How it came to be
In the summer of 2012 Tony Jillson was contacted by Cynthia's mother, Jude Elbaum. Jude and her partner Tristram Metcalfe were working on a short film about Cynthia with videographer Kaitlin O'Shea. Jude wanted to know if Tony and his wife Martha Lively were willing to be interviewed for the project, as they both knew Cynthia since childhood, and had continued to keep in contact with her.
Jude also asked Tony if he would create some music for the short film, which was to be shown at that year's Ashfield FilmFest. He agreed and spent parts of August and September working on the music.
He recorded that music himself at his home studio, Ratite Studios. Some parts were played 'live' and some of it was played with sampled instruments.
The film showed at the FilmFest, and won grand prize. The music was also well-recieved. This got Tony to thinking about taking this music project further, and developing it into a full-fledged album.
This music was a departure in style and tone from his previous albums. The compositions relied heavily on Strings, and he wanted to record them with live musicians. He approached a local cellist, whose string trio also happened to have a piece in that year's FilmFest. Discussions were had, and the trio agreed to record.
Time to Remodel
At the same time as all of this, Tony was in the middle of remodeling his studio. Built in 2000, the studio had two rooms, a 'Play' room and a 'Control' room. It was finished to a point and used to record several albums and smaller projects. It also served as his studio for graphics and video production.
Over the years as work evolved, it became clear that certain refinements needed to be made. Chief among these were a dedicated, sound-proofed vocal booth, as voice-overs, poetry readings and books on tape are a good portion of the studio business. Money was squirreled away, designs were drafted, and audio consultants were hired.
Included in the final renovations are the custom built vocal booth, sound treatments on the walls and ceilings, new floors and trim, window treatments, all doors rebuilt, and new paint job. Design and carpentry was done by Tony, with Martha assisting on the painting.
Picking up where we left off
As the studio was remodeled over Fall 2012 - Winter 2013, the string trio had disbanded, and the cellist became unavailable for the recording project. Luckily another talented Ashfield cellist, Daniel Plane, was available and able to step in to the project.
A violinist was also needed. As luck would have it, a talented player by the name of Kelley Halloran showed up to jam at a party Tony's cover band Benny Lava was playing. Ms. Halloran is originally from Shelburne Falls, but spends most of her time touring and living in Florida and New York City.
The recording starts
Over the summer, Tony fleshed out and recorded his parts for two pieces: 'For Cynthia' and 'The Phone Call'. The first String sessions got underway in December 2013, attended by Daniel and Kelley.
In March, Daniel recorded the 'Solo Cello 1' piece.
More music please and tune that piano while you're at it
More pieces were needed for the album, and over the winter the remaining pieces were written. Tony also recorded his prepared piano pieces, 'Stargazing: Prelude' and 'Stargazing: Postscript'. The piano in the studio is a lovely 100+ year old George Steck baby grand. It does not hold a tuning very well, so Tony had to learn piano tuning. This is not an easy task and best left to the professionals.
The additional pieces were written, but alas, Kelley Halloran became unavailable, as she was on tour on a cruise ship in the Carribean. Thus began the search for another violinist. Through more good luck, Tony eventually found the Valley's Joe Jewett. He was able to step and rescue the sessions with some incredible work, in particular on the difficult 'Grozny' piece.
Finalizing the CD
With all recording done, Tony spent spring and summer finishing up the project. He mixed, mastered, created the artwork and uploaded the project to CDBaby / DiskMakers. He also contacted Panos Pictures, who holds the rights to the photos of Cynthia in Chechnya, the last photos taken of her. They graciously have allowed me to use the pictures.
Now for the Hard Part
With the disk done, next steps are letting people know about the CD, getting them to buy it, and perhaps put on a performance.
The website has been overhauled and updated with the new section on this project.
A grant has been applied for through the local Cultural Council to fund a performance of this work. Please check this website for future developments.