Panto time again

Not content working on one panto a year I’m now in preparation for another. Now in its 4th year, the Dugdale Centre brings colourful Panto cheer to Enfield over the Easter Holidays. Written and produced by Marc Day with original music by myself, this year’s production is the classic tale Pinocchio.

Marc creates a unique production combining live actors and beautiful Muppet-style puppetry.  Really worth a look, and of course the music’s great too!

Pinocchio runs from 25th March – 12th April


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Red Herring at the Dugdale

I’m pleased to announce that I will once again this year be arranging all the music for the fun-packed Easter Panto at the Dugdale Centre, Enfield.  Last year’s classic take was Hansel & Gretel.  This year its Rapunzel, back in popularity after Disney’s adaptation, Tangled.

I’ll be arranging and recording all the music for the show and this year I’ll be acting as Musical Director too, taking the performers through the music and teaching melodies and harmonies.  Most of the music will be well known catchy tunes from musicals and films.  However, and I’m excited about this, the plan is that Rapunzel will feature some original music too (composed by myself of course, with perhaps a little help from director Marc Day). So watch this space for more details as they unfold.

Rapunzel runs from March 30th – April 13th at the Dugdale Centre, Enfield.



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Autumn Update

Its been a really busy year at Red Herring. Several new clients on board and some branching-out into other areas, including location recording. In September Chris @burg87 went on location to @Sadlers_Wells and @RoyalAlbertHall to record two @theatretrain shows, Now Then and Licensed to thrill, the latter featuring a 19 piece orchestra and choir of 1200 children. The shows were recorded for DVD by @Colbridge for release later in the year. Check the samples page soon for a sneak preview.

On the music arranging front, Chris is currently arranging the backing tracks and recording vocals for 20 new tracks for past client @JoJinglesHQ for a forthcoming CD. Lots of old favourites given a new, contemporary twist, a perfect Christmas stocking filler!

If you’re looking for a recording studio in Essex or backing tracks, musical arrangements, or you’re a songwriter looking for a producer to bring your music alive then get in touch – or send me a tweet – @burg87

That’s all for now, Panto time will soon be upon us.


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Doing my bit

Just a quick post to let you know about my contribution to a great new charity single with an Olympic theme. “In the Race of Life” (written by Ruth Kenward & Mark Dickman) is a single released in aid of the Youth Sport Trust I played drums on the track, recorded at Red Herring Studio, which is available from Starshine Music and iTunes.

So what are you waiting for – go and download it now!

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RHA on Sound Cloud

Red Herring Audio is now on Sound Cloud. There are lots of FULL LENGTH samples of my work, in different catagories. My profile is here:

I will be uploading more samples as I get time so check back regularly.

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Child’s Play

Children’s Music – just the mention of the word gets parents everywhere groaning. But why? Because the majority of children’s music (or music FOR children) is the most sickly, nauseating namby-pamby, patronising nonsense which is constantly on REPEAT on the in-car CD. Not only that but usually its badly arranged/produced and recorded. I’ve lost count of the number of kid’s songs that just have one acoustic guitar strumming away with a soulless female soprano voice warbling over it in that condescending way, over-enunciating every syllable so that the children can understand what they are saying. Children might be young but when it comes to music they most definitely are not stupid, so why treat them so? Just because they’re not at school yet it doesn’t mean they can’t dig a soulful groove or house beat.

As soon as they reach an age where they can CHOOSE what music they listen to (instead of having it forced upon them) they instantly go for pop music with sophisticated production (if not songwriting) which they can FEEL. My 5 and 8 year olds are forever dancing round the living room to Rhianna and Katy Perry or singing along at the top of their voice to Taylor Swift. This music EXCITES them and, although its very much aimed AT them the production values are still top notch.

I’ve been involved in arranging kids music, producing children’s music and even writing music for children. None of what I produce patronises children, it engages them. Wherever possible I try to be imaginative with the feel and style of a piece and not go for the obvious, especially when re-working old favourites.

If you’re looking for something different from the usual choice of trite kid’s music you could do worse than check out Lindy Lou’s Vol.1 (Vol.2 coming soon) www.lindylou’ All original songs written by Lynne MacLaughlan and myself.

You can hear lots of my work as an arranger on to CDs for Jo Jingles – Jo visits the farm and Jo keep fit.

The Wheels on the Bus is touring throughout the UK in 2012 – packed with fun, non-patronising arrangements of classic nursery rhymes!

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RHA supplies music for The Wheels on the Bus UK Tour 2012

I am very happy to announce that Chris Burgess of Red Herring Audio will be arranging and recording all the music backing tracks for the up coming UK Tour of Wheels on the Bus, that all-time children’s favourite. The tour, produced by Richard Temple productions (NumberJacks) and written by Marc Day (Creative Director at The Millfield theatre, Edmonton) has a cast of very talented actors/singers and of course Buster the Bus! The show features favourite sing-a-long songs for kids of all ages and the audience are positively encouraged to take part and sing along.

The production will be visiting theatres throughout the UK and kicks off at the Buxton opera House on 11th Feb. For more info and tickets see

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The Digital Arranger

In the “good ole days” music was the result of a whole army of talented people, all working towards the same goal – recording a piece of music. The 3 most important individuals were The Composer, The Arranger/Orchestrator and The Copyist. The role of the Music Arranger has changed dramatically over the last decade. In the commercial world historically the role of the arranger involved liasing with the composer and working with his notes. The composer would provide the melody and some (but not necessarily all) harmony for all the themes in the piece and probably some guide as to which voice (instruments) would play each section. The arranger would then map out, on paper, the orchestration from start to finish, filling out the bars to compliment the melody. This would then be passed to the Copyist who would literally sit and copy out (by hand) all the individual parts of the score for each instrument, or group of instruments, transposing them if necessary for the correct instrument. He would be the one under most pressure as ultimately it was his job to get the parts delivered to the studio ready for the session. With studio time costing hundreds of pounds an hour and musicians, conductors, producers and engineers costing as much (yes musicians were decently paid at one time) you don’t want to be the one holding up the session. If changes needed to be made mid-session it was the copyists job to re-write whatever parts needed changing and make sure they were back by the time the session resumed.

These days, when the budget allows, the team of creatives producing the music is much the same, although arrangers and copyists use computer scoring software to edit and print the score. Key changes, cuts and additions can be made quickly and easily and are ready as fast as the printer can churn them out.

However, great results can also be achieved using a team of just one: The Digital Arranger and it is in this category that I fall. 90% of my work involves creating backing tracks, production music, songwriters demos, jingles and song-a-like tracks which would normally use live instruments by emulating the instruments directly in the computer, using software. Modern sample libraries are so sophisticated that incredible results can be achieved emulating an orchestra, for example, without even hiring a single string player or timpanist.

I always strive to use as many live instruments on my tracks as the budget will allow. Where required ALL my tracks use live drums (played by a live drummer – me) as this is an area which, no matter how good the samples, without expert programming sampled drums stand out a mile and make the track instantly sound like a cheap MIDI file. The live players on recordings don’t even need to be in the same studio at the same time these days. I can have brass recording in one studio, guitar somewhere else, and a bass player sat in his bedroom. Each performer digitally sends his recording to me and I piece it all together.

Its common for one musician to double or triple his recording. Using just 3 players (Trumpet, Trombone & Sax) its possible to create a convincing big band brass section. With good arrangements these 3 players can record each of the 4 or so parts for their instrument using multitrack recording. Combined, they sound like 12 players. You can hear an example of this on my samples page with the popular Harry Connick Jr arrangement of the standard “It had to be You”.

When presented with a track to arrange I usually start with the piano part. Once the piano is recorded (programmed) all the way through and the tempo and any ralls or accells inserted I begin on the orchestration. At one time I would write out the score bit by bit but these days I work directly in the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation), adding layers of instruments one by one. I edit mistakes in recording with the matrix editor (a representation of the musical part on a grid) and sometimes this itself inspires a particular passage in the arrangement, just from looking at a graphical representation. Its a far cry from the likes of Quincy Jones working through the night sat with the manuscript paper and a pencil on the kitchen table but its often what happens to get music recorded.

Not only responsible for the music, today’s digital arranger is very often also the one who mixes and masters the tracks once recorded. On one recent project I wore many hats: musical contractor (fixer), arranger, producer, mix engineer, mastering engineer, drummer, percussionist, session booker, admin assistant and I made plenty of cups of tea!

Next week: Christmas music of course!

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Its Panto Time!

Oh yes it is…Pantomime is just round the corner, a very busy time for Red Herring Audio.  This usually means one thing – click-tracks.  Audiences these days expect to hear a high level of production when they visit the theatre (even if they don’t realise it); the slick, polished sound of many TV shows is partly responsible for this level of expectation.  Gone are the days of 100% live musicians in a panto pit (with the exception, I believe, of the Hackney Empire),  for many years production companies have relied on pre-recorded “click tracks” to bolster the sound of whatever live musicians they may have in the pit.  The live band may consist of piano, bass and drums but, with the help of a click track it can sound like a 40 piece orchestra!  The backing track is called a click track because, running alongside the music and completely inaudible to the audience is a “click” – a metronome tick that the live musicians listen to (usually through headphones) whilst they are playing in order to keep themselves “in time” with the pre-recorded music.

Its not just pantomimes that make use of click-tracks.  Invariably today you will find some sort of pre-recorded instruments or effects as part of the overall score of many musicals in theatres all over the country.  I have been involved in the arranging and recording of many such tracks in my work at Red Herring Audio.  You can hear a few examples here

This year I am arranging and recording all the music for the Millfield Theatre production of Beauty and the Beast (and playing the drums for the run!) and recording live drum kit and percussion tracks for the Lichfield Garrick’s production of A Christmas Carol.

So next time you’re at the theatre, which I hope will be soon, have a listen and see if you can hear a few extra instruments that you can’t see in the pit.  Chances are its a click track.

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Another happy client

Just received this testimonial from one of Red Herring Audio’s favourite clients:

“I’ve worked with Chris Burgess for several years. The instrumental tracks he creates at Red Herring Audio are accurate, consistently great sounding, and meticulous in every musical detail. When I hire Chris for a project I know he’ll ask the right questions—sometimes questions I had not even anticipated—and provide me with what I need, on time, often before the deadline. Should adjustments or modifications be required, I know I can count on Chris for a rapid turnaround, sometimes the very next day. In addition to all this, Chris is easy to work with and always pleasant.”

Mark Carlstein
Keyboard Publications Editor
Hal Leonard Corporation

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