Thursday, 31 August 2017

Happy First Birthday Anker Folk

         I know it's gone very quiet on here lately, and I apologise to Mac Awe On Tour Blog regulars for that. But I've been very busy trying to cobble together some live recordings of local artistes ready for Anker Folk's First Birthday Show on September 4th. A two hour special in which we hoped to demonstrate to listeners  how many talented performers there are living or operating in the Nuneaton area. (I do not doubt for one moment that I failed to capture them all). 
Anker Folk's John and Geoff
       As an experiment, Anker Radio's John Goodman and NFC's Dave Smart collaborated at The Crown on August 2nd, recording each act who appeared there during the Folk Club night. This included Brian Phillips, John Neal, Terry and Jan Wisdom ,Paul Moore, Nunc and Glyn Finch. This came out as unmistakably "live" with some clapping,some off the cuff introductions and audience singing. It sounds as if they are far away at the bottom of the stairs, but they are definitely singing. 
     Later, we added to that, a cache of material recorded in what John Goodman calls "The Live Lounge." upstairs at Anker Radio. You can see Paul Moore recording there in the picture below. The equipment used was a mix of Anker Radio and NFC gear. It was set up by Moz who does a lot of the OB stuff with Anker. John drove proceedings from the desk.
John Neal considers jumping, as Paul salutes his Hometown
      Surrounded by giant Teddy bears,some large settees, a spaghetti of cables and collected jumble sale material,we gathered each evening, at the top of Floor 4 of The George Eliot Maternity Block in the company of some fine strolling players. With the best and most beautiful panoramic views over Nuneaton spread out before us, we gathered there to harness all this raw talent and capture the magic forever. 
      John Neal swanned in and recorded two songs in one take-despite some off-mike heckling.  John Kearney did the same. ( And also recorded "Di Di The Ice Cream Man" with some other old bloke). David Parr contributed a couple of tracks with little trouble,as did Dragonhead. Not everyone achieved that high standard,however. Paul Moore popped "Nobody Knows You" away easily enough, but then fought a battle royal with his guitar over."Hometown Blues." Matt Mallen Allen had a few issues with his guitar break in "Head Rush" and forgot the words. It's his own song. 
Matt Mallen Allen.
                     Sally Ann Veasey had chosen to wear a huge accordion the size of a Smeg refrigerator and although it sounded beautiful, it had her over a few times. Where she lay prostrate,like a stranded turtle,unable to rise again without help. She was enveloped by the lush upholstery of a large settee whilst being embraced by a giant teddy, laughing hysterically until the more chivalrous among us helped her up again. Hubby Simon (he'll hate me using that phrase), ( Hubby. Hubby Simon. Hubby), just stared at her. He was troubled by the shape of his plectrum,the girth of his strings and the room temperature affecting the cadence of his top C. Both tracks from these two we eventually used, although,(giving nothing away) Simon holds the record for most takes of any one song. 
Sally-Ann before the Teddy incident 
                Through gritted teeth,The Wright Brothers,Chris and Max,airily flew on past all the tired old aviation jokes. They winged through two songs with soaring vocals which took flight. Dragonhead put down one traditional song and a Cajun one called "Diggy Diggy Lo" (which we thought might be the Finnish entry for next year's Eurovision Song Contest?).  
Wilbur and Orville flew through their songs
          My job at this time consisted mostly of smiling at people or meeting and greeting musicians in the Maternity Ward lobby downstairs. Then escorting them in the lifts up to the studios, whilst placating anxious Mums-to-be en route.  By explaining that those who were carrying instrument cases were not part of some weird new NHS initiative
            Sewing all the collected material together yesterday, did not go exactly to plan. A few "Crown" performances did not come out too well, due to what sounded like an outbreak of consumption in the auditorium and Gremlins. I had a long list of other prospective people I had hoped to record who were not at The Crown that night, but I forgot about the Festival Circuit. (Not ever having been a part of it). Several were away until the end of the month and we started to run out of  time up in "The Live Lounge."  
John Kearney. He wanted to be Bob Dylan.

         Luckily, all round good egg Malc Gurnham stepped in on Tuesday and hoovered up a few strays with some very nice recordings made in his home studio in Whitestone. Thanks to him we were able to add tracks from Sue Sanders,Katherine Fear, John and Elaine Meechan and Malc himself, singing with Gill Gilsenan. Ian Bourne, whose session I had completely b***ered up (along with that of K.C.Jones), also managed to record some tunes over in Hartshill and sent them over to me in MP3 format.  
        The date and time for recording editing and mixing all this material was Wednesday 30th August at. 5.30pm. The deadline for receiving and processing all the tracks and scripting them into a presentable two hour show was therefore realistically about noon the same day. Didn't happen. At 5pm yesterday I was still typing,chopping editing ,downloading, uploading and saving material.  We made it with seconds to spare. 
             Even then there were a few other logistical hurdles left to surmount. Anker Radio Studios at The Eliot have had a bit of an ICT makeover. When John Goodman and I met there, we found our usual studio was occupied. We relocated swiftly to another and found out after a few minutes that it did not want to play.Not on our terms, anyway.  Eventually we reclaimed our home one and with another crew coming in to broadcast a requests programme live at 9pm, our deadline was reduced even further.
      Both being consummate professionals however, this was not insurmountable. We had to reload everything and recheck running orders. When I say "we" I mean the Royal "We". My broadcasting role is simply to sit and look pretty and do my Whispering Bob Harris impersonation into the mike whenever the red light is on.. John's is to do everything else. His desk looked like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise  as his fingers flickered nimbly over the sliders and switches, faster than Rick Wakeman playing a solo. 
John and Geoff at the desks. Or decks. Whatever.
              Once under way, it became evident that some of the material collected was damn good. I began to feel like Alan C. Lomax, as I heard Dave Parr groaning soulfully about County Down from the wall mounted speakers. Or capturing John Neal's moving tribute to Leicestershire.  As we headed into the second hour, the most beautiful sunset imaginable spread across along and around the  Ridge Lane Sierra. It was a poetic moment . Most people who live in Nunny have not seen how the town sits,in a basin, surrounded by hills. It could have been Heidelberg or Wernigerode. An omen, perhaps. 
Mr. David Parr and his machine.
       There was a fair amount of ad-libbing and some background noise. A yapping puppy on a trampoline four floors down in an adjacent back garden may be audible on the final broadcast. I got caught out dad dancing to one of the jingles and nearly corpsed over an introduction. I got a few pronunciations wrong and there was a bit of background door-slamming as the Requests Team began to get restless. But this,I am told,is the nature of live broadcasting and evidence that it is all spontaneous stuff. 
      I realise that this kind of thing is old hat to regular Jocks out there, but I found the whole process quite taxing and  tremendously exhausting. Particularly the maths of adding up all the various timings and trying to plan them seamlessly into the breaks, jingles weather reports and news items. 
      I think the end product may be something very worthwhile. It is certainly a tribute to the considerable musical talent in the area. There's potential for a CD release as a Fund raiser is concerned and any serviceable material we could not squeeze into the two hour format can probably be aired in future programmes. Thanks to all those who contributed. Including those who did not make the final cut. We kept ALL the out-takes,btw, swearing and all. So don't threaten us with your writs and demands for royalties. 
    It has certainly proved that live recordings at Anker Radio and at the Folk Club,work. Apologies to those we missed or failed to include. K.C. Jones and George Van Wristell for example. But as the song we played out with says,   ( Simon and Sally-Ann's second recording) " We'll catch You Later". And we will. 
         The Birthday broadcast goes out at 8pm on Monday 4th September. We had three new Anker Folk Jingles made especially for the occasion. (Worth tuning in for them alone?)  It can be accessed later via Anker Radio's "Listen Again " facility thereafter. Details on the poster below. Or just Google it.