Dr. Rick Hoffenberg has been performing music for most of his life, captivating audiences with live performances across the country. Now, with a new album of choral music, Dr. Hoffenberg—who is also Director of Choral Activities and Associate Professor of Music in Marywood's Music, Theatre, and Dance Department—has found a fresh way to reach those audiences.
"I wanted to choose challenging music...music that would show off the range of the chamber singers," says Dr. Hoffenberg. "I really wanted this [project] to be the best representation of what the chamber singers could do."
It all started when Dr. Hoffenberg returned from a concert tour of California in May 2010. Armed with selections from the choral repertoire, he rushed his group into the studio for a series of recording sessions that would span two days.
"I scheduled the sessions immediately after the tour to California," says Dr. Hoffenberg. "By the end of a tour, a group is performing at its best. The music has been well-rehearsed and well-performed, and the performers are very confident."
Dr. Hoffenberg says he incorporated many of the songs in live concerts that would eventually end up on the album, so that the group would have performance experience behind them.
Recording an album is different from preparing for a series of concert performances. While performing "live," a group or performer may surrender polished sound for excitement and energy. In a studio recording, performers must do both—focus on delivering polished sound and create energy. Without an audience, Dr. Hoffenberg's 18-member choral group had to build energy from within while recording Hear My Prayer.
"There are some challenges to recording a CD that you don't face while performing," says Dr. Hoffenberg. "While performing a concert, you have an audience to get you excited and revved up. When recording, you just show up. No one is there, and you have to face the prospect of singing into an empty venue for six or seven hours. It is tough to get your adrenaline going for that."
What is more, Dr. Hoffenberg says that the recording sessions were long, and, in his words, "pretty grueling." The group had to pace themselves, and, when singers became fatigued, they either took a break or called it a day.
After months of preparation and two days of recording, Dr. Hoffenberg and his chamber singers produced a 17-track album that includes a broad range of choral music, including complex vocal jazz arrangements, standards, and some contemporary music.
"I hope that in 50 years—if I am still doing what I am doing—I am still learning new things," Dr. Hoffenberg said. "Being able to make music collaboratively is one of the most exciting things I do. I love working with a group of eager, ambitious student musicians who have the same musical goals that I do. It never gets any less exciting to me."