Those voices in the wind can be heard around the world, and they’re coming from right here in Chatham-Kent.
Voices In The Wind Audio Theatre, the brainchild of David Farquar, is enjoying the success of its rendition of Snow White, which has earned rave reviews and is being featured in a prestigious audio fiction and arts festival in June.
Farquar said Snow White will air at HEAR Now: The Audio Fiction and Arts Festival in Kansas City, Miss. this month. It’s been awarded official selection status for the event.
As well, the performance is a critics’ favourite, as it has received high praise from AudioFile Magazine, which is the major publication for the audio spoken word industry in the United States, and Audio Drama Reviews.
Snow White followed another rendition of a classic: Alice in Wonderland, which Voices In The Wind released two years ago.
“It’s still getting a lot of traction,” Farquar said. “It’s in public libraries in New York and Los Angeles.”
In fact, a number of Voices In The Wind productions are in those libraries, as well as the Toronto Public Library. Farquar said they aren’t just gathering dust either, as there are at times, waiting lists for people to check out the audio performances.
Voices in the Wind has traditionally done adaptations of classics, Farquar said. But it’s not by a single actor reading a book. Rather, it is audio theatre.
“We have a full cast. We have actors voice the various roles,” he said. “We add in music and sound effects. This is theatre of the mind.”
What is old is new again. Radio dramas from pre-television days are a worthy comparison, Farquar said.
“But technology is driving this,” he added. “From iPads and iPhones, the younger generation is catching onto this.”
The demographic is fairly widespread, however, as Farquar said it ranges between 18 and 55. What is conspicuously absent is the generation who grew up without television – the ones who used to listen to the radio dramas.
“For people 65 and over, the market isn’t there. Younger people are just more tech savvy,” he said. “Parents really like this when taking the kids on vacation or on a long trip,” he said. “Once the kids are exposed to it, they really love it.”
That technology has opened a host of doors for Voices In the Wind, as Farquar, through Blackstone Audio, the company he uses for distribution of his material, markets around the globe. While CD copies are readily available – and can be purchased online – it is the simplicity of being able to download the content that is globally attractive.
Voices In The Wind productions are available through distribution routes such as Amazon and even iTunes.
“You can go to tons of sites and download our content,” he said. “To think people are listening to us in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto, and countries around the world – I find that amazing.”
For Voices In The Wind productions, Farquar said the core of the actors come from southwestern Ontario, but they do reach beyond for help as well.
“We work with a number of professional actors around the continent too. It creates a nice blend,” he said.
The out-of-town actors have the flexibility to record their lines in studios in their home cities, but sometimes they do come to Chatham as well.
“Sometimes we have everybody come together. I’ve had people from New York and Los Angeles come here,” Farquar said.
He admits he’s long had a love for audio fiction and film production.
“I had a great media arts course in high school,” he said of his time at Wallaceburg District Secondary School. “The seed was planted.”
Voices In the Wind began as a hobby about two decades ago, he said, but he turned it into a full-time effort only about two and a half years ago when he signed a deal with Blackstone Audio to distribute the productions.
At that time, he took early retirement from his federal civil service job and turned his hobby into his passion.
Farquar is proud of his location. On his website, he’s hammering home the point his work is produced right here in Chatham-Kent.
“People don’t think it can happen in Chatham-Kent. But the cost is so much cheaper to do things here,” he said. “And once you get a name, people will come to you.”
He just wishes there was more support for the arts in general in Chatham-Kent.
“We have such great talent in this area, but we really don’t have a cohesive artistic scene here. There is no leadership. The municipality has no direction in terms of what the arts can be here.”
Following the successes of their adaptations of several literary classics, Farquar said Voices In The Wind is taking a left turn for its next production, The Geminus Conspiracy. It’s a sci-fi supernatural story, along the lines of the Netflix series Stranger Things.
While there is a blend of local and Toronto-area actors involved, Farquar said he reached across the pond for the voice of the lead role of Cliff Weller. David Ault, a high-profile British voice actor has that role, and he has already completed recording his part.
Farquar anticipates principle recording locally will commence in the summer and is targeting for a release by Christmas.
He hopes it is a success.
“If all goes well, it will be a series,” he said of The Geminus Conspiracy. “This is the pilot episode and it sets up the characters and the story.”
Diane Vanden Hoven from London, Ont., wrote the audio play. She’s also adapted the Brothers Grimm tale of Snow White for audio performance.
The next classic adaptation on the slate for Voices In The Wind, Farquar said, could be Cinderella.