The recording project highlights the talents of Mercer and Macon’s musicians

The recording project highlights the talents of Mercer and Macon’s musicians

The orchestra's musicians can be seen sitting on their seats with their instruments, in a large open space with large windows behind them.
The London Symphony Orchestra is preparing to play pieces by Dr. Christopher Schmitz in London in late September. Photo courtesy Dr. Christopher Schmitz

A symphony and violin concerto composed by a professor at Mercer University in London has recently been recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra. The music and how it was created will be shared with the community this spring when an album and documentary are released.

Dr. Christopher Schmitz, professor of music theory and composition at the College of Music, and dozens of Middle Georgians traveled to London in late September for the recording sessions. The group also included McDuffie Center Director for Strings Amy Schwartz-Moretti, violin soloist in the concerto; Macon’s producer and recording engineer Steve Moretti; College of Music Dean Dr. Gary Gerber, who planned the logistics of the trip; and Tabitha Walker and her film crew from Big Hair Productions, which is making a documentary about the project.

As a community component of the project, a local middle school violinist and a high school guitarist and orchestra teacher also participated in the trip.

“Having the Symphony and Violin Concerto recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra is a major achievement for Dr. Schmitz and Mercer University,” said Dr. Gerber.

The multi-faceted project is supported by the Josephine Phelps Fabian Fund Community Foundation of Central Georgia, which approved the funding proposal in early 2022.

“I’m very proud of what we have here in Macon,” Amy Schwartz-Moretti said. “The quality of our music making is worth sharing with the world. The pieces were put in place to make this record happen thanks to the Fabian Fund.

Dr. Schmitz composed two works at home while on vacation in the spring of 2023. He said the Violin Concerto is a rewritten and re-arranged version of a performance piece he wrote for Moretti a few years ago.

“This piece was designed to be a showcase for her many talents,” Dr. Schmitz said. “She managed to make the solo part she played in that piece very challenging. It has a lot of theatrics and pyrotechnics throughout it which I think makes for an exciting performance.

The concerto, titled “Cloudscape,” consists of three movements, each with its own title and mood, “Dark,” “Warm” and “Electric,” Moretti said.

“Chris is a great friend and colleague at Mercer, so when he approached me about writing a violin concerto, I was immediately excited about the prospect,” she said. “He has an intense, beautiful writing style and a way of pushing new boundaries, always in a way that audiences can appreciate and enjoy.”

Three men talking and laughing, with their hands around each other's shoulders.
From left, Dr Christopher Schmitz, Steve Moretti and conductor Stefan Sanderling speak inside the London Symphony Orchestra. Photo courtesy Dr. Christopher Schmitz

Dr. Schmitz’s Symphony No. 1 contains five movements. He said it begins dark and mysterious, travels through heavy emotions, and ends on a positive note with “Prayer of Hope.” This final prayer, containing text from the Latin Mass (“Agnus Dei” or “Lamb of God”), was performed by the Voices of London.

“The symphony is kind of a reflection of what I was feeling during the semester I was writing it. “With all the turmoil that was happening internationally and politically, I felt the weight of the news and what was happening,” Dr. Schmitz said. “I hope the audience feels He listens to her on this path from feeling hopeless and exhausted to (coming out) on the other side with positive feelings. My goal was to create a story without telling the story.

With the reputation and stature of the London Symphony Orchestra, Dr. Schmitz said he did not have to hold back on the level of difficulty when writing his music.

“It was completely tailored to fit this group,” he said. “I was very excited to be able to work with world-class musicians of the caliber of the London Symphony Orchestra.”

Producer Steve Moretti had worked on recording projects with Dr. Schmitz before and noticed how accessible his compositions were. His latest work weaves together elements of classical and contemporary music as well as parts with a cinematic flair.

“The musicians were very happy to play this music. They were very happy to sink their teeth into something musically profound,” Moretti said.

Dr. Schmitz said he presented the results to conductor Stefan Sanderling this summer, so he could prepare. Amy Schwartz-Moretti and the orchestra recorded the violin concerto on Sept. 23 and the symphony on Sept. 26 at St. Luke’s Church, a church-turned-music venue that is the group’s home base, Dr. Gerber said.

Dr. Schmitz said it was surreal to have the orchestra bring his compositions to life. Other ensembles have recorded his works in the past, but recording with the prestigious London Symphony Orchestra was particularly exciting.

“I had to keep pinching myself. It’s an amazing orchestra. It was very exciting the whole time to hear it all come together. “There’s nothing like getting to an actual recording session and hearing an ensemble like the London Symphony Orchestra. Hearing them play brings this level of depth to the music.

The project allowed Moretti to reconnect with Sanderling, whom she had worked with 20 years earlier when she was concertmaster of the Florida Philharmonic.

“It has been a dream come true to do a recording project with the London Symphony Orchestra and collaborate with Chris on this,” she said. “(Sunderling’s) music is inspiring, and I knew he would be the right musical partner for this project. The producers were simply the best. They helped us get the best recording possible.”

Steve Moretti conducted the recording sessions in London, and he and Dr. Schmitz provided feedback and suggestions for changes to the musicians as needed.

“My responsibility besides the artistic element is to arrange and assemble everything, and the logistical aspect of it as well. It took a year to complete this project from start to finish,” Moretti said. “My mission is to capture the best possible artistic performance. “It’s a great collaboration.”

Eight people can be seen sitting around a table in a restaurant.
Macon’s group gathers for a meal after the symphony’s recording sessions in London. Photo courtesy Dr. Christopher Schmitz

Through an essay and interview process, Callie Baker, an eighth-grader at Northside Middle School, and Keaton Mooney, an eighth-grader at Central High School, were selected to participate in the London trip. They were accompanied by Jarris Tobler, orchestra director at Central High School and Miller Magnet Middle School. Baker plays in the Tobler orchestra because her school in Houston County doesn’t have one.

Tobler said they watched one of the recording sessions and had the opportunity to speak with the conductor and production team. Tobler live-streamed part of the session to his students in Macon, giving them a front-row seat to hear a famous band and an inside look at the production side. Tobler, Baker and Mooney also spent time touring London’s most prominent music venues and facilities.

“I’m thrilled with the whole experience overall,” Tobler said. “Thank you so much to Mercer, Dr. Gerber, Dr. Schmitz, and Mr. Moretti for your consideration of Central High School, and I really hope we can build more partnerships with Mercer and throughout the community in general. I appreciate their generosity. I really wanted to offer this opportunity to my students.” “

Walker and the film crew, which included McDuffie Center student River Suchin, filmed interviews with Macon’s group before and after the trip. While in London, they documented the recording sessions as well as the sightseeing experiences of the Central High group.

“I had a camera in my hand the whole time,” said Suchen, a junior violin major who also has video production skills. “It was just as much of a movie as you can get.”

Suchin brought his violin with him to London, where he practiced in his hotel room every day and did some street performances.

“(The London Symphony Orchestra) is historically one of the greatest orchestras in the world. “It was very inspiring and gave me a glimpse into the professional workings of a large orchestra and a large professional recording session,” Suchen said. “This was a big moment for Dr. Schmitz,” said Suchin. And it was a real pleasure to hear live music from really great live players by a great live composer.”

Register now for the editing process. With the help of Dr. Schmitz, Moretti reviews all the raw audio clips, compares the different takes and chooses what will be included in the final recording. Moretti will return to London in December to complete the mixing and mastering process with co-producer Simon Killen.

“I want the consumer when they listen to this to feel like they’re in the room with us,” Moretti said. “I want that energy to translate into the recording. People are going to really enjoy listening to this.”

Meanwhile, the documentary crew began editing the video. They have footage dating back to January when Dr. Schmitz first started composing his music.

The recording will be released commercially by Navona Records in the spring, and the documentary will be released around the same time, Dr. Schmitz said. The team hopes the finished products will generate buzz at the Emmy and Grammy Awards.

“I would say Macon has a rich musical history, but I also feel like we have a rich musical present,” Moretti said. “This project in particular, you have a fantastic composer here at Mercer. You have a fantastic violinist, world-class. Putting together a project of this magnitude with all original music of this magnitude puts Macon and Mercer on the global map. I think it will resonate in the world of the recording industry.” .

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *