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  • Writer's pictureNMS

REVERB, SHIMMER, KURT BROWNING et al

Updated: Oct 19, 2022

A question about ambience sparks some reflections from long ago and reminds me how I made a memorable contribution to World Champion Kurt Browning's career.



THE BRITISH ICE DANCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

I first visited to watch as my mother and father trained their Ice Dance charges from the amazing academy they had built in Altrincham Ice Rink. I then skated many times in the British Ice Dance Championships at Nottingham Ice Stadium in England.


After each Championship I would go up the stairway and stand in the empty Arena. I loved the atmosphere for some reason. I have never wondered why before today. Then a friend questioned me on it. It prompted my NICKSTIR to a lyric - CROWDS GONE. It also prompted some stories to come to mind.


ACOUSTICS

I grew up ice dancing, I didn't realise then that Ice Rinks are in many ways acoustic nightmares with a hard floor that sound bounces off and irregular shaped domed tops and sides.

So to project sound for a concert is extremely difficult. Why? Well because the sound you project from speakers is bounced around. The audience can then hear a muffled result. This is when you're hearing different bits of the source sound many times slightly offset from one another. in particular the bass can be a problem with reverb.


I experienced this scenario here in Kelowna a week ago at a concert. It's a 6,000 seater arena. We had Muddy Sound, couldn't hear what the singer was singing. But then, buy better seat tickets and you'll be closer to the front Slater - indeed. That might do it. or fill speakwers would have helped, but then rigging and hiring costs go up.


SHIMMER

Whilst this reflection of sound for a band can be awful, for a single instrument like a piano is brilliant. Why so? Well you get lots of echoes and reverberation all over the place. Some echoes are long some shorter, they layer. All this mixes in the air. It creates, for me, a beautiful ambience. Music Producers and performers introduce Shimmer to create this type of effect. I think it's becasue there isn't so much noise as a rock band creates, for example. There is more clarity i the first instance and the variance of resonance that occurs adds to the overall sound making it bigger.


SUSIE ON GOLDEN POND

I'm reminded of being in Northern Ireland at an Ice Arena we were doing a show in I was producing. My we had some tales from that one. But - the point is - Susie Jackson was out on the ice in her lovely white skating outfit as a Swan.


She was skating to the music On Golden Pond. A Piano piece. Before we brought the single spotlight up on her I went out with a little smoke machine and skated around her imitating the quack quack of a duck. Susie just about managed to get over her giggles as the music started, spotlight gently opened and she skated a breath taking routine. Reverb tails everywhere adding to the atmospherics. i didn't know it then I just appreciate the sound, adn the beautiful skating of course.


OH I REMEMBER

Oh yes and Kurt Browning and Co stitched me up at that event. I started my Charlie Chaplin routine (which I skated in oversized ice hockey boots to make it more difficult to skate nicely ) by opening my huge Learn To Skate Prop book.


On this particular evening, as I did so, there before me were pictures of scantily clad young ladies! Not what was there before!!! The TV station cameras were looking over my shoulder as I considered whether to show these to the audience - which was what I normally did. I decided perhaps not. Thanks chaps.


MY CONTRIBUTION TO KURT BROWNING'S CAREER


Kurt Browning is a four times World Champion. But what you may not know is that it was my intervention that provided a key career moment to help him fully realise his potential.

Hey Kurt I saw you a few weeks ago skating here in Kelowna young man, great fun show, loved the Spanish routine. Brilliant to keeo it going when the music stopped fice minutes fro the end. Made the night.


Anyway, as Kurt finished his routine that fatal evening I just thought he was perhaps getting a touch into believing his own publicity.


Kurt Browning was and is a star, his Singing In the Rain on ice one of the finest performances of ice theatre I have ever seen. And he's a throughly nice guy.

But, back then, I just sensed he was starting to believe that he was great. Sometimes it happens, your family isn't around to smack you back in to shape, or you just start to feel pretty cool about yourself. It can be fine and it can also have EGO get in the way of greatness. I lost a beautiful girlfriend to my enlarged cranium after winning the Junior World Championship way back when. Silly boy I was. Anyway, I had to do my part, and he had turned me over with the others with my Learn To Skate book sabotage.

So, I skated out onto the ice after he had finished his routine. His bows saying I'm great, you're great, to the ecstatic audience went on a while, they loved him. He turned to leave and skate off...


Timing is everything and he skated quickly off and then turned his head to his direction of travel...

Those of you who know Kurt's style will imagine him skipping over the ice, as he does. Well he skipped and... as his head turned he was presented, by me, with a huge bucket of ice cold water... Perfect angle, perfect timing...


I wonder if he still remembers?


I therefore take full credit for all of Kurt's future achievements as I kept his feet firmly on the ground with that timely intervention!


BACK TO REVERB

Today as I make music I am reminded of that reverb fascination I have. I had an album of my songs made in 2016 but, I didn't know I wanted that ambience and I didn't know the right pitch for my voice. So thirteen fantastically arranged and recorded tracks sit dormant right now.


I now seek to replicate this Ice Rink sound on tracks I produce with minimal instruments. The reverbs become instruments in themselves. I think it's beautiful.

THAT AMBIENCE - AFTER THE SHOW?

After an event I love to stand in an arena. I love something of the ambience and the energy. Something causes me to enjoy being there. But I've never thought on why?


It prompted me to step back into Nottingham Ice Stadium. A small, by today's standards, ice arena that seated 3,000 (OK 2,800) people.



Glass taken out for figure skating events. Back when I skated I think they had nets... Yes it was a while ago!

NOTTINGHAM ICE STADIUM

Nottingham was the Annual Mecca for British Ice Dancers. The British Ice Dance Championships were held there in November each year. There was a practice on Saturday morning, compulsory dances (3). I think the Original Dance and Free Dance in the evening. It was a great day. We thought nothing of doing the Championship in a day, eventually at Europeans and Worlds it would be over three days spread out. Much harder for me. Like three separate events.


I went as a boy every year from the age of ten I think, as my parents were coaches. They had skated there and been British Ice Dance Champions something like ten years before.



Christopher Dean and Jayne Torvill line-up with contestants before they start their defence of the championship title at Nottinghams Ice stadium in 1979. From left to right: Mark Reid, Carol Roughton, John Philpot, Carol Long, David Buckingham, Daphne Cronhelm, Nicholas Slater, Karen Barber, Chris, Jayne, David Dagnall and Denise Bent.


Ha - my son comments, Daddy you were so small compared to the other guys. I know. 'If my legs had been longer,' I repost. 'La la' says Christiane my wife - 'heard it all before.'


At least I was tough though, no tracksuit for me...

A RITUAL MOMENT

Every year I would go and stand by the barrier after the event had finished. There was always a small party in the Bar at the end of the rink overlooking the ice. I'd join that later.


But I liked to just be in the arena after the audience had left. An audience who would sit in the same seat every year meeting friends once a year. It was a 3,000 person community. It was magical.


Britain had for many years led the world in Ice Dancing and still produced the top of the world now battling with the Russians, who our coaches had helped give insights to! The Cold War was on. International Skating Judging based on East or Western Block prominence of a nine judge panel.


Memories prompted by a question about ambience, plus a poem / lyric from NICKSTIR that one day will be a song that reflects that time.


Thank you Glen for the prompt...






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