How SHR Airs the Daily Conventual Mass, Part Two
This piece ran early last year on our original web site; we’re re-running it for new readers and new SHR listeners.
Every weekday morning, the Dominican fathers and novices at St. Gertrude parish in Madiera (OH) celebrate their conventual Mass at 11:30. And every weekday at noon, Sacred Heart Radio broadcasts it… while it’s still going on.
Station Manager Bill Levitt manages the whole thing himself, thanks to recent advances in streaming audio over the internet. While remote recording once required a huge outlay in equipment and manpower, now the right combination of microphones, software, and hardware can carry the sound from Madeira to the station in Norwood and over the air.
But it’s not easy. After rebooting the system just before the Mass starts to make sure there’s no interference with the signal, Levitt has to be ready to edit the broadcast almost as soon as it’s made. “We record in 18- and 20-minute chunks,” he explains, so he has less than 10 minutes after the first “chunk” to clean up the audio and get it queued up to air.
The audio has to be edited, he says, because Masses include periods of silence that make listeners think the broadcasts have been interrupted, and because of “pops” caused by people being too close to the microphones when they talk. Recording amplifies them and makes an unpleasant popping sound. People who are different distances from the microphones also sound louder or softer than each other, something Levitt can adjust so that the overall sound level is the same.
Using high-end audio software, Levitt can make many of the adjustments without even listening to the audio. He looks for troughs and spikes on a visual representation of the sound waves, listening to just the bits he needs to adjust to make sure there are smooth transitions.
“It’s a nail-biter!” he says. “There’s a one-minute delay inherent in the technology, and then I have to get the first 18-minute chunk of the mass ready to go by five minutes before noon. It plays while I’m recording and then editing the second chunk, and then that plays while I’m resolving the last section.” That section is a challenge because, unlike a program designed to fit a half-hour or hour time slot, the length of each Mass varies. To fill in the rest of the hour, Levitt has a selection of short programs, music, and promotions ready to drop in to the remaining minutes before 1 o’clock.
“It’s live radio at its best or worst!” he says. Computer problems, equipment problems, or the once a month civil defense sirens going off on the roof of St. Gertrude can all interfere with the broadcast, and there’s nothing he can do about any of it. “Every day I just hope and pray that for 45 to 50 minutes everything will sound good.”
If the computer freezes or Levitt has to stay home sick, Sacred Heart Radio will play EWTN’s mass. But so far that hasn’t happened. “It’s really a wonderful blessing that we can do this,” Levitt says. “If you go to the 11:30 Mass, the place is packed. But most people can’t be there at that time — and now we’re streaming it everywhere, all over the world!”
For Part One, about what a conventual Mass is and why Sacred Heart Radio decided to air it, click here.