Rein To Reign!

The next time I do a degree in communications, it's off to the Rangeland Derby at the Calgary Stampede for my research on the sound of the chuckwagon races. Listen to the SoundCloud clip below for the horn, the crowd, the jingle, the hooves, the cheers, the Go, Wayne!

Of course, the other big sound at the chuckwagon races is the agallop voice of Les McIntyre. He calls the races from his perch, his eye in the sky, high above the racetrack. One of the memorable aspects of being at the Rangeland Derby is the relatively unimposing role played by video. Sure, there are video screens at both ends of the track and on an infield tower, but they are not signature screens. What defines the viewer's experience at the grandstand is McIntyre's voice.

Quiet on the set.
There's the horn. And the charge is underway!
As they cast their fate in the figure eight. 
The barrels are up, the outriders are in hot pursuit.
They're outta town!

A version of this is how McIntyre starts his call. Repetitive? Yes, and that's the point. As Ong stresses in Orality and Literacy, use of the redundant is a classic technique of the oral storyteller. "Redundancy, repetition of the just-said, keep both speaker and hearer surely on the track [my emphasis!]." (p. 40)

McIntyre also uses rhyme, mostly couplets, as above, but some triplets, as well, to show his daring.

On the backstretch: Calgary, it's your time to come alive!
After turn 2: Rein to rein like a runaway train!
With the finish line in view: Wire to wire with their wheels on fire!
After the final turn: The louder you cheer, the quicker they'll hear! They're southbound and down!
For a driver at the back: He's got the need, he's got the speed, he just needs the lead!
Anywhere on the track: Look at the race for second place!

McIntyre also trades heavily in the epithet. Homer gave us the wise Nestor, the clever Odysseus, grey-eyed Athena. McIntyre give us the wily veteran (Reg Johnstone), Lightning Luke Tournier, the pesky Shane Nolin.

He manufactures memory by alliteration (Kelly Sutherland, the feather flies! and too little, too late ), as well as by playing off the names of the tarp sponsors (Codey McCurrach, ATB Financial, showing some interest and Purolator, they promise you quick delivery and Spartan Control controlled the race).

More memorable McIntyre from the 2012 Rangeland Derby:

Rail advantage.
Diggin in for the win.
The backfield's in motion.
He's in a box and he'll need a hole out of it.
A chuckwagon tsunami into the lights of turn 2.
The man in black owns the track.

By the time a chuckwagon driver makes the Rangeland Derby, he is giving McIntyre about 1:16 to make his call. And make it enjoyable and memorable. That is not a lot of clock. And it also has to be performed live without the slips of tongue or concentration that betray its status as a performance. It all underlies the oral skill of Les McIntyre in not just telling you what is going on (that's simply play by play) but branding it into your memory.

In an age of video supremacy, the CBC paid the voice of Les McIntyre a high compliment, letting it run in harness with the brilliant videography in this spot.

Rein to reign!


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