Joan Barton (who let my family and I stay in her wonderful “schoolhouse”) asked me if there was a recording of me performing as a soloist that she could buy. The answer was no but it got me thinking that maybe I should have one available for my appearances as a soloist in various places. Joan’s question got the ball rolling…
In the following months I starting exploring the various possibilities that I might have and which one would be the best format and repertoire. There were many choices from which I could choose but I remembered liking Maurice Andre’s recordings of baroque music for trumpet and organ and decided that this might be the best formula to go with, at least for the first recording. Because the organ can offer a variety of sounds and because baroque music has withstood the test of time, this became the preferred option.
The process then began of finding a church with the right acoustics and, of course, the right organ. This search started in New York where Saint Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University and Riverside Church were considered. Then the Cathedral at Newark was to be the correct location. At that time I contacted several recording engineers in NY as well as my brother Simon in France.
My brother informed me that he would like to record “live”, in the right environment, a “surround sound” 5:1 project. By the time we figured the logistical problems of him bringing his equipment to the U.S., we started looking into the possibility of recording in France.
With the help of Patrick Dupard and his father, I got in touch with Yves Masson who has an amazing website devoted to organs in France: http://orgue.free.fr/
He put me in touch with the Eglise St. Sulpice (famous now for its reference in the Da-Vinci code) and also the Eglise St. Roch in Paris. Both churches had “romantic” organs that are fabulous but the size of these churches was deemed somewhat too large with an excessive reverb. A friend who owns a “record” label told me that if I recorded the CD in Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral that he would want to distribute it. I contacted Olivier Latry, organist at Notre-Dame, but there were too many hurdles to clear to get approval to record at Notre-Dame in Paris. Right around the same time, in the fall of 2004, I was talking to my friend and trumpet colleague Bruno Nouvion about some upcoming master-classes that I would be teaching at the Paris conservatory and a concert in November of that year.
I mentioned that I was looking for a good church with a good organ to record. He told me that he was about to do a concert for two trumpets and organ in Vernon with fellow trumpeter Dominique Collemare and organist Alain Brunet. It so happened that I knew Vernon fairly well since I had been the trumpet teacher at the conservatory in that town for 2 years just prior to moving to the United States. It also happens that my brother lives about fifteen minutes drive from Vernon. He went to a rehearsal Bruno, Dominique &Alain were having and recorded a little as a test and sent me that sample recording. The test was very conclusive and the decision was then made to go ahead and record at the Collegiale Notre-Dame de Vernon.
After my return from Paris in November, I contacted my friend Ken Bowen with whom I had performed before. I had only played with Ken as a pianist but I knew he played organ too and if his organ playing was anything like his piano playing I knew that I’d be in for a treat. We got together at the Steinway Reformed church in Queens and read through some repertoire that I had in mind for this recording. This was also a very conclusive experience. We proceeded to check our busy schedules and settled for the week of May 8th to record in Vernon. It turns out that the Collegiale was available that week and that Father Philippe and Alain Brunet were very receptive to our recording there. They even organized, with the help of the “Association des Amis de l’Orgue De La Collegiale de Vernon”, to have us perform a concert of the CD’s repertoire that same week. Ken and I scheduled 5 rehearsals during the month of March and off we were.
Ken Bowen & Dominic
I arrived in Paris late afternoon on May 7th and Ken arrived at 10am on the 8th.
After I picked Ken up at Charles De Gaulle airport, we drove 90 minutes to Vernon, had lunch and met with Alain Brunet at 2pm so that Ken could get “acquainted” with the organ. By 4pm we headed for Simon’s house and took a nap. We were scheduled to start recording that evening at 10:30pm. The reason for the late start on that night was a choir rehearsal from 8:30 – 10:30pm. We quietly started setting up the recording equipment at 10pm. The recording involved seven microphones. Four of them were downstairs 8 feet from floor level, two facing forward and two facing the rear of the church. The next three microphones were “up”. The close-up trumpet microphone was hooked to the music stand. The two “close up” organ microphones were installed “way up” in the apse of the collegiale.
I accessed that location by going up the bell tower, accessing the roof of the church going into the aspe through a small wooden trap door off the roof and hanging one microphone there. To get to the other side, I had to climb above the organ and across the rose window to the other tower, the roof and another trap door.
Climbing up to place the mics!
We got started at 10:45 that evening and recorded the J.F. Fasch concerto in D Major and the four J.S. Bach selections before calling it a night at 12:30.
At this point, I need to mention the reason for the choice of J.S.Bach works on this CD. First of all, I consider J.S.Bach to be the Grand Master of baroque music and could not imagine doing a CD of baroque music without having any Bach. The main problem was that he had not written music specifically for solo trumpet. There are a lot of great trumpet parts in many of his works but none that are specific concerti or sonatas Transcriptions had to be the way to go. The selection started with the two chorales: “Sheep May Safely Graze” for solo voice because it is just plain beautiful and “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring” for choir also because it is such a great piece of music. Having the trumpet play the soprano line of the choir was the obvious choice that had been done many times. I wanted to add something a little more “original” for my CD and asked David Horowitz if he would like to write a variation. David accepted the “challenge” and composed a variation that not only respects the style of J.S.Bach but, in my opinion, adds even more “Joy” to “Jesu, JOY Of Man’s Desiring”. This accomplishment was not surprising to me since David writes music for so many commercials and does it with so much talent. More on David can be found at www.dhma.net
The choice for Sinfonia 8 and Invention 13 was made because I was looking for 2 short and fast tempo pieces to start and end the Bach “medley”. I searched through a book of Sinfonias and Inventions for solo keyboard, chose these two and transcribed a trumpet part from them.
On Tuesday morning, May 9th, Simon, Ken and I spent time listening to the takes we had from the previous night to make sure we had everything we needed and also to get an idea of the sound we were getting in the Collegiale. Ken and I were very pleased with what we were hearing. In fact, so much so that we decided to re-record the Sinfonia 8 that night with a different approach of “sound” for the trumpet based on the acoustics. Ken spent a few hours in the afternoon working on the registers he would use for that evening’s program. Between 8pm and midnight we recorded the G.Tartini, L.D. Daquin, G. Martini and J.S. Bach’s Sinfonia 8.
I must mention at this point that the cadenzas in the Tartini were written for me by Tom Pierson in 1991. I played and recorded with Tom’s band in the mid- late 80’s. He now lives in Japan and you can find out more about Tom at: www.tompierson.net
Wednesday morning, May 10th, was spent listening to Tuesday night’s takes. The result of that session was that we decided to re-record Martini’s Elevazione and most of the Daquin for different tempo considerations. Ken, again, spent most of the afternoon working on registers for the rest of the program. That evening, from 8pm until midnight we recorded the B. Marcello, T Albinoni, Martini’s Elevazione and some of the Daquin.
Guy Bardet, Alain Brunet, Simon, Ken and I then determined that we were done and started packing up all the equipment.
By 1:30am Ken and I started our drive to Paris. I could not get to sleep that night for several reasons and had to start teaching masterclasses at 9:00am at the conservatoire of the Xeme arrondissement in Paris. The classes I taught that day took place from 9-12 noon and 1:30 – 4:30pm. Ken spent the day visiting Paris. It is worth mentioning that this was Ken’s first time in France and that he impressed everyone with his knowledge of the French language.
Friday, May 13th was again spent teaching for me. Ken took an afternoon train to Vernon to practice on the organ. I drove to Vernon after my afternoon masterclass and at 8:30p, Ken and I gave a concert at the Collegiale. We performed the Fasch, Daquin, J.S. Bach (4 pieces), Albinoni. Ken played J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, we finished the program with the Tartini and played the Martini Toccata as an encore. We received an amazing response from the audience. This concert was organized by “L’association des Amis de l’Orgue de la Collegiale Notre-Dame de Vernon”. They did a wonderful job of organizing it and promoting it because the church was packed. After the concert they had a very nice reception for us at the “presbytere”. Ken drove back to Paris that night while I went to Simon’s house. Simon and I did the editing work during the day on Saturday, May 14th. I drove to Paris to meet Ken that evening at 6:30pm. We were invited to the organ loft at Notre-Dame de Paris by Olivier Latry. This was an amazing experience for us and my parents who had joined us too. It had been 21 years since I had been up there. I had forgotten how powerful that instrument is and we all got to appreciate Mr. Latry’s talent.
After that Ken and I had a very fine dinner in the Latin Quarter. This was followed by a drive through Paris by night in an attempt to show Ken as much of Paris as possible in a short amount of time. The Eiffel Tower with all the “flashing” lights was a highlight.
I drove Ken back to Charles De Gaulle airport on Sunday morning, May 15th and then went back to my brother’s house to mix and master the CD. This process was completed by Monday afternoon, May 16th and I flew back to New York May 18th.
Work then began on getting liner notes written and the CD booklet prepared. Ken and I both thought that Richard Westenburg would be a great choice for writing the notes.
My friend Etienne Pierres, architect in Paris with the “Atelier Christian De Portzamparc” offered to help with the artwork and layout of the booklet. He used the pictures that were taken during the recording sessions by Guy Bardet as well as the front cover photo taken by Simon Derasse at just the right time to capture the sunlight through the rose window.
For more on the “Collegiale Notre-Dame de Vernon” you should most definitely visit this new website: www.vernon-visite.org/colleg/accueil.htm
To purchase CD on iTunes or Amazon.com click here