For the first time ever, the Sunday Morning Gospel Concert fromthis year’s Harrietville estival was to be broadcast on WAMU’s legendary Bluegrass Country. WAMU is a major broadcaster of bluegrass in the Eastern USA and is a trailblazer of internet broadcasting. The station is owned by American University in Washington DC and broadcasts bluegrass round the clock on digital radio in Washington DC, on FM105.5 in Reston, Virginia, and on the internet on one of the world’s most listened-to internet stations, http://bluegrasscountry.org. WAMU has been broadcasting bluegrass for more than 40 years.
I asked Mike Kear one of the WAMU presenters to give us some insight into the concert. His story follows.
The original plan was to broadcast live over the internet but insurmountable technical issues required the concert be recorded and sent to WAMU to be broadcast on the ‘Open Mic’ program this week.
Presenting a live radio show presents 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 on the special requirements of a radio show and that they be prepared to play as soon as they are signaled, 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 such as 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 bandleader, 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 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 artist’s websites to see more about the artists they’re listening to.
Ian Fisk and Frances Kear were also taking photos, 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 fallback 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 bandleader 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 5th 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: Bluestone Junction , Heather Robin Mandich , Coolgrass , Hunter & Suzie Owens, the Nadine Landry Band , Karen Lynne , and Bluegrass Parkway – Mike Kear WAMU.
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.
WAMU is a major broadcaster of bluegrass in the Eastern USA and is a trailblazer of internet broadcasting. The station is owned by American University in Washington DC and broadcasts bluegrass round the clock on digital radio in Washington DC, on FM105.5 in Reston, Virginia, and on the internet on one of the world’s most listened-to internet stations, http://bluegrasscountry.org. WAMU has been broadcasting bluegrass for more than 40 years.