For close to seven years now, following a successful audition, I have been a volunteer reader at the CNIB. Pictured with me in the booth at the Recording Studio in Toronto is Alex MacDonald, who has been reading for roughly twice as long.
Ordinarily during a recording session, there is one narrator, seated, reading a book aloud inside the booth. Outside the booth, there is ordinarily one technician, monitoring the reader for accuracy and operating the computer to help ensure that a smooth recording of the book is produced. It is highly unusual to have two readers in the recording booth at the same time. But in my last session of 2010, there was a reason Alex and I were in there together.
We had both been reading parts of Ragged Company, a superb novel by Richard Wagamese. As I mentioned in a previous post, I read the parts of the novel told from Amelia’s point of view. Alex read the parts told from the points of view of the novel’s male characters: Digger, Timber, Double Dick, and Granite. We both came in for our separate shifts to read, monitored by various able technicians.
But every so often throughout the book were passages that were dialogue only, with no narrative or speaker attributes, between Amelia and one of the male narrators. (It would be a spoiler if I were to say which one.) And so it was arranged for Alex and me to overlap at the studio so that we could record, together, those passages.
I would like to say, quite modestly, that we were brilliant! Our technician, CNIB staff member Blair Stainton, pictured alone here, commented at one point that he couldn’t hear “Alex” in the reading at all. His voice had disappeared into the voice of the unnameable character. Joanne Richter, Manager of Audio Publishing at CNIB, listened to a snippet of what we’d done and told me, clearly moved, that I had “nailed” my part.
I’ve spent some pretty satisfying hours at the CNIB Recording Studio, as both reader inside the booth and as technician outside the booth, but I must say that being involved in making this beautifully written story accessible to visually impaired readers has been one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had there.
Btw, you can see that one picture is of me and Alex reading a passage of dialogue. In another, we are listening to a passage Blair is playing back for us, to make sure we’re happy with how it has come out. What you see reflected in the glass are the shelves of books other volunteers are currently working on.
I hope the CNIB clients who borrow the talking book from the CNIB Library will be as pleased with Ragged Company as Alex and I were when we read it.