How to create a choir of 30 voices... with just one person

Chart-topping producers Morgan & Pochin have come up with a novel solution to the fact that choirs simply haven’t been about to get together.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 10:05 am
Juliette Pochin

Haywards Heath-based James Morgan and Juliette Pochin have worked with artists from Alfie Boe to Sir Cliff Richard, Pete Townshend to the London Symphony Orchestra. They recently had a top five hit with The Poor Clare Sisters of Arundel.

But thanks to lockdown, they’ve been unable to work with any choirs.

So they have created Vocalise where James – who is also music director of the Brighton Festival Chorus – records multi takes of Juliette’s voice using software techniques in their home studio to create new choral reimaginings of famous classical pieces.

They are releasing them one single a month for a year, culminating in an album release in 2022.

The first single is based on Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata, though as James points out: “We’re not the first to use this glorious melody as a song. Billy Joel used it on his Innocent Man album in the 1980s.”

Juliette added; “We both love working with choirs but as that isn’t possible at the moment, it forced us to be more creative to find that lovely warm, emotional quality you get with a choir, but just using just one person’s voice.”

Listen here: https://vimeo.com/535824580/ed2b80dffaJames explained: “We couldn’t work with the choirs so we just decided that Juliette could be our choir with the technology that we had in the studio. We have a basic guide track, and she tends to start at the bottom and work up. We were not quite sure how it would work the first time, but obviously it is not really quite like a choir. It is the same voice in multiple versions rather than the voices of a group of disparate people, but it sounds very warm. In places we have got up to 30 parts. It sounds lovely. I think of it as an aural cuddle, warm and soothing.”

The months to come will see releases of instrumental classical pieces which you would not expect to hear vocalised – and also some pop songs given the Vocalise treatment. May brings Morgan & Pochin’s take on Pharrell Williams’ song Happy.

“So far we have done three or four, but they are going to be coming out throughout the year and the idea is that by the time we get to this time next year we will release it all as an album. Lockdown has not been a wholly positive experience for anybody, but it has given us time to do our own thing. And it has just really been good fun, answerable to no one.”

Juliette is a mezzo-soprano: “It is not the highest voice. She sings within her range, but she doesn’t have a bottom E flat so we use computer software to generate that. Her voice goes through the software programme to sound lower than she can… so it is all a mixture of her and some very clever software.”

Pathétique is available on all digital platforms. It also comes with a video – of multiple Juliettes.

“It involved a green screen and a lot of swearing… on Juliette’s part! It was very much Juliette’s department. She came up with the idea and then worked out how to do it afterwards!”

James and Juliette’s careers as producers and composers have led them to work for all the major record labels and with artists as diverse as Robert Plant and Dame Vera Lynn as well as on films including Quartet and concerts in the Royal Albert Hall.