For the first time ever, the Sunday Morning Gospel Concert from Harrietville is to be broadcast on WAMU’s legendary Bluegrass Country. The original plan was to broadcast live by a digital connection over the internet but the technical issues involved with getting a reliable ADSL line from Harrietville proved insurmountable, so the concert was recorded and sent to WAMU over the internet to be broadcast in the “Open Mic” program slot this week.
Presenting a live radio show represents quite a few challenges that don’t impact on a normal studio-based show. For example, getting bands on and off the stage quickly without having ‘dead air’ required quite a lot of planning. I selected the bands for the show carefully, and put them in a sequence in the show taking account of the way the bands normally behave when they come on stage. We allowed for the different mic setups of the bands, so they could have their normal configuration and feel comfortable on the stage.
Before the bands came on stage, they were briefed by Jacinta Connery back stage about the special requirements of a radio show – that they be ready to play as fast as possible, that they should be prepared to play as soon as they are signalled, even though I might still be talking, and that I might want to talk to the band leader about some aspect of the music.
It is important in a radio show to avoid gaps in the content. Listeners don’t want to wait listening to bands checking their tuning and getting mics set up and adjusted etc. So when the bands came on stage, I had a fill-in of some kind – a live read of a promotion for WAMU, or some other spoken content – a joke or an interview with someone at the festival - and told the bands to make sure the band leader was set up first. Then I could talk on the air with the band leader, while the rest of the band got their mics set up. A couple of questions to the band leader about a new CD or something and when I saw the rest of the band was ready to go, I introduced them and they started playing.
Every song that is played on the radio must be logged to ensure the correct royalty is paid to songwriters, so it was essential to get this information from the performers while it was still fresh in their minds. So I had an Doug Richardson meet them as they came off stage and make a list of all the songs they’d sung, and the author information. This was also used to make the playlist on our show’s web site at http://atalkingdog.com so listeners on the internet can click on the artist’s link and go to the artists’s websites to see more about the artists they’re listening to.
Ian Fisk and Frances Kear were also taking photos of the performers as they sang, so I could put images from the concert on the show’s web site, for listeners to see the scene as the show progressed. I think it’s important to give listeners a choice of something to look at while they’re listening, to make the whole thing as ‘real’ and as ‘close’ as possible.
One guarantee of every live show is that something’s going to go wrong. The only trouble is, you never know what that’s going to be. I planned for as many different disaster scenarios as I could imagine, with fall-back strategies in every case. I was confident that when we started the show, every possibility was taken care of. Little did I know! As it turned out, there was a 20 minute gap where 2 bands didn’t make it on the Sunday morning. One because a band member was ill, and another because the band leader was called away on Saturday night by a family emergency. We learned with about 10 minutes to go that there was no band to follow the break at the half way point Jacinta Connery proved to be even more resourceful than I had imagined. She raced off and found Nadine Landry, from the Hungry Hill band, having breakfast. Hungry Hill weren’t scheduled to be in the Gospel Concert, because they had plenty of other commitments during the day. But Jacinta persuaded Nadine to leave her breakfast and come to the back stage area with minutes to spare. Jacinta thrust a guitar into Nadine’s hands, gathered some other pickers around, appointed them the title of the Nadine Landry Band, and pointed them towards the stage saying “SING! SING!” And it’s to Nadine’s credit that with seconds to prepare, she supplied a terrific set with a band she didn’t know until walking on stage with them. Nadine stood there on the stage looking a bit perplexed, getting a big laugh from the audience saying “I don’t know why I’m here – I only came out to get some breakfast!” The laughter was louder from backstage, where we knew the whole story.
The show will be broadcast in BluegrassCountry’s “Open Mic” program slot 4 times during the week of 5 December to a very large worldwide audience of bluegrass fans, who for the first time ever will get to hear some of the best Australian acoustic gospel music. Bands appearing in the show are:
Times for the Open Mic show are as follows: (AUST Eastern Daylight Time): Sat 10pm, Mon 9pm, Thurs 7pm, Sat 10am Or (US Eastern Time): Sat. 6 a.m., Mon. 5 a.m., Thurs. 3 a.m., Fri. 6 p.m.
You can see a gallery of photos from the concert at our flickr page