Behind the Scenes
drew people together for a common purpose. Like conductors on the
Underground Railroad, they shared their homes as locations, rounded up
clothing for costumes, and performed heroic deeds, like supplying a
famished crew with homemade biscuits and chicken noodle soup.
You could hear a
pin drop at Midtown Recording Studio as eighteen people from all walks
of life -- volunteer actors from the Erie Playhouse and Roadhouse
Theater and a few others -- gathered to record character voices of
abolitionists, former slaves and fugitives.
Left: The same spirit
was evident during a reenactment scene when students from three local
high schools performed their duties aboard the U.S. Brig Niagara and
proudly carried the American flag.
Right: Tyrone Buckner, a
student from Cathedral Prep and a sailor in the Battle of Lake Erie,
stood tall while we waited for the jet contrail to disappear behind
Left: Life on a
nineteenth century battleship was far from easy. Dean-Michael Brown
acted above and beyond the call of duty for our segment entitled
“Patriots All.” He’s using what’s called a “holy stone” to scrub the
deck after a bloody skirmish.
from Cathedral Prep learns the ropes.
Our scenes at the
Miller Mansion coincided
with the last day
Betz Swanson would spend in her home of 50 years. Frederick
Douglass had taken tea in this very parlor, the same place where Cynthia Catlin
Miller and the Ladies
Fugitive Aid Society had made clothes for escaping slaves. As
women in period clothing filed in with their sewing kits, Betz and her
extended family were transported back in time.
Gensheimer, cameraman Carl Mrozek and director Mike Sparks plan their
next move using the
NEB 70, 7" LCD
location at Murphy Orchards. Carl’s review of the monitor appears in
the early December 2002 issue of TV Technology.
Cottrell of Motherland Connextions is upstaged by Lulubelle as he
practices the slave capture scene.
Miles Linnabery, Tom Lamont and William Wooley Jr.
drag Dwight Simpson off to federal court. Despite a valiant
attempt by the local citizenry, a runaway slave named Harrison
Williams was returned to his master soon after the Fugitive Slave Law
of 1850 went into effect.
We couldn’t leave
Murphy Orchards without stocking up on homemade jams and jellies
prepared in Carol Murphy’s nineteenth century kitchen. From 1850 to
1861, the farm was a safe haven for people escaping from slavery.
about 20 miles from the Niagara River in Lewiston, NY, it was one of
the last stops before they crossed the river and into Canada.
and Becky Sullivan treated us to an assortment of hot teas and
He’d rather be
fishing. After hauling 50 lb. weights down Twenty-Mile Creek,
producer Rich Gensheimer uses the jib arm to track a leaf swirling
Music weaves an
intriguing layer of storytelling throughout the documentary.
Plantation songs echo through the forest, hand drums warn Africans
when to escape, and spirituals foretell the day when “man, every man,
will be free.” Music becomes central to the story itself when the
spirituals of Harry T. Burleigh are woven into the score. Burleigh, a
celebrated African American composer, arranger and vocalist, learned
many of the old plantation songs from his grandfather, Hamilton
Waters, a self-liberated slave and a conductor on the Underground
Railroad. Burleigh was the first to bring spirituals to the concert
stage in New York, where he performed for more than 45 years and
inspired Anton Dvorak’s New World Symphony.
Gibbens, a trumpeter for the award-winning
Erie Thunderbirds, puts his heart and soul into “Amazing Grace” and
later performs “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to signal the
beginning of the John Brown segment, aptly entitled “Blow ye Trumpet
rehearses a ballad for the John Brown segment while Rich Gensheimer
rigs up the microphones. David and his wife, Kelly Armor, are
well-known for bringing traditional tunes to life. They perform at
festivals, special events, and museum programs throughout the region.
Charles Kennedy Jr.
directs the Safe Harbor choir in “Wade in the
Water.” Members of the choir include Angela Johnson,
Irell Harden, Viola Williams, Crystal
Walters, Patricia Harper, Larry Harden, Gwen Cooley, and Cheryl Rush
Dix. It was the first time many of these vocalists had ever performed
together, and their harmonies were exquisite.
composes the original music score as he watches the film’s rough cut.
Diane Miller, national coordinator of the National Park Service
Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, appears to hover over the
piano as Charles listens intently to the show.
The music for Safe
Harbor was recorded live in one session at the
Methodist Church of Erie
Pennsylvania, courtesy Bruce R. Gingrich, Dr.
Andrew Harvey. Bruce, who is a worship coordinator, organist and
vocalist instructor, provided the accompaniment for many of the
spirituals, including Burleigh’s “Go
Down Moses,” for Safe Harbor