Last December, Renaissance Men’s Christmas gala went off without a hitch: stellar performance, cooperative audience, large consumption of homemade eggnog. More important, great raw tracks had been captured. The New England-based professional choral ensemble had hired producer Jeffrey Means (assistant professor of composition at Berklee) to record the concert for a second album, A Very RenMen Christmas LIVE!, after the success of their first, RenMen Laments (Navona Records / Naxos Direct).
Unfortunately, in February Means and RenMen discovered a technical problem with a key piece, Saunder Choi’s “Angels We Have Heard on High.” The group planned to rerecord it but Covid happened. St. Mary’s Episcopal in Newton, the venue, closed their doors. Other concert locations canceled their seasons, studios likewise suspended work, and the world embraced videoconferencing. Meanwhile, the deadline to deliver fully mastered tracks to the album producer loomed, weeks away, with postproduction work half that.
RenMen scrambled. Anthony Burkes Garza, bass and general manager: “With so many normal solutions off the table, we discussed several emerging options, such as ‘virtual choir’ recordings or multitracking with 3-4 singers performing all the parts. We even considered going forward without that track.” But “Angels” both seemed critical for the album and too complex for virtual recording solutions. “I truly began to lose hope. If we couldn’t rerecord Choi’s piece, our second album would miss its scheduled release date of November 2020, timed for Christmas sales,” pointed out Peter Schilling, baritone and business manager. “We would ultimately have to push the release to November 2021, with nothing to show for 2020.”