We arrived at Angel Studios in Islington, London in the evening of Valentine´s Day and had a most friendly welcome from studio engineers Steve Price and Mat Bartram. They`d already set up everything for next day`s recordings, which would include 3 three-hour sessions with a 53-piece orchestra, most of the players being familiar faces from the "Once" and "Dark Passion Play" - sessions. Pip (Williams, the orchestral arranger) joined us at the hotel and we were all excited and ready for a week of long days and for witnessing some superb musicianship.
A heartwarming feeling of reunion and nostalgia filled the air when we met the session musicians on Tuesday morning. We started off with "Goat`s Liver" (working title...probably), followed by a couple of more epic pieces and all the rest that required a large orchestra. The musicianship of these people never ceases to amaze me. They`ve never heard the songs before, they haven`t had any rehearsals, and still they nail all the songs, even those in the hardest imaginable key, after just one or two run-throughs. Their prima vista - playing is something out of a science fiction story... Respect.
Mr. Thomas Bowes did a fantastic job as our orchestra leader, Mr. James Shearman was a most superb conductor, and once again, Pip topped himself with the arrangements. We had put much more effort and thought into them than on the previous two albums, too.
On Wednesday we continued with the orchestral recordings, last of the day`s sessions being with a 20-piece string / harp - section. Some new working titles were also born, such as "The Birdie Song", "Teriyaki" and "Haunted Mansion Ride".
Thursday was the day for percussion and ethnic drums. This time we decided to record all the rhythmic instruments separately from the orchestra to make it easier for the mixing process. Because some of the sounds the percussionists came up with would literally blow your eardrums off.
The highlight of the day was when we let loose Mr. Paul Clarvis & Mr. Stephen Henderson with their ethnic percussion arsenal. Paul`s 350-year-old taiko-drum really did the trick for me, as did the 5-foot hammer and a dustbin. We put all this into a one 3-minute instrumental, and the result is breathtaking and madly passionate.
Friday was booked for choirs. Again that sensation of nostalgia when The Metro Voices entered the building. We had 13 titles to sing and they did it in less than seven hours, prima vista. Utterly gorgeous stuff!
A childrens` choir is something we haven`t tried on a Nightwish album before and its turn was on Saturday morning. The Young Musicians London, led by the wonderful Mary Poppins - like Lynda Richardson were simply heartbreaking. These kids have immense talent, they are future superstar musicians and we are proud to have them on our album. Their sound was beautiful, innocent and in parts very, very scary. And that`s exactly what we were after.
During the evening we had two more guest musicians, Mr. Dermot Crehan (of The Lord Of The Rings - fame) with his hardanger fiddle and Mr. Dirk Campbell with his zurna. Both performances were stunning and added a nice little ancient touch to two of the songs.
Our most humble thanks to all the session musicians, the Angel Studios staff, Pip, James, Thomas, Lynda, Dick the music copyist and Jenny the choir mistress. It was a huge honor to work with you all and to have such talent and spirit captured on "Imaginarium"!
We miss you all dearly already and try to be faster with the next album.
Tuomas, Hilton Islington 20.2.2011
Photos of the recording: