Ross Turner: “The NCH was a conduit that gave me a compass and a map”

by James Hendicott

Between 2014 and 2016, drummer and multi-instrumentalist Ross Turner was the artist in residence at the National Concert Hall. Turner was already in love with the building, a place he’d visited regularly all his life, and, during his time there, connected with its quieter corners. 

During that time, Turner also engaged with many of the musicians who passed through. Five years after that period ended, he finds himself releasing ‘In The Echo: Field Recordings From Earlsfort Terrace’, in which he reveals some of the subtle, atmospheric pieces of music he worked on at the time. The resulting record features some modern greats of the Irish music scene: Lisa Hannigan, Conor O’Brien (of Villagers), Paul Noonan (of Bell X1), Katie Kim and Lisa O’Neill, with a focus very much on collaboration, and exploring the NCH’s atmosphere.

“I was keen to utilise my time as creatively as possible whilst situated in the National Concert Hall and how I might document that time in a memorable way,” Turner explains. “I set about trying to involve the building, the architecture itself. The idea to record remotely or ‘field record’ was inspired by hearing music travel throughout the building each time I passed through it.” 

“The variety of sounds produced by orchestras, choirs and soloists rehearsing throughout the building travelled naturally due to the marbled hallways and stairwells. It was beautiful. Once I had the idea in my head that I should document that sounds and spaces I set about formulating a plan and who might be interested and interesting to have involved.”

“It was pretty tricky logistically. From approaching the artists to getting people in the same room took time and patience. Finding quieter moments to record around the building was a factor also. The building was a conduit which gave me a compass and a map in a way. I had expressed the intent of the album to the artists but it was a singular experience for them. As the recordings were made one by one, I could hear it take shape and offer much more than I had hoped for.”

The reality of the record, which fell through an initial intended release at the time of its recording, has a real sense of when and how it was recorded, something Turner was very happy to place at the forefront. 

“It was a really unique project and very much based in documenting a time and a place,” he says. “Generally the cyclical nature of recording and touring can structure how we work but this, as I hoped it would, potentially offered an opportunity for the musicians and myself to do something spontaneous and abstract.”

“Paul [Noonan] and Roger [Moffatt]’s collaboration was a good example of the kind of crossovers that were produced. Roger was the percussionist in the NSO at the time, so he was a local in a sense. Paul loved the idea of taking one of his songs and running it through Roger’s musicality and arsenal of percussion instruments.” 

“Roger had mapped out melodic and harmonic elements of Paul’s song and then they collaboratively translated that through instrumentation. It was an incredibly fun and productive day. Each musician on the album in their own right has an approach and a ‘discipline’, so to set the task of finding a sweet spot in how people work was challenging and brought a sense of exploration to the recordings.”

‘In The Echo’ is out on September 30.

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