April 22 – 25, 2016 – Cleveland, OH to St. John’s, NL
Nope – this isn’t a Spinal Tap moment: due to an insanely heavy schedule of a guest artist I wanted to work with, producer Don and I flew to the U.S. city of Cleveland to record with the exceptionally talented classical pianist Jan Lisiecki during one of his rare days off between concerts.
At 21, Jan is a wonderfully kind, well-spoken and intelligent young man beyond his obvious musical talents and I am thrilled to collaborate with him on True North: The Canadian Songbook.
This is a first for Jan, who has never recorded outside the classical idiom before. He and I both share a personal connection: our dear friend Neil Edwards, who connected us, is the CEO of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra and is a Project Consultant for True North: The Canadian Songbook. Thanks to Jan and Neil, we ventured to Audio Recording Studio, a lovely country studio about 30 minutes outside Cleveland, that was furnished with a beautiful concert grand piano.
Jan was accompanied by his mother, Anita, who travels with him everywhere. She is so lovely and it was nice to meet her as well. Arranger Darren Fung also flew in from Los Angeles. Darren arranged the song Jan was recording and he really focused Jan’s part on the rhapsodic elements of the song so it could really show off his talent. It was fabulous to have Darren’s input during the session. The session was very special and Jan’s performance was magical.
We shared a lot of laughs and had a great time working together, and before long it was time to head back to Toronto and then fly out to St. John’s.
When we arrived on April 23rd, we headed straight to Spirit of Newfoundland, where Rodney was awaiting us with baited breath.
In case you’re wondering, Rodney is a fish – a cod, to be specific – and plays an integral role in welcoming CFA (come from away) visitors – as “o-fish-al” honorary Newfoundlanders.
Here’s how it works: you go to the Screech room, where ritual dictates that you eat a piece of Newfoundland steak – better known to the rest of the world as “bologna,” kiss dear Rodney on the lips, drink some screech (a local rum concoction) – and then answer the question “Is ye a Screecher?” with the magical words that transform you into an honorary Newfoundlander: “Deed I is, me old cock, and long may your big jib draw!”
Luckily, for us, Rod the Cod works for scale, as he had a busy night getting covered in lip prints, but it was a lot of fun and got us off to a good start for the next day of rehearsal and recording.
The Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra performed three songs: the only original song on the album written by Don and his brother Jeff Breithaupt and arranged by Don; a song by Ron Hynes arranged by Brigham Phillips, who produced a few of my earlier albums and performed with me on many occasions; and the final arrangement by Donald Quan, who unfortunately didn’t arrive until 5 a.m. due to several bumped flights. It’s always good to have the arrangers present because they’re able to answer any questions you might have and add flavour in how they envision their arrangements. It was lovely to hear their arrangements come to life.
For this recording session, recording engineer Jeremy Tusz was not available to join us and we missed him. James Clemens-Seely and Christopher Johns continued the journey with us, but they asked their mentor, Carl Talbot, to join us for this session as well as the upcoming BC sessions. It was wonderful working with Carl!
As a special bonus, our wonderful project consultant and NSO CEO Neil Edwards was there, as was Heather McKinnon, who was interviewed for the documentary we’re filming throughout the project. Not only is Heather the Chair of the Symphony Board, but her cousin was the late Ron Hynes, and we’re doing one of Ron’s songs for this project. It was wonderful to hear her perspective.
I’ve now performed with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra three times, so for me, it’s like a homecoming. The symphony sounded so beautiful and there were many emotional moments as they brought their three songs to life. The arrangements continue to sparkle.
I can’t wait to share with all of you the great Canadian music we’re having the time of our lives recording.
Jan Lisiecki – Don Breithaupt – Eleanor McCain – Darren Fung
Christopher Johns – Eleanor McCain – Neil Edwards – Darlene Sawyer
James Clemens-Seely – Melanie Vaugeois – Jackie Paré – Brigham Phillips
Rodney and Eleanor
Don Breithaupt – Donald Quan – Eleanor McCain – Brigham Phillips
Black and White Photos: Greg Locke