Jocelyn Mackenzie. Photo courtesty of Tea and Brie dot com
An email from Jocelyn Mackenzie to EHP, sent February 1st.
My dear Emily,
I have a special project that I’d love to have your help on if you desire and/or have some time. You can use it for your 365 if you want to, or not (if I’m singing I don’t know if that counts!), but I’d like to record a old standard… It’s called “How Deep is the Ocean,” by Irving Berlin, written in 1932.
The story is that my Aunt Lucy (great Aunt, really) used to sing that song to me all the time when I was little. It’s a beautiful song. It’s always been kind of “our song,” in a way, and we still sing it to each other over the phone sometimes and write the lyrics out in cards we send to each other. She was a huge part of my childhood, and I always referred to her as my “surrogate grandmother…” she practically raised me right alongside my parents. She was always so strong, smart, and fiery… always told me how important it was to love myself for who I was and to explore everything I wanted to be. However, she has been sick for a long time and recently was admitted into the hospital for pneumonia. Considering her age and condition, something drastic like this could potentially take her at any time, and it would really mean a lot to me to record this song for her as soon as possible.
I love you so much, and I’m so grateful you’re my friend.Love, j
UPDATE FROM JOCELYN: I heard from my uncle John last night, Lucy’s amazingly caring and supportive husband, and he let me know that the doctors have treated the pneumonia successfully and that now she’s in a rehabilitation center! Basically they’re getting her on her feet again, which is great news. But now I’m especially glad we can do this song together… as it’s important to me to show her how much I love her right now. Thank you so much, Emily Hope Price!
Recording: Joc arrived at my house at about 7:00. I spent about an hour beforehand listening to the Nat King Cole Trio’s version of this song. When I die, I hope they let me into Heaven, because I know Nat King Cole will be singing me all the way there. I transcribed the chords they used there mostly, but making simple adjustments, as this is basically a jazz trio. Joc and I talked about the feel she wanted for this song and if she had any other requirements as it is essentially a gift. There really weren’t a lot of demands, so we just tried a few things. We first tried bells, but ended up on cello. I had an idea earlier in the day to do a cello ensemble arrangement for it and have it ready for her to sing over when she got to my house, but, yeah right, that would be planning ahead, and why would I do that? But, I made an executive decision to do the 4 part cello ensemble, with a prayer and a wish that it would work to our advantage.
I was unfamiliar with this song before we started, so this proved to be interesting and a little challenging. I started recording the 4 cello parts at around 8 pm and finished them at 9. I did not do a formal arrangement of this, which is why you’re hearing occasional” mistakes” or “bad part writing”. This was, at its essence, just improvisation- following the chords, and playing melodies that just came. Sometimes I got lucky, sometimes I didn’t and I’d either have to start over or just live with it. I was trusting that Jocelyn’s vocals would also cover any problems. Punching in can be so frustrating when you’re recording. After I finished recording the cello parts, Joc listened to make sure it all made sense to her. The emphasis on this project was to do something unique, but keep the melody familiar so her Aunt could recognize what it is.
I really wanted to try her vocals out in the hallway of my building similar to I Only Have Eyes For You, so we moved everything outside my door and got 2 takes of Joc singing. Being in Pearl and the Beard, I get to hear Joc sing all the time, and it is a total pleasure. She has such a unique and beautiful quality to her voice that I often envy. In the performance of these vocals, it became overwhelming for her the second time through; you can tell this song is emotionally challenging to sing for her in general, but you can hear at the very end, she gives in a little which I (maybe a little selfishly) loved that we captured. It makes it so real.
EHP and JM: This was taken September of 2008 at a PatB Boston show. Oh, how youth does pass us by...
Frustrations: I recorded all the cello parts in the bathroom. You know, I haven’t liked any of the tracks I’ve ever recorded in the bathroom (there is a song I did there, It Won’t Be Long, (Funny. I cried in that one, too.) but it was a frustrating experience with decent results). It just has this weird vibe, and the sound is so hard to make clean and nice. And I have a tiny bathroom! Shouldn’t that be the perfect place? Even after I line the walls with towels and close the shower curtain I still dislike the sound. If anyone could explain the physics to me on this, I’d be interested. And is the crappiness of the recorded sound why I had such a totally awful time mixing this? I could never get the vocals just slightly above the cello, and the cello seemed to boom no matter what I did. So, I’m leaving it as it is, hoping only partially that you’re not a sound engineer, but hoping that a little so you might tell me something genius. That’s why you’re here, right?
I really enjoyed working on this song. This kind of multi-track, cello ensemble arrangement work I did here is a lot like the what I used to do more in Salt Lake City, and not so much here in NYC. I wonder why. I do wish I had been a bit more thorough with the part writing for today, but as we were on borrowed time, I think what we got is okay. It can always be better, and it will get better.
I’m happy your Aunt is doing better! Let me know what she thinks of the song, Joc!
I am falling asleep as I type this… Good night to you!
How Deep Is The Ocean – Irving Berlin (arr. Emily Hope Price, vocals Jocelyn Mackenzie)
How much do I love you?
I’ll tell you no lie
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?
How many times a day do I think of you?
How many roses are sprinkled with dew?
How far would I travel
To be where you are?
How far is the journey
From here to a star?
And if I ever lost you
How much would I cry?
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?