Evan Desjardins

The Christie Pits Riot – The Hogtown Experience

The Christie Pits Riot is a combined audio drama and historical walking tour set in 1930s Toronto, exploring an infamous race riot and the mark it left on the city’s Jewish families. It was written and created by Sam Rosenthal and Drew Carnwath, inspired by Sam’s own family’s history in Toronto. I recorded all of the voice performances, did the dialog/voice edit and passed it along to John Ebata in Halifax who added music and FX and mixed the program for release.

The Christie Pits Riot was published on Anchor and is available for free on your podcast platform of choice. Click here for the relevant links. Hear an excerpt in the embedded audio below:

An excerpt from The Christie Pits Riot, one of my favourite scenes. Dan Willmott and Nicholas Rice had great chemistry together.
Dan Willmot (left) and Nicholas Rice record in Studio 2 at Blue Sound & Music. Due to COVID safety restrictions it was trickier than usual to get performers in the same room, but line of sight can make or break a performance when actors are trying to connect with each other in a dialog. Here Dan is in the vocal booth of Studio 2 while Nicholas is in the control room (more than six feet away!). The booth and the control room are well treated so isolation was not an issue.

The job came to me via Janice Hawke with whom I collaborate on voice-over demos. She is a veteran actor and VO performer but I believe this was her first foray into voice direction outside of her coaching and demo production. She really did the jobs of two or three people: coaching the less experienced talent in voice technique in advance of the recording, scheduling all actors so we could capture their scenes in a sensible order, day-of production coordination and most importantly, coaxing the best performances out of the talent in the booth. I was really impressed by how much she took on and how smoothly it all went.

Me & Janice Hawke (Demomaniacs) in the control room of Studio 3. The webcam was to give remote participants a window into the studio. The dog was for moral support.

Part of the fun was in pulling together performances from 3 isolated spaces in the studio plus 2 remote locations, sometimes all at once. I had a mic up in the overdub/vocal booth adjacent my mix room (Studio 3), one in the control room next door (Studio 2) as well as in the vocal booth connected to that studio. In the control room with me I had Janice giving voice direction, my wife Michela sitting in as a reader, and my sweet puppy who I didn’t want to leave alone all day. All of the rooms at Blue are addressable via tie lines so we got away with it without a mess of cables running between rooms.

Michela (Left) and Janice in the control room.
Janice & Nessie

We had Sam, the program’s narrator and co-creator join us from his home studio. Sam is an experienced narrator and audiobook reader and his remote contribution was seamless. His emotional instincts and steady dynamic control over his voice gave the session momentum and honestly saved me hours of potential voice editing in post-production. Source Connect Now allowed remote parties to join the session without each party needing their own expensive license, as would have been the case with Source Connect. Unfortunately the codec Now uses will result in the occasional glitchy, robotic sounding bit of audio when network stability fluctuates. We did have a few spoiled takes as a result—nothing we couldn’t re-record but for future remote sessions I’ll be looking for an alternative.

Additional voices were patched in from Halifax, including soprano Measha Brueggergosman who also contributed original music to the program.

All in all, a very successful project from my perspective: There were some technical challenges which we overcame with creative problem solving. I got to listen to and capture some brilliant performances. And the client left happy.

I’m a little embarrassed by the clutter on my desk here but it was the end of a long couple days.

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