COA 1999

J Austin



2001/12/16:As the following text indicates, the COA production as captured in 1999 was actually unsuitable for playback.In order to make something viewable in the two hours scheduled, I added almost a full second hour from the first-generation unedited van tapes of the award-winning COA from 1987.I straddled the hourly-bounded intermission (10 minutes of each hour) with the following 20 minute commentary:


Hello, my name is Joe Daurril, and I am the public access producer responsible for the tape you have just seen, and a dozen others rendered somewhat more professionally over the last several years.Iíd like to take this opportunity, my first in the new millennium, to tell you a little about my last program from the century before.


And also to share with you why I do the series,

from perspectives that are alternately Christian, democratic, and personal.

This commentary will be followed by first cut excerpts from the best of Choirs of Advent, to complete the program to the nearest half hour.

For those of you who may be taping this and want to skip the entire commentary on replay,

I can tell you now this section is ___ minutes ____ seconds long.

For those of you who want to go to the music right now,

I will raise this pencil (again) when there are exactly ____ minutes remaining.



First I have the following general program notes:


Twenty one years ago several churches in the town & country area decided to do their Christmas caroling indoors, and the sanctuary chosen at first for those celebrations was that of the local United Methodists.Then, almost as soon as it was built, it was hard not to notice that the new Catholic church had the most seating, hence the Incarnation community has consented to host this annual event for more than the last dozen years


In addition to Wesley Memorial and Incarnation,

these events are regularly joined by the Lutheran Church of Our Savior (who prepare and distribute programs), by the First Reformed Church, by the Presbyterian Church in the Pines, and by St Christopher Episcopal Church.


Although some of the ministry have been with this event for a long time,

none of the pastors associated with the founding event in 1978 are still with it,

and only Incarnationís Clark Bokor and Saviorís Gary Griffith continue among its music directors.


Second only to the music directorsí tenure has been the presence, under my direction,

of Public Access to videotape these Ecumenical Christmas Carol services,

known to us as Choirs of Advent.The origin of that relationship was also quite simple.

As a then recent convert to the Incarnation community, and a producer in training at Access,

it seemed only natural in 1987 to bring my new hobby to my new church.

I have since incidentally taped for the Diocese and for Sacred Heart in Tampa,

for St Leoís and the Episcopal House of Prayer,

and extensively for the Schoolís Music Department at Seminole Presbyterian.


But we have been at the Ecumenicalalmost every year since 1987,

when that yearís Choirs won 2nd place in Accessí annual achievement awards ceremony.

One year was missed because there was no van engineer during that particular December,

and last yearís 20th Anniversary was lost under circumstances I will explain shortly.


As far as tonightís program is concerned, I could close with some politically correct blameless assessment of its deficiencies.These notes would finally allude to equipment difficulties, with some reference to the inexperience of its volunteer crew.The churches involved would be gracious enough to accept that, and we may even be invited back again.


But I am reminded of a Producersí meeting held a few years ago just a couple of blocks from this Access Center.Its Secretary and one other member from the preceding yearís group had one impression of what transpired, and a majority consisting of all new members wanted an alternate version, a politically correct version.Its not surprising that no one can now recall the politically correct minutes to that meeting.But the producers who wanted to tell the truth at Access were also made to disappear, just like in the real world.


It is no more of a problem for me now than it was in 1992 to insist on the telling of uncomfortable truth.

But this time the alternate guidance presumably reinforces that compulsion, and comes from James Austin

in his gratuitous response to my program concerns, when he said ďnothing is really lost if we learn by it.Ē


I am going to start by telling you the truth about December 19th which, like any other rendering, always emanates from a particular perspective.That perspective is the hypothesis that Public Access in Tampa does not want to cablecast mainstream religious programs, and the clues supporting that hypothesis are abundant and readily apparent.


When I submitted my proposal to do 1998ís Choirs,

I tried at that time to obtain a current copy of the Crew Volunteers list similar to what I had used every preceding year.

The receptionist told me, and the Access manager confirmed, that the computerís copy of that list

was inadvertently destroyed by Time Warner (who apparently destroyed any remaining hard copies of it as well).

Asking about plans for reconstruction, I was told people just didnít want to be on that list any more anyway.

The receptionist did provide me a handwritten list of about 4 names, and that was the end of that.


Surprisingly, I was able to recruit two cameramen from the year before.

The fourth on the list also seemed willing to do it, though he was short on prior experience.

But when I called the studio the night before the scheduled event to do the final planning,

I was told that the main van engineer would not be available for the shoot.

I was aware that other Center personnel could run the van and they might even know of additional crew:


Henterlong agreed to ask while I waited on the phone.

The answer, with no further explanation, was finally that the van would not be available to me in 1998.

I mentioned that this was to be a celebration of the eventís twentieth year and that the participants would be disappointed, but he persisted instead (and here I use imagery familiar even to WB Kidís programming)

persisted instead on wiping his ass with my proposal.

And I would say that certainly constitutes not wanting to do the program, and I would say further that COA is about as mainstream a religious program as you are libel to find anywhere.

So all we have of that anniversary celebration is a single super8 recording made by the natives, which has not been aired because I do not have a super8 player.


For last yearís program (the one currently of interest) I was far more conspicuous in advertising my intent to tape the 21st Annual Ecumenical service.I used Access resources not generally advertised to capture stills for these two posters, which I created at home on my own equipment.


The one advertises my additional contribution to the Christmas season at Access: it is for cablecasting again this year the University of Tampaís 1990 Christmas appearance at Sacred Heart Church.


The other is both an announcement of and a recruiting poster for the 1999 Choirs of Advent.The actual words of recruitment are interesting.


I suppose not a few of the audience to this bore strong allegiance to the Extravaganza:

I was not worried about losing them.I did hope that someone from Joe Ramseyís group might volunteer, but they all declined.Staff (not management) did eventually produce one volunteer, so I went forward with just as much crew as I proposed the year before: four volunteers including myself.


This should have made for some semblance of a successful shoot, but it did not.


The van arrived at the site late on the 19th.

It was a Sunday, when the entire Access Center is a spare parts box for James Austin, and yet he arrived with insufficient parts for two of the four cameras that were to be used that night.Then in his role as Access staff, he assigned tasks to me requiring knowledge of which he had been the sole custodian on all previous COA shoots.That night suddenly he remembers nothing, particularly on where exactly to get the audio line feed which usually holds the program together.


So I now have to find music directors in rehearsal to re-obtain this old knowledge.


When I do get Clark Bokor to the Churchís sound board, we seem to have the wrong end of the audio cable there.†† I take that end back down, and Austin detains me at the van while Clark disappears.

Eventually Gary Griffith will come by, and lets me know that he has established the line feed.


In addition to helping with the sound, the principal crew position I have assigned to myself is technical director, which means once the program begins I cannot leave the van.But I cannot start recording until all the equipment is phased in, and that is at least still one of the jobs Austin reserves to himself.So the program starts without us.When Austin finally turns the van over to me, he mentions (in very few words) that this was not going to be a very successful shoot.As if to underscore that, he left without turning on the SVHS backup, which omission I, never having done it, did not notice.


Of course you know already that somehow the line feed disappeared.And I had no communication with my cameras for the first 10 minutes of the program.When it came time to switch in the second tape, I did not anticipate the modification to tape deck behavior when an edit controller happens to still be attached.


So both recording decks were stopped and I had no idea how to get out of that until Austin showed up.

It was, for those of you old enough to remember 60ís radio skits, for me like the story about the man who, after several iterations of trying to get a load of bricks to the roof, finally lost his presence of mind.This is the point where I lost the first half of Incarnationís anthem, and I would later learn that the second tape, which would later be our only recording, was not getting sound.


So we have the program you finally saw tonight.I have tried to get some objective assessment from James, and all I get is pedagogical defense, basically that I did not anticipate enough setup time for a crew with so little van experience.Yet in viewing this program, I think that once set up, with communication, this is the best camera work Iíve see in the twelve years of this annual production.††


What I also see is that a van arriving late reduces however little setup time there may have been.

Some issue was raised that I had a fourth operator when I said, exactly, that ďthere probably wouldnítĒ be one.

Does that categorically mean that on a Sunday the van engineer shouldnít carry the small amount of extra gear that would modify the fourth camera he already carried for use by a human operator?That in fact his fourth camera did not even carry its assigned configuration for remote operation.He also does not seem to understand that this is not a rock and roll concert: handheld equipment is neither desired nor appreciated: I donít want it, the operator didnít want it, and the program doesnít want it.


I was also told that I should have gone out to Incarnation earlier and established the location of our line feed.Now I find it patently absurd that we could not gather and implement that knowledge the same night as the shoot; or I could have done it earlier if I had any idea James would divest himself of all his previously assumed responsibilities. I am more concerned about the detracting presence of console equipment, which should not have been there, like an edit controller, which expected one of the two designated record decks to be used for playing tape.


Granted all forms of tardiness, by van and crew, setup was in full progress by 6 PM.I am told by James that the finest and most experienced crew could not set up in the time I allotted for this, which is conservatively an hour and a half.Now we are talking about setting up just three cameras and two microphones on a ground floor, with no extra lighting.Yet with all this work easily done in the first hour, we seem to have the van engineer totally lost in the sound booth for the next and final half hour, playing with that single fourth camera.

While the engineering duties, that are his principal and exclusive responsibility, go blissfully unattended.


I think Mr Austin has on this shoot completely abandoned that role as a facilitator that won for him over the years so much affection by the producing community.†† He has elected instead to be totally obstructive: to come up empty on equipment, to magnify every operational imperfection, to remedy nothing, and to always be in every wrong place. But as he is also a company man, I sincerely doubt that he descended to this performance by his own decision.


So nothing is lost if we learn by it: and what I think Iíve learned is that while Access did roll the van for Choirs in 1999, James was not expected to return with much more program than in he got in 1998, which was no program at all.I believe Access is manifestly anti-religion, either because it finds religion per se threatening to its community, or because it actively seeks to develop ideals of truth not ordinarily professed by the American experiment.


Of course, I may also be given this impression because Henterlong has applied what I call ďjudgmental opportunismĒ to me on a personal level.So his extra motivation for getting rid of the Church is incidentally to be rid of Joe Daurril.But let him hope that he has not misconstrued the intent of his management and the County and the City.Else he is more likely to enjoy the reward of full unemployment before he gets to enjoy the loss of me.


Your comments on any of these constructions are welcome.


You may email me atdaurril@msn.com.