When I learned of the project, I only knew the recording would take place in an incredible place near Lewes, a manor house that got most of its rooms plugged in for the occasion, a mobile studio unit would be recording every sound of it from the parking lot where it was parked.
I took the train from London to Lewes, then took a taxi to the Manor House.
When I arrived, Ian Caple was inside an airstream trailer, hidden by his chair, hands on the buttons and levels, eyes on the monitors; yes, it was a mobile recording unit.
There I could already hear the sound of a piano coming from the speakers in the trailer, Catherine's hand were already running on the ivory of what I discovered later on was an old Pleyel in a large living room.
I circled the manor while they were recording inside, bumped into Guillaume Carayol who was getting a few shots from the outside, before he went back in. I continued my visit and discovered a green, peaceful and colourful estate, walked into a rose garden, took a path between herbs, waved hello to the curious sheeps, returned to the manor to peak through the windows, and landed at the trailer again.
When Ian left his chair and trailer to make a few more adjustments inside the manor, I followed him to discover instruments lying and standing at every corner, cables running through every door and opening. I peaked through a door and saw Catherine at the piano. Ian ran out and headed to the trailer. I was inside. I tip-toed to the kitchen to the sound of piano notes.
Gaelle Deblonde was in the kitchen, putting a few cups away, before going upstairs to her room. She would be recording the violin the following day.
Arnaud Delannoy greeted me with a quick " 'ello" before passing the door. He drove to Lewes from Caen in France, his car filled with instruments but also with lovely home made and tasty bio food.
I had reached my quarters for the next 2 days. The kitchen was warm, you could hear the instruments playing live, it was filled with food both brought from France and bought in Lewes. It was a good place to stay while waiting for pics opportunities.
When the next break had come and the piano fell silent, I tried to make my way from the kitchen to the living room. As I struggled with the double door, Marc Denis opened it for me and I could hear his sunny accent from the south of France. Then Marc and Arnaud got ready to record some guitars on the piano that was just recorded. Martyn Barker was in a little room in the back of the living room, surrounded by percussion instruments. I snapped a few shots while everything was being checked, microphones and notes, and returned to the kitchen.
It was then the time I could finally greet Catherine and have a nice talk with her. We talked about common friends, her life, and of course Atalye, all this while it was being recorded next door.
The landlord's mother came by and greeted Catherine, who had been very pleased to hear the dusty Pleyel being played earlier on. Her french was excellent and soon they were talking about music, the manor, pieces of their lives, Atalye...
Then it was time for Catherine to return and record some more tracks with everyone. I took some more pictures around before a late lunch break. We all enjoyed the pizza and wine before returning to more recording.
I took more pics, had nice chats with Gaelle, we even took a few portraits, we prepared and cooked the two chickens and the potatoes in the oven for the diner.
It was a nice and welcomed break before everyone returned to the recording. A warm and friendly moment to chat and exchange.
A few pics with Catherine upstairs, in the mirror, behind the vintage wooden horse, in the stairs sipping on a warm cup of tea, and she had soon returned on the piano. A few more sound checks and takes, making the most of Martyn's only day of recording on the drums and percussions.
The night had come, and turning those little lights and candelabra took the atmosphere of the already unusual recording setting to another level.
A few more notes on the piano before it was time for Ian and Martyn to return to their homes, as each of them are living only about 20 minutes by car from the Manor House.
There were a few pressure releasing moments that included instruments and melodies, which were stopped by Catherine's quiet time request. We enjoyed one last round of vodka someone had bought, told each other a few stories, let the pressure of the day out.
Marc, Guillaume and I decided to share the dorm-like room in the attic. We talked a while, curious of each other's paths and life before falling asleep. During the night, I got woken up by the rain dropping rhythmically outside, hoping it would look better during the day to take a few shots of Catherine outside.
The morning started with laughs, and also with a naked bum of Marc who wakes up and starts full gear before coffee. We all met downstairs for breakfast, bread, butter, coffee awaiting us in the kitchen. The landlord had dropped everything on the table, which spared one of us to do the planned trip to Lewes to get the coffee. A full plate of eggs, bacon and sausages for everyone and soon sounds of strings could be heard, adjustments before the recordings, planning of the day... Martyn came to collect his gear and soon the room that had been dedicated to the drum would be turned into something else. I took the opportunity to shoot a few portraits with him, in the room he had spent the previous day in, with only one little drum in the foreground and the pleasure of having his job done and slept a good night sleep.
Despite the rain, Guillaume and I followed Catherine out for some pics. She looks mysterious and solemn on a background of leaves and trees. She wandered around the manor house, took some of the same paths I had taken the previous day. She touched a lot of trees and leaves, walked to where the sheeps were. The rain never stopped, it even got heavier. Catherine still had a great amount of work to do for the recording of Atalye and I started to worry about my gear as well.
We returned in the warmth of the Manor where I held the microphone for Guillaume's interview of Catherine.
I started to gather my gear. I would have to leave soon for London if I wanted to arrive on time for Badi Assad's concert.
I prepared a little cheese sauce for the pasta, with some of the cheddar cheese that was in the fridge. I started eating before the others, as they were still recording. I was soon joined by hungry Arnaud, and then everyone. I wanted to do a quick portrait of Ian inside the recording trailer, this time with him facing me. I left my plate with my second serving on the table and I seized the moment when Ian didm't seem to be too much involved in setting anything up. We went to the trailer and I got my shot.
On the way out, Arnaud told me that he was driving to Lewes and that was a good early opportunity to get to the train station. I said goodbye as quick as I could to everyone, not really wanting to end that moment like this, grabbed my gear that I had packed and jumped onto the passenger's seat.
I left so quickly.
Maybe my plate is still on the table waiting for me to return....