...5:30 AM on Wednesday, April 28th of
2004, and a crowd was forming around the basement studios
of WWUH Radio. Now it's very rare... in fact, virtually impossible...
that our studios are deserted at any time of day, but this morning
was a particularly busy one.
There were at least six people milling around.
Among them, the usual suspects for a Wednesday morning around
here. The Tuesday All Night Show host was wrapping things
up for her time slot, playing CD's on players that, after her
show, would not be used for another twelve hours. Ed McKeon was
in the wings, ready to step to the microphone and introduce Julee
Glaub, whom he had the privilege of hosting as his live guest
on the show that morning.
Less common at that hour were sound engineers
Kevin Lynch and Chris Larsen, unspooling wires and hooking up
multiple microphones in three of the four studio facilities we
have here in the Harry Jack Gray Center. Thursday morning FM on
Toast host River City Slim was standing by in anticipation. Short
minutes before six, Celtic folk vocalist and instrumentalist Glaub
appeared, tired but ready to perform at a time most people are
rolling out of bed.
At six o'clock, the microphones went live,
and the CD's, mini-discs, cart machines, cassette players and
turntables went silent. Then I talked. Then Ed introduced
Julee. Then we proceeded to spend twelve hours in the oh-so-fun
pressure cooker of completely live broadcasting. IT'S ALL
LIVE had begun!
Many of the best creative ideas can seem
the most simple. Back in 2003, our director of development Susan
Mullis suggested the idea of doing twelve ideas of completely
live programming as a special event. As he related on our website,
general manager John Ramsey "loved the idea, but at the same time...
had some concerns about whether or not we would be able to pull
off such a complex event."
He didn't for a second underestimate the
talents and energy of our volunteer staff. But while we had produced
literally hundreds of live shows over the years, most of them
were four-hours long at most. This event would be three times
longer, and would tax even a seasoned professional staff.
To be sure, the longest such event we tried
before was an epic production for the second "Folk Next Door"
concert. From the Wikipedia article on the event: "The 1993 concert
was to be an all-day affair, starting outside with a free concert,
with an evening paid event. Rain forced the event inside after
the third act and threw off the schedule till the concert ended
around 2 a.m. The... audience was not entirely awake by the end
of the affair, and on the way (they) lost a Chinese brother (a
member of the band "7 Chinese Brothers")."
A good portion of the show was broadcast,
but with recorded music and announcements filling out any gaps
in the show longer than 5 minutes. Ambitious for a community station,
yes, but It's All Live would be a bigger challenge still.
Without a live audience, but also without the opportunity for
"breaks" that could be filled by playing a tape or a disc of any
kind. Also, not every act would be as easy to accommodate as one
singer songwriter, or a string band with no drum kit or amplified
I.D.'s, public service announcements and
promos all came out of my mouth, leaving introductions of, and
interviews with, the talent to the day's regular Wednesday show
hosts (Ed, Bob Celmer, Mike DeRosa, Eugene Hazanov and David Buddington)
along with guest hosts (also including Steve Theaker, Dean Hildebrandt
and Will Mackey). Additionally, all the programming had to fit
into the regular programming style that a U-H listener could expect
to hear at various times between 6 AM and 6 PM on a Wednesday:
6-9am could only be folk music of various kinds; 9am - 12noon,
Jazz; From 1-4pm, programming had to be approved by Eugene Hazanov,
fitting his usual Ear Stretcher format; from 4-6pm, it had to
be live classical performances.
Of course, there was a good deal of co-operation
from the Wednesday show hosts and their genre peers, in order
to make room in that time to better showcase other musical ideas
and approaches featured on other shows on the station.
Ed's show began with vocalist Julee Glaub
(as noted before), then featured local singer/ songwriter favorite
Kate Callahan. Then, River City Slim and the Zydeco Hogs became
the first "big" act of the day, with the full band occupying our
largest studio in the rear of our space, and making sure that
none of us needed coffee to wake up at 7am. Folk Next Door
favorites, "The Roadbirds" featuring Patrick McGinley
and Jim Mercik were next, delivering a typically tasty acoustic
set. Then, rounding out FM on Toast were Nerissa & Katryna
Nields, who are regional folk legends by now with a decent worldwide
following (of course, WWUH had something to do with that, as far
back as 1992). Kevin Lynch, Jim Christensen, and Steve Theaker
co-anchored the show.
Bob Celmer's show began somewhat atypically,
with a set by the "New Farmington River Royal Ragtime Ramblers",
a Dixieland five piece. He followed that by hosting some student
ensembles, one of which featured near-future WWUH host Pete LeBlanc
on sax. The show ended with a set by singer Emma Walker with bassist
Mike DeRosa hosted an hour of live, in-studio
public affairs next with in-studio guests.
Eugene's Ear Stretcher began with
a set from burgeoning young singer/ songwriter Sonya Kitchell
and her Band, in a set that left quite an impression on us, a
full year before her debut on the NYC label, Velour Recordings
(her latest release is 2006's "Words Came Back to Me").
Kevin Lamkins came in to host local rockers
The Ders. The middle of the show featured a set, hosted by Geetanjali
host Monica, featuring Stan Scott, an associate professor at Southern
Connecticut State University and exponent of the Indian drone
instrument the tanpura, a sort of fretless sitar.
to Top of Page
Next, I had the pleasure of hosting local
duo, and great people, "The Sawtelles", Peter and Julie
Riccio whose small duo (with tint drum kit in tow) rocked the
main studio. But the loudest was yet to come. Rock mavens now
know the band "3" pretty well. Lead vocalist and guitarist Joey
Eppard is related to drummer Joshua Eppard of the slightly better
known Coheed and Cambria. Joey led his four piece through a loud,
rocking full hour of noise that, literally, knocked stuff off
of the studio walls. It was awesome.
We also had to commit to an otherwise "normal"
programming day. At or near the top of every hour, we had to broadcast
our call letters and the origin of our radio signal ("WWUH, West
Hartford"). We also had to read an average of two public service
announcements an hour.
Actually, reading all that stuff was my job.
It was fun being the Don Pardo to the station's SNL for 12 hours,
but it also required me to put together carefully worded copy
for all the Public Service spots, and, well, to do something special
with those breaks, if possible. Toward that end, I went shopping
for items with which to make interesting, if not strictly musical
noises: a ticking mechanical alarm clock; a train whistle; a light
bulb... Yes, a light bulb.
My partners in crime in arranging some of
these noises were Kevin Lynch and Chris Larsen. I had discussed
doing a parody of the Memorex "Is it live or is it Memorex" spots,
which usually involved the breaking of a wine glass, seemingly
through the fidelity of a recording of a human voice hitting a
high note. Now, I couldn't break glass with my voice, and the
rules of the day said we couldn't use a recording of any kind,
even if we could find one that we could engineer to shatter a
wine glass without cracking the windows of our studios. Also,
we couldn't get anyone to volunteer a wine glass. We could, however
break a light bulb. Carefully. The light bulb was chosen because
it would make a loud enough shattering sound, and could be thrown
with some accuracy at a hard target, like a cinderblock.
In order to achieve this in studio, we had
to lay down a large tarp in our largest studio, and to find a
handy cinderblock that was sitting in the back of the Harry Jack
Gray Center, near the dumpster. Next, I had to be decked out with
safety glasses and a long sleeved shirt and microphones had to
be situated to best capture the breaking glass sound. [see
Of course, we also had to set up my announcing mike, since
I would be reading my top of the hour announcements immediately
following the stunt.
photo for the bigger mess -- can you feel the excitement?
That was particularly fun, but what happened during
Evening Classics got downright uncanny. First, David Buddington
hosted the string duo, Alturas Duo performed. Faculty members
from Hartt School, Carlos Boltes and Scott Hill performed on guitar,
violin and the charango, a mandolin-like instrument with a small
hollow body and a long wide eight stringed neck. Now here comes
the weird part. Now former Friday Classics host Will Mackey
hosted a segment with Pamela Siskin and Natasha Ulyanovsky (currently
and respectively Cantor and Musical Director/ Organist for Congergation
Beth Israel in West Hartford). Natasha played a piano on this
occasion. They were to perform a piece which I have sadly forgotten
the name of, but they were in need of a sound that was present
in the orchestration, but had not been arranged for. Strangely,
that sound was to be made by an entirely appropriate and unplanned
for train whistle which I had picked up at a music shop the Sunday
before, with no real idea of how I could use it.
The twelve hours ended with more classical
performances from Katie Lansdale and, finally, the Judy Handler
and Mark Levesque Duo. The twelve hours ended at 6:00pm as Dave
Buddington played the first CD heard since early the previous
The hours were chock full of great music,
loud, live and soulful, live talk, shattering light bulbs and
events as close to serendipity as a meticulously planned radio
program can get. We launched a second It's All Live, which
I was unable to attend. Now, however, I understand we have another
one being arranged for Thursday, September 20.
At this writing, we are still arranging details.
I and my Culture Dogs co-host Sam Hatch are scheduled to do yapping
of some kind during the event. I'll try to go shopping for materials
for creating live Foley sounds in the meantime, and, with any
luck, I'll get to enjoy a lot of great live music and rock out
and accidentally make some music of my own. And break stuff.
see accompanying promo: It's