Monday, 12 April 2010

Beneath thy Guiding Hand

There is nothing like doing something different. I have worked for the Girl Guides before remastering material, originally recorded on mini-disc for cassette duplication, to make it suitable for release on CD. But on Sunday I found myself recording them live for the first time in order to make their fifth CD release.

There were some thirty adult Guides, many of whom learnt their craft in the 1940s, in a room with a couple of guitars, a keyboard, a pair of bongos, some recorders and a set of hand chimes. The Guides had spent the previous day practising and we managed to record most of the fifty-two songs in one take. We started at 9 am and had finished by 4.30 pm. The live room, effectively a lounge, was so packed with performers that any hope of separating instruments was abandoned at the outset. I put a stereo mic by the conductor (who, herself, was jammed up against the fireplace) in the hope that if it sounded good to her it would sound equally good on the recording. I had another mono mic, my faithful Neumann, that I used to favour anything I thought might need a boost later: the bongos, spoken parts and the like. Half the kit I bought turned out to be unnecessary but with Be Prepared as my motto for the day I felt reassured by its presence.

Hautbois (pronounced Hobbiss) House
is a former vicarage that was given to the Girlguiding Anglia by two sisters who were active in the movement. Its 30 acres of land host all sorts of outdoor activities although I dare say you could still find someone to teach you how to fold a napkin if you looked hard enough. The pictures show some water-based challenges being undertaken - training, in fact, for future instructors, along with the abseiling tower. I have also seen archery targets on previous visits and they have a fair number of canoes. I am sure I am just scratching the surface of all the things on offer.

The songs include secular and religious material and will be accompanied by a booklet to enable leaders to teach the songs to young Brownies and Rainbows. In all honesty it is not the kind of music I would usually choose to listen to but I did find it surprisingly uplifting. A lot of the subject matter was very lighthearted ("Banana's of the World unite..." and "Earwig O") and most of it was sung in a major key. And although I am not especially religious myself it was hard not to smile at lines like "Ho, Ho, Ho, Hosanna..." and "He, He, He, He loves me..." If you like happy clappy then these are the folk you need around your campfire. Whether I'll still be smiling on day four of playing with levels and putting it all together ready for duplication remains to be seen.


  1. Hautbois house looks nice.

    French for oboe is hautbois and I always imagined that the English pronunciation is just a corruption of the french.

    "Hobbiss" sounds like someone was reading something written down.

    I wonder if the original owner played oboe?

  2. The house name seems to date back to the Doomsday book, albeit with a different spelling. I think you're right about oboe/hautbois although I believe the Italians use the name 'oboe' so they might tell a different tale.

  3. Well haut bois means high wood, which sounds like a description of the instrument to me.... (as opposed, say, to bas son, a low sound)

    Is the house on a hill? Perhaps it was surrounded by woodland.....

  4. (Did you you know that "time immemorial" has a legal meaning in the UK, and something dating from time immemorial means that it was mentioned in the Doomsday book? Perhaps it's a bad thing to know lots of trivia)

  5. Ah, I knew about 'high wood' but hadn't twigged 'low sound'. Obvious now you mention it. The house is indeed on a hill and surrounded by woods that look like they've been there for at least a decade or three.

    I've never entered a pub quizz but if I do I'll make sure we're on the same team (if Dr Watson hasn't already nabbed you for his).