A Music Director's Epic Tale: Les Miserables

Chapter 6 : Bringing The Music To Life

6.5 - Transferring To MIDI Maestro

After the setup of the tracks in Cubase (patch assignments, tempos, volumes) was complete for a specfic song, it was exported from Cubase as a Type 2 MIDI file (so that all MIDI tracks in the song were retained as separate tracks). This MIDI file was then imported as a song into MIDI Mastro. A MIDI Maestro "set" was created for the show so that all the songs were in show order.

The patch assignments for each track were checked against my master list. I then added a new MIDI track for each synthesizer. These tracks were the MIDI Program Change controls. This is how the different "multi" patches would be called up properly on each MIDI device. For example, one of the tracks would be called "XV5080" and it would send a program change command to the XV5080 synth on channel 15 (which I had set to receive program change commands) with the MSB/LSB combination for the specific multi for that song. The beauty of this is that whenever a song is called up in MIDI Maestro, all program changes are sent to all synths and the correct multis are immediately brought up and initialized, ready to play.

After that, I went over the score and ensured any vamps and other cues were put into place. In "Les Mis", there are several places where a fermata occurs (or a sforzando chord is struck), followed by a recitative line sung by a character. If a prerecorded audio track is used, the fermata is a fixed length. So the singers have to adjust their style to match the prerecorded audio. Any slight deviation causes things to sound very contrived. Sometimes the prerecorded tracks are recorded a little too fast, and you really can't slow them down. With MIDI Maestro, a specific fermata cue can be added. Thus, the chord is struck and then held until the signal to continue is given via MIDI controller command. This allows the singer the complete liberty of singing and not needing to worry about "fitting" into the recording.

MIDI Maestro has a "skip" cue and one clever use of that cue is to put it at the very end of a song, with zero length. This allows MIDI Maestro to immediately move to the next song in the set list. There are several direct segues from one song to the next, and this lets it all happen automatically and in the exact same way from show to show.

In other cases, a manual pause was needed to be placed in between two measures. For example, you can't rush on after "On My Own" because the audience will be wildly applauding for Eponine! This allows the MD to gauge the fall of the applause and begin the next song at just the right moment. Another place where the pause is very helpful is in "Bring Him Home". There is a four-measure startup, and then the music pauses for Valjean to sing the first two words ("God on"). The restart command can be pressed the instant Valjean sings the third word ("high") and again, the actor's ability to be expressive with his start to the song is not compromised.