A really fun gig....

Discussion in 'Live Sound' started by Thomas W. Bethel, Apr 25, 2005.

  1. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    I did a live radio broadcast of the Mighty Wurlitzer Radio Hour yesterday afternoon. It is a program done on WCLV-FM in Cleveland and is done four times a year. It features, as you can probably guess, a 1928 Wurlitzer Pipe organ plus a grand piano that can be played from the organ console or by itself and lots of singers (and a tap dancer on some of the shows) It is done in a person's house where the organ is located and features mostly local talent. The organ is in the basement of the house and has large vents leading to the hall above where the program is done and where the console for the organ and the piano are located.

    The fun part for me was that it was done live, no retakes and no stopping for problems. To my knowledge it is one of the few shows that is done completely live and it was challenging to say the least.

    We do two run thoughts and setup is normally done the day before. Total time spent by me on the program was over 20 hours but it was worth it. We did the set up last Tuesday and went though a rehearsal with the talent. Yesterday (Sunday), the day of the broadcast, we did a complete timed run though before the show. We record all run thoughts for later editing and inclusion on a CD of the show.

    The house, when I arrived yesterday, had no electricity due to a freak late April snow storm that dropped lots of wet snow and took down lots of power lines. We got back the power but the ISDN line was having problems. It finally dropped out altogether and we found out that the radio station had lost power and their emergency generator had not come on line.

    Three minutes before the broadcast was due to start the radio station got their power back (YEA!) but the ISDN line was having problems so we had to use a backup ISDN line. I had to dial the Zephyr manually since the auto dial was set for the "normal " lines plus I was on my cell phone with the station's engineer and the talent needed to be kept informed of the situation. Talk about PRESSURE. We got on three minutes late but had no additional problems with the show. After the show ended so did all the ISDN lines to the radio station. WHEW!

    I used 12 microphones for the setup. 2 announce, 1 SFX, 1 Tap Dancer, 2 Piano, 2 Organ, 3 for the singers and soloist and 1 for audience reaction. Besides providing the feed for the radio station I also had to do the PA feed for the audience which was about 100 people. It was fun and a big challenge since this was the first time I had done the show live. The engineer, who was doing the show, moved with his family recently and I was contacted to do the program from now on. I used the former engineer's setup for this particular show but will be doing things differently in the future since some of the pickup of the singers was not optimal (IMHO)

    All in all a fun day but I am glad the next one isn't until July. Going and coming was not fun since the same snow that pulled the plug on the electricity was also all over the roads making them slippery slushy and not fun to drive on. The Ohio Department of Transportation got caught with their plows off the trucks and had to scramble to get the roads clean which they did not do until late in the afternoon. Since I had to be at the house at 9 am I beat all the plows to the roadways which was interesting to say the least.

    This show is broadcast live plus it is streamed over the internet at the same time and is heard in coutries around the world (or so the mail would indicate)

    All in all a fun gig and one that I get to repeat in July. Hopefully it will not snow (but this is Ohio after all so who knows). The Chirstmas show should be really fun.....as the house is in a remote setting and has only a gravel driveway to get to it.

    Oh well......
  2. JoeH

    JoeH Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    Wow, Tom...that's amazing! (Once again, you get my vote for most persistant and nice guy of the year award! :cool: :lol: )

    I saw those snowstorms on the news recently; little did I know that you were affected by it directly. I would have loved to have heard that kind of show, even on the web. (By all means, let us know the next time it airs, or streams on the web...)

    I really like working live; it's scary as hell, full of adrenaline, but you can't beat it for the "fun" factor. It goes out, and that's that.

    Your ISDN line story is very familiar. I'm sure you know the drill: Ya check the line a few days ahead of time, check the source & destination, even setting it up a few days early, put a 1k test tone on the line, etc. etc. (and of course, most remotes are done on NON-business days, so we've learned to have emergency contact numbers for Verizon's techs., etc.) Even so, there's always a good chance of something catastrophic happening in the last hour before the b'cast. Most line time is now scheduled with a computer (what isn't these days?) and so it's not all that unusual to have spotty service until right before the actual "rental" time.

    I did a big live broadcast about this time last year, with onsite video cam's to cue the announcer (offstage, in an iso room), multimics for orchestra, audience, choir and soloists, all of it mixed live and run through an ISDN line to the station. Verizon's techs did a lot of damage to the host church's existing computer line during the install (which made for a LOT of unhappy church members who were renting the church to us), and had a really scary-looking single (multi-conductor solid copper) wire line literally STRUNG across an alley and into (under) an old-fashioned residential windowsill. (The entire show relied on that stupid 50' length of non-shielded copper wire, "floating" outside of the window, down to the box in the alleyway....ugh!)

    The station's engineer (my contact & counterpart) showed up as planned, about an hour before the show, and for at least 20 minutes hit a wall in trying to get the previously "working fine" lines to talk to each other again. (I think he aged 5 years in the process!) but with about 10 minutes to go, we got dialed in (again) and got on the air. Gotta love it; no one knew but US that there was a problem. (The client was going bonkers on the 'live" aspect as it was...didn't need more from US to worry about before show time.....hehehe...)

    The BEST part is the exhilaration/exhaustion you feel when it's all over.....whooooooooeeeeee!

    Congrats on what sounded like a really interesting (and fun!) show. Hope to hear the next one, too.

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