On Christmas Eve, 1957, a young RAF pilot takes off from his base in Germany, on his way home for the holidays. As he flies over the frigid waters of the North Sea, something goes wrong. Irretrievably wrong. His survival will depend on a mysterious guiding hand, a shepherd he cannot see.
The Shepherd…Retold is an acoustic adaptation of Frederick Forsyth’s masterful short story, The Shepherd, originally adapted for radio and broadcast by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation on December 24, 1979. It is an homage to that broadcast and the legendary Alan Maitlan’s original narration.
Now broadcast annually by the CBC as a Christmas tradition, it has been enjoyed by millions of Canadians and Americans as well. Originally produced as a “reading” by Maitland, the longtime host of As It Happens, Maitland’s voice alone is gripping, engaging listeners in Forsyth’s tale of a British pilot desperately trying to get home for Christmas.
Flying from his base in Germany back to the UK in his de Havilland Vampire fighter jet, clouds and fog set in, shrouding the land and sea. All radio contact is lost. Unable to see or communicate, it will take a miracle to find his way home.
This new adaptation of The Shepherd features almost all of Maitland’s unaltered original narration, augmented by the late Bill Parker, noted American public radio broadcaster.
But the presentation has been enhanced…
Carefully sourced original high fidelity field recordings accurately reflect the sounds described in Forsyth’s original story–from the sounds of the now ancient aircraft to authentic recordings of cockpit ambiance.
The original production, recorded on magnetic tape, has been digitally edited and scored for timing and, hopefully, enhancing Forsyth’s imagery, creating an original acoustic experience for radio listeners.
I urge you to listen to the original production. It is, in its simplicity, magnificent. For those of you who already have, I hope you will find this new adaptation worthy of the tribute intended.
The Shepherd is a story about redemption…and trying to reconcile the rational with the unexplainable.
This is The Shepherd…Retold.
A note about the sound design...
Although Alan Maitland’s recorded reading of The Shepherd has masterfully engaged audiences for decades, my calling has always been to embrace ambient sound as an integral element of audio storytelling.
This new adaptation of the CBC recording is an effort to create an acoustic ambience placing the listener on a soundstage within the story, transforming the piece from the spoken word into a radio experience.
It uses an understated musical score, sound effects and authentic field recordings, some from BBC archives, to re-create the vivid scenes written by Forsyth.
The sound of the de Havilland Vampire’s jet engines, the takeoff and interior cockpit ambience for example, are all recordings of the real thing.
As are the sounds of the mysterious WWII de Havilland Mosquito.
Pacing for radio was another consideration. A reader of the written word can pause and consider the images described. A reading demands that listeners follow the immutable pace of the narrator, however eloquent it may be.
In an effort to transform the story for the radio medium, careful editing and mixing to provide for moments of reflection are a part of the sound design.
These efforts were undertaken with an unswerving dedication to preserve the original script while maintaining the sensibility of both Forsyth’s original short story and the CBC’s recording of Maitland’s reading.
The Shepherd…Retold is not a reimagining of its predecessor, it is a faithful version of the original work—augmented expressly for radio audiences.