Orchestra, Chinese Orchestra and Symphonic Band: Recordings

These are video recordings of some of our school’s music ensembles.

2. Chinese Orchestra: In that Faraway Place

The following video is a performance of the song In that Faraway Place by the SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School Chinese Orchestra. The work features a lot of solos, so it can serve as a good introdction to the musical instruments traditionally used in a Chinese Orchestra. If you view the video using YouTube’s caption function (click the CC icon on the bottom), subtitles will appear describing the featured instruments and some of the playing techniques used.

 

Technical Information

Conductor: Yim Kin-man 嚴健民
Composer: Wang Luo-bin (王洛宾)
Orchestral Arrangment: by Gu Guan-ren (顧冠仁)

The video was taken during a rehearsal before the Hong Kong Schools Music Festival Competition (the orchestra put on an even better performance that day, winning the competition). Two students (Teresa Ng and Maggie Lai) helped me take the footage and we recorded three takes. If you are curious about the musical instruments, you can check out this page identifying what instruments are used in the song: longzijun.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/the-chinese-orchestra-a-video-introduction-to-chinese-musical-instruments/

The audio and most of the video is from the second take while we also used some video footage from the other two takes. I used two deveices to record the audio: a Roland R-05 portable digital audio recorder and a Tascam Pocketstudio DP-008 digital audio recorder. I also used the audio from the camera on the balcony (and put this more echoey audio very low in the mix). I reduced the backoround noise on each track using Magix Audio Cleaning Lab and the blended the different tracks together in Sonar Home Studio (in a similar manner to trying to get a nice-tasting wine by blending different kinds of less-than-top-qualitry grapes).

I am still having a lot of problem with the sounds produced by the timpani. The recorded sound was too boomy, burying a lot of the other instruments. To tighten up the sound, I reduced the low frequencies, but this also weakened the double bass and cello.

1. Symphonic Band: El Camino Real & Orchestra: Night on Bald Mountain 

Performances of Alfred Reed’s El Camino Real and Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain by the SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School Symphonic Band and Orchestra, respectively. The performances took place during the school’s Open Day on 19 November 2010.

 

This is part of a series of videos created to help the school celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Technical Information

Video recording: Florence Ha (footage from the balcony) & Stephen Richards (footage from the floor) with additional shots by Natalie Liu, Joanne Tse & Albert Tsang
Editing & audio recording: Stephen Richards

The conductor is Mr Chiu Kai-keung. Our music department head, Ms Lee Siu-mei, is also instrumental in helping the band and orchestra prepare for competitions and performances. The ensembles performed twice, with the second performances being the ones featured in the videos (though I also included footage from the first performance).

The recording was quite informal as all the school studio team members, including myself, were busy with other duties. I just asked students who were around to help record the video using the two camcorders we had on hand. This is why some of the camera movement is a little wild and shaky at times, though I think the camera operators did a very good job of focusing on different sections and performers. The students who helped out included Florence and Albert (who were waiting to perform with the choir and band, respectively), Joanne (who was on duty in the English Corner nearby) and Natalie (who is a studio team member, but who was doing photo taking that morning).

The camcorders we were using (Canon HG10 and HF10) were not really able to capture the dynamic audio range of the performance (from the soft oboe solo to the blaring horns and cymbal crashes), so I used a small digital audio recorder—the Roland R-O5—to capture the audio. This device was very effective, allowing me to easily control audio input levels. After recording, there was still a lot of work to do cleaning up the sound. I used Magix Audio Cleaning Lab and Goldwave to get rid of the noise coming from the air-conditioning and ventilation system and to make sure all the different intruments were coming through clearly. The Audio Cleaning Lab software doesn’t have a lot of functions, but it is great at what it does (I still can’t believe how easily it gets rid of air-conditioner noise while leaving everything else intact). I’m still not completely satisfied with the audio, however. As the ensembles were performing in a gymnasium, the low sounds tended to be boomy and muddy; therefore, I had to sacrifice some or the band’s power to try to get a clearer sound.

The footage was edited using Premiere Pro CS4. Because the video footage is from two different camcorders taken during two different times of the day (i.e., the lighting conditions were very different), the tints and tones of the footage from the different cameras (especially the pale blue of the girls’ uniforms) don’t match. I tried different ways to adjust the colour balance and levels of the video, but I generally ended up creating even more of a mismatch, so I just did some basic colour correction and surrendered to the different shades of blue.


 

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