As a journalist there comes a point when you have to hang up the phone, wrap up your research, pick up your pen and begin to write. For me this is the hardest part, especially for this particular story. When trying to tell a story about a form of music that has hundreds of years of history and thousands of singers, the story I was trying to tell became a blur.
Do I tell a story about the history and tradition? Do I talk about its worldwide spread? Do I profile a singer?
When I attended my first singing and spoke with several singers, they all suggested I talk to Raymond Hamrick. At 98 years of age, Hamrick has composed hundreds, if not thousands, of songs that appear in The Sacred Harp and his own songbook, The Georgian Harmony.
Hamrick was at the first singing I attended and I was enthralled by his knowledge of and passion for the Sacred Harp tradition. Here is the earliest form of written music in America, dating back to the 1700s, and not only is it still being sung, but it’s also still being composed.
There’s your story, Emily. Once I figured out the story I wanted to tell, I knew which direction to go.
The Technicalities of Reporting
On the technical side of things I had fewer, but harder problems to solve. I shot the two interviews with a JVC GC-PX100 and all b-roll on my Canon Rebel T3i DSLR. What I could have shot in one day ended up taking me three and a half days of shooting. Using the video feature on my DSLR for the first time, I somehow shot everything at the first singing in standard definition. I shot great b-roll but was unable to use much of it because of the resolution mismatch. I had to use some of it, however, because it is the only b-roll I have of Hamrick singing.
Luckily I didn’t have many issues with sound, focus, or framing. Although I do wish I had white balanced my shots better. Hamrick’s interview is slightly blue while my b-roll at the singings is warmer. I adjusted the coloring a little while editing, but I wish I would have gotten it right the first time.
Another lesson I learned is that editing a music piece is hard. I was unsure if I should lay a track under the whole piece and risk the singers’ mouths not matching the words, or if I should use clips from several different songs and hope the change of tune isn’t too distracting. I went with the latter, but I wish I had thought of this while shooting. Looking back I would have shot several different shots during one song.
Time was also a factor. You would think that 12 weeks is plenty of time to complete a web article, podcast, blog entry and video piece on a single topic, but it was quite the opposite. After taking many of the issues I had into account, I found myself working on the project until the very last day.
This project was a great learning experience and taught me lessons I will carry in my back pocket in the future. As the quote goes, “Mistakes are meant for learning, not repeating!”
Watch and Learn How to Read the Oldest Written Music in America:
If you haven't already, read Emily's full article on The Sacred Harp by clicking here.
About the Author
Emily Turk is a