Monday, May 15, 2006

Review: Greathall Audio Productions

Greathall Productions
P.O. Box 5061
Charlottesville, VA 22905-5061
(800) 477-6234

Listening to good quality and content audio recording has been a mainstay for our family: they complement reading alone and reading aloud quite well. We have crossed the country listening to great renditions of Fr. Brown, Jeeves and Wooster, and Huckleberry Finn among many others. My husband commutes at least four times a week to the University 55 minutes away and has been become quite a critic of audio productions. As a matter of fact, we all have become quite sensitive in this matter: it has happened more than once that we have ejected a tape or CD never to play it again.

Although we all agree on Joe Hayes of New Mexico as the all time favorite, we have found that the style of Jim Weiss comes in a close second. In 1989 Jim and Randy Weiss started their company of audio products for children when they found a void in the market for this sort of product: Greathall Productions. Jim is a talented and captivating storyteller, and our family has enjoyed his recordings of classic works for over a decade. From the humble beginning of a few recordings of well-known tales, the catalog now carries dozens of recordings, all of which have received national awards. It states:

We know only that the classics, from Aesop to Shakespeare, from Greek mythology to King Arthur through Dickens and Dumas, were often ignored or presented in a way that radically changed the original stories. We knew from experience, however, that a story well told would ignite a love of learning in a listener. Our goal then, as now, was to instill in children the lifelong love of great literature by telling the stories on a child's level without altering the authors' intent. (...) It turned out that there were millions of people hungry for what we did.

Our family, especially our boys, have listened to Jim Weiss' recordings for years and for the purpose of this review have selected some of their favorites: The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Heroes in Mythology, Celtic Treasures, Arabian Nights and King Arthur and His Knights. In their wish list we have circled The Queens' Pirate and Galileo and the Stargazers. New productions in this catalog are Thomas Jefferson's America and Romeo and Juliet.

The catalog now also offers some book & audio combined sets, including Come on Seabiscuit and Rascal. It also has a section on Weiss's "thoughtfully abridged" recordings of G. A. Henty's works, a historical fiction writer whose reprints are very popular with homeschoolers. Keep in mind that the rule of thumb for Catholics regarding the Henty titles is to stay before the Protestant Reformation, chronologically speaking. Anything around and after the Reformation would not have a Catholic perspective, quite the contrary. (Dover had many titles by G. A. Henty in inexpensive paperback editions; PrestonSpeed Publications has a wider selection of titles, formats, and prices.).

Greathall Productions' website has a plethora of information including booking, fundraising opportunities, pictures to print and color, and audio samples. Happy listening!

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