Captioning: a first for the Grand Ole Opry

26 06 2009

One of the events at the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Convention 2009 was a night at the Grand Ole Opry, a radio show that began in 1925. Before the show, several of us were treated to a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry, including the back entrance where the artists enter, the mailroom, the green room and historic Studio A—where the music variety show Hee Haw was filmed. At the end of the tour, we got to stand in the background on stage during the first performance by Little Jimmy Dickens and the Opry Square Dancers.

Although we weren’t allowed to shoot photographs during the tour, I saw a photo opportunity tailor-made for HLAA when the Grand Ole Opry’s vice president and general manager, Pete Fisher, was introduced to us by our tour guide, Jamie Hulet. For the first time in its 83-year history, the Grand Ole Opry would be real-time captioned. I saw an opportunity to get a shot with some of the people who got that ball rolling. We were granted permission to shoot, and Fisher called Jimmy Dickens over to join us. The Opry was treating that night’s show as “somewhat of an experiment” and may continue the use of captioning in the future.

Thanks to Karyn Menck of Tennessee Captioning and her team of CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) writers, the HLAA staff, and to the Grand Ole Opry management, we enjoyed the show with real-time captions. Associated Press picked up the story about the captioning and the news spread across the country. Read more about the use of captioning at the Grand Ole Opry and HLAA’s involvement in this article on www.tennessean.com.

On the entertainment roster that night were: Jimmy Dickens, Jimmy C. Newman, Vince Gill, Hal Ketchum, bluegrass vocalist Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Allison Krauss with The Whites, Point of Grace, Jim Ed Brown, bluegrass legends Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys, John Conlee, singer/songwriter Sammy Johns (who wrote Chevy Van, a hit in 1975), comedian and banjo champ Mike Snider (of Hee Haw fame), and the Opry Square Dancers.

My sister Debbie and I couldn’t get John Conlee’s 1980 hit song, Friday Night Blues, out of our heads after that night! We realized just how old we were when we remembered the words to that song and his 1983 hit, Common Man, which was also written by Sammy Johns.

Here’s a fact I didn’t know—if you’re inducted into the Opry Hall of Fame, you’re paid just $600 for your performance. If you’re not a member, you earn just $300. Clearly these artists do it for the love of the Opry and its history and their love of performing!

Kudos to Nancy Macklin, director of events for HLAA, for putting on a fantastic convention. I could hardly believe it when I learned this was her first time planning a convention—she was organized, professional and less stressed than any convention planner I’ve ever encountered—wonder what her secret is?

I’ll have more stories and photos to share from our evening at the Grand Ole Opry. See photos from our first visit to the Opry in 2008 on my blog posting here.

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Photo, from left: Brenda Battat, executive director of HLAA; Pete Fisher, vice president and general manager of the Grand Ole Opry; longtime performer and oldest living Grand Ole Opry member Jimmy Dickens (then and now); and Barbara Kelley, deputy executive director of HLAA and editor of the bimonthly Hearing Loss Magazine (which I design and produce for the organization). Barbara wrote in a recent press release, “It was fun to be a part of history, satisfying to have communication access, and rewarding to know that the work of our organization and others is paying off. Thanks to the Grand Ole Opry for looking forward. We hope it continues.”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

OpryBackstage

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One response

5 07 2009
Flash

Perfect!

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