I was thrilled when Jim asked me to transcribe and re-orchestrate the "Barcelona" album. As someone who grew up the the sounds of Queen, and has spent many happy hours listening to the extraordinary vocal talents if Freddie Mercury I feel honoured to be involved in bringing this unique album back into the spotlight with a fresh musical perspective.
The first task was to transcribe a skeleton score of the synthesised orchestration that Mike Moran and Freddie had recorded for the original album, basically listening to the album over and over again in short sections and noting down the harmonic structures, lead orchestral lines and instrumental voicings along with the vocal lines. I then printed off a blank template score and proceeded to expand the short score I had made into a full symphonic orchestral score (with a 2B pencil, ruler and eraser - the old fashioned way!) working at the piano and constantly referring back to the original recordings to ensure the work I was doing remained faithful to Freddie and Mike's original intentions.
As well as drawing on my classical training, I also referred to (amongst others) Rimsky Korsakov's treatise on orchestration, as well as studying various orchestral scores (including Tchaikovsky's 4th symphony, Scheherzade and Dubussy's La Mer). It was important to me that the re-orchestration was constructed and voiced in an authentic classical style whilst remaining faithful to the sound world of the original album.
I remember feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement when I made the short walk from the hotel to the studio on the morning of the first orchestral session in Prague. Hearing just over 80 people tune up before striking the first notes when the conductor gives their first downbeat is always slightly nerve racking for an arranger, but these feeling were amplified ten fold because of my knowledge, respect and admiration of the original album and its creators.
I'll never forget the wave of emotion that hit me later on that day when Kris handed me the headphones while we were recording one of the tutti sections from "The Fallen Priest" (which was incidentally the biggest and most challenging orchestration to complete) and I felt the sheer power of the orchestra giving it their all, with Freddie and Monseratt souring over the top of it. That was the moment I knew that we were a part of something really special.
The other wonderful moment was when we recorded the live Japanese Koto in London onto "La Japonaise". Knowing Freddie's love of all things Japanese I couldn't help thinking how much he would have enjoyed hearing this instrument, rarely heard or recorded in Britain, being played on one of his songs.
Although the syth koto sound used on the original recording worked extremely well, the real koto now adds a truly authentic flavour of the Orient..
Stuart Morley May 2012
Orchestrations "Barcelona" – The Special Edition