It was 150 years ago that the toll (levied by the Dutch) on shipping in the Scheldt was finally abolished, enabling Antwerp to develop into a major international port. In addition to numerous festive events, the Port of Antwerp Authority organised a live performance of classical composer Peter Benoit’s De Schelde.
The concert was staged at the Waagnatie port hangar, with The Royal Flemish Philharmonic performing, featuring six solo singers and the Flemish Radio Choir and the (Dutch) Groot Omroepkoor.
Motormusic classical division Serendipitous was assigned to record the concert for CD and vinyl release. A crew of three, with chief engineer Steven Maes, had the recording mobile just outside the venue, on the River Scheldt quay.
“For this recording we used 32 microphones alltogether,” explained Maes. “We used four Neumann U 87 for the lead singers and a AB stereo microphone system with two Neumann M150. All of the 32 microphones were channelled via Grace Design M802 remotely controlled preamps and then steered via MADI in the Pro Tools HDX recording system. We used a Nuendo digital recorder as back up – standard procedure with live recordings. The acoustics in the port warehouse were not ideal and we used a Bricasti M7 external reverb to smooth the balance between the lead singers, the orchestra and choir – to achieve more depth in the recording” Maes says Serendipitous, launched some 10 years ago within Motormusic, has grown organically into the classical music niche. “With Motormusic having a name and fame in pop and rock music, we have been importing quite some of that technology in the classical world – these influences are omnipresent and decisive in the sound colour.”
Gradually, Serendipitous managed to win over the conservatism of the classical music industry – bearing in mind the philosophy of a “natural good sound”, it introduced multitracking while others were still recording on two tracks. The recording of the live CD and vinyl albums marks the extensive collaboration between Serendipitous and the The Royal Flemish Philharmonic, with over 20 jobs to date – in addition Serendipitous also takes on the practical management of The Royal Flemish Philharmonic Recordings label: recording, mixing and mastering, and distribution is handled by Serendipitous, alongside its own Evil Penguin label. With over 110 recording days in 2012, Serendipitous is making its way, both in Belgium and abroad, where the studio works for labels such as Challenge Classic Pentatone (The Netherlands) and the Plazetto Bru Zane foundation (France). In other news, Motormusic welcomed audio post-production company AgeNT and image production company Filmmore into its fold.
“Mechelen is rapidly becoming a real media hub, thanks in part to the Flemish government, which – through Screen Flanders – gives a financial incentive to audiovisual productions spending part of their budget in the Flemish Region,” says Hans Bellens, owner of MotorMusic.