A Huron Carol

I had a great opportunity to collaborate on a Christmas tune a friend was using in a song/recording competition. Scott Lake is a terrific singer/songwriter from Michigan, and I’ve done a few other projects with him in the past. This year, for a competition at kvraudio, he recorded a version of the “Huron Carol,” a tune written by a French Canadian missionary in the 1600s. More details here. I played fretless bass on the tune (from the 3rd verse on).

You can hear Scott’s version of the Huron Carol here.

Here’s what Scott has to say about the project (warning… gear-nerd talk ahead):

I heard the melody for this song on a Dan Gibson ‘Solitudes’ CD that my parents gave to me.  I don’t believe I had ever heard it before that.  It is a haunting melody (my favorite carols are those in minor keys – suits the crummy weather we have here in Michigan) and the backstory behind the song really intrigued me.  Bruce Cockburn has a webpage dedicated to the discussion of the song. I used his 1993 version of the song to help me with the pronunciation of the Huron lyrics.

I found a fairly easy arrangement of the song on Guitarnoise.com and used that for the classical guitar part. Even though it was an easy arrangement, I couldn’t play it without mistakes so I resorted to breaking it up into a bass and melody 2-part recording process. Both parts are “stereo” tracks where the left channel is the direct pickup and the right channel is my CAD M-177 LDC microphone. Once I had those recorded, then I corrected timing mistakes in my DAW software.

I then recorded the drums and electric piano parts. The drums are a very simple kick/snare/hi-hat part that has been processed with dBlue Glitch VST plugin and Bionic Delay. The electric piano part is a VST instrument called Mr. Ray’s (as in Ray Charles) 73 Mk II, from www.soundfonts.it. I put a chorus on it (charsiesis) to give it some movement.

The vocals were the hardest part for me, mainly to get timing and pronunciation done correctly for the triple tracking that I did (each vocal part was recorded 3 different times) using my CAD mic again. BTW, once I read Bruce Cockburn’s page on the song, I knew I wanted to sing the Huron lyrics and not the English lyrics — as the Huron is supposedly the original lyrics written by the French missionary so many years ago.

I think the reverb I used on the vocals was the Anwidasoft DX Lite reverb. There’s a synth flute/lead in there as well that I did using Camel Audio’s Cameleon 5000 VST instrument.

But it was still wanting – that’s where I was thinking of your fretless. I really appreciate you sending me the part.  I ‘fattened’ the tone with a freeware bass amp simulator VST called ‘Helian 2nd bass’ and also the Charsiesis chorus that I used on the EP.

I also really wanted to have a native american flute played. There’s a guy who hangs out at http://www.kvraudio.com who goes by the name VicDiesel who has done some early music pieces as demo songs with wooden recorders and whatnot, so I contacted him to see if he would record some native american flute for the song.  He didn’t have any that are in G, so he did wooden recorder instead. The parts are great and really could stand by themselves as a recorder ensemble.

Lastly, I used a couple of nature sound samples from the freesound project to fill out the nature aspect of the song (which is what I heard in the Dan Gibson CD mentioned at the top of the post).  The specific freesound filenames are included in the comments of the .mp3 file.

I stayed up way too late a few nights ago assembling all the parts to be able to mail it out in time for Christmas, and to enter it into the monthly song competition at www.kvraudio.com.

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5 Responses to “A Huron Carol”

  1. Andy, nice job on the posting and sorry for over-nerdifying the explanation of how I made the track! I really like the pop-up player you have on here. One of these days I’ll have to learn how to do that. Again, many thanks for lending your fretless to this song. Has me tempted to get out the pliers and yank the frets on my cheapo SX bass! -Scott

    • Are you kidding? Nerdfest is fine by me… thanks for giving me the opportunity to help out! When’s our pop EP coming out? :)

  2. What a delight to hear the timeless purity of this song. It’s hard to believe you guys can attest to (Scott) and discern (Andy) so many layers — it sounds natural, whole and beautiful to me. Ah, such is the plight for those who have musical sensibilities in our techno age. Great job . . . and thanks for the (indirect) Christmas gift.

  3. Andy,

    Just to let you know, I have posted this song to my public SoundCloud account.

    Maybe some folks will hear it in time for Christmas this year.

    -Scott

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