Class Action 

By Sarah Ryeland

Violinist Flavie Halais (left) accompanies Charbel Nassif (Watson), Giovanni Bertole (Holmes) and Ceri Howells (Musgrave) at a readthrough of <em>The Musgrave Ritual</em>. Magnifying glass

Violinist Flavie Halais (left) accompanies Charbel Nassif (Watson), Giovanni Bertole (Holmes) and Ceri Howells (Musgrave) at a readthrough of The Musgrave Ritual.

Putting the mystery back into radio production

A course called Turning Points in Broadcast History is giving journalism students a chance to take an old approach to a new project.

The single-term course is designed to take students back to a time before instant communication and information overload, when imagination made storytelling colourful. Eleven students are producing a 1930s-style radio play, the Sherlock Holmes mystery The Musgrave Ritual.

The assignment, worth a hefty portion of their final grade, forces the students to get creative. Every detail must reflect the technology available at the time, which means no help from the Internet.

“When I asked how they proposed to simulate the sound of rain,” laughed the course’s instructor, Peter Downie, “one of them said, ‘We’ll just get it off the computer.’ When I said that we had to do this in the same spirit and with the same low-tech devices they used in the 1930s, there was a stunned silence.”

“It really makes you use your imagination,” said Tobi Elliott, journalism student and sound director for the project. “With this slower pace, there is no work done for you and you really have to think things through.”

This creative thinking is yielding marvellous results, with students speaking in British accents and wooshing in unison, trying to create the ambience of a stormy night. Some students are voicing characters in the play, while others are devoted to creating sounds that make the play sound authentic.

Creaking hinges and slamming doors are complemented by Flavie Halais playing the violin to set the tone, and program host Ben Ngai piping up to promote Bromo Quinine Tablets, a cold remedy from the ’30s.

The play is scheduled to be recorded in early November, and Concordia’s radio station CJLO is interested in airing the final product. The Musgrave Ritual will be recorded in one take only to stay true to live radio plays of the 1930s, so the actors and sound-makers are eager to perfect their roles.

These second- and third-year students are having a blast while gaining insight into the history of radio broadcasting. They’re discovering that old forms of entertainment can be appealing today.

The Musgrave Ritual began as an instructor’s challenge for students to experience old-style radio techniques. It has turned into an opportunity for 11 Concordians to step outside of their comfort zone and realize that imaginative storytelling doesn’t have to be a lost art.


Concordia University