For the fifth day of KEXP's remote CMJ broadcast from Cutting Room Studios in New York City, we moved over from their main studio to the smaller, more intimate "Studio B" to record the final three of the week's 15 sessions. When you've been gone so long in a remote setting, have already seen a dozen bands, and are winding down on the last day, you're just hoping for a quiet end to the week. But then we met Jannis Noya Makrigiannis and Caecilie Trier from Choir of Young Believers.
I wasn't sure how many people were in this "choir," or even how the many voices on the album would translate to live radio, but I was pretty sure that more than two were required — even though that's about all that would fit in this space anyway. As the duo warmed up on cello, guitar and two mics, I could already tell that something special was about to happen. But nothing prepared me for the four songs they would perform live on KEXP.
From beginning to end, Makrigiannis' vocals were in perfect harmony with the music. It wasn't hard to compare him to Jim James of My Morning Jacket or Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes. The 10 people in the control room all fell silent with jaws dropping, and the owner of the Cutting Room and I sat there lost in the songs, trying to hold back tears from the utter beauty of what we were hearing. The smaller studio turned out to be a blessing: It picked up every bit of noise they made, from the haunting sound of Makrigiannis backing away and singing a few feet from the mic to even the slightest whisper in the words and music.
Afterward, emails came flooding in from listeners all over the world, as well as from our staff back in Seattle. We all recognized that this moment was special, and exactly why we go on the road and capture live music in the first place. In my 10 years of witnessing probably thousands of in-studio performances, this ranks up with the very best of them. If you can catch Choir of Young Believers live, do so. If you get to see the band in a tiny space or venue, consider yourself unbelievably lucky.