My First Church “Gig”

I started running sound at my church when I was 10 years old. Westland Free Methodist was progressive enough that we used soundtracks for vocal solos, something that was a big deal for many even in 1990. These tapes had the instrumental backing but not the voice of the original recording artist, allowing you to be Carman, Sandy Patti or even Steve Green, at least during the offering. Imagine the scene: as the plate is passed from churchgoer to churchgoer, there you are on stage, singing your heart out and dong your best impression of Larnelle Harris. And it sounds kind of like his version, in that the backup singers and band are the same. The only difference is that in this case Larnelle Harris is being portrayed by an alto named Carolyn whose vocal range extends low enough to match Larnelle’s high tenor.
In most churches, the sound tech would push “play” on the tape deck in the sound booth and mix the prerecorded background music with the live voice. But the sound guy couldn’t tell if the monitors, which allowed the soloist to hear the background music, were loud enough. Therefore, perhaps it would be better if the soundtrack were played from a tape deck on the platform (we were progressive enough to have a band but not enough to call it a stage). So, they hooked up a tape deck and, well, put it on the platform.
And that’s what I ran.
It wasn’t much — a Soundesign 4955 boombox — but it had the essential elements: the ability to play a tape and a volume control, which allowed me to adjust the level of the stage monitors so the soloist could hear Steve Green’s backup vocals.
Actually, I sat in the front pew and had the enormous pressure (it really was) of playing the tape at the right time, controlling the volume, and then proceeding to stop the tape when the solo was done.
I was only 10, but it most certainly got me started in the work of Church, and led me most certainly indeed to where I am today. Eventually, I moved from the front of the room to the back to run the whole sound board at 13, then, back to the front again at 14 to join the band, and to lead Worship at 16.
I was at my home church yesterday and had a good number of memories come flooding in, including the vivid memory of that old tape/cd boombox by Soundesign. In my powerful nostalgia, I want to find one. This boombox was partcularly unique in its design because it was a front-loading CD player and dual top-loader cassette decks. Soundesign model 4955.
I’ve scoured ebay, looked at Goodwill and even checked a few pawn shops. But every year offers less likelihood that I will ever find one.
So, if you see one… let me know. I’m $ure we can work $omething out.

One comment

  1. As I recall that same Carolyn sang with the tenors and a good thing she did. It kept us on track. I miss being in a choir and I miss Caroyln.

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