“The Dream of Gerontius”, Elgar’s opus 38 – Vivid memories from April 1945

By Ted Gadsby     

“The Dream of Gerontius”, Elgar’s opus 38 – Vivid memories from April 1945

April this year marked the 70th anniversary of the recording in Huddersfield Town Hall of the ‘Dream’, an occasion I witnessed at first hand. Could an 8-year old claim to have appreciated what was going on, and how much is it a genuine memory or later study? I confirm how I was deeply moved – this guaranteeing for me what I genuinely recall. I experienced a spiritual wakening at the choir’s affirmation of “Praise to the Holiest” and the lingering of Heddle Nash’s frightened, dying and weak voice shook this child on that day. I was hooked.

Sir Edward Elgar conducting first record 'Carissima' Jan 1914, possibly at City Road - Early 20th century recordings.  Image supplied Courtesy of The  EMI Group Archive Trust

Sir Edward Elgar conducting first record ‘Carissima’ Jan 1914, possibly at City Road – Early 20th century recordings. Image supplied Courtesy of The EMI Group Archive Trust

From the Mayor’s box (there were, maybe, 14 or 16 Huddersfield Choral Society (HCS) committee members, friends and civic dignitaries) we looked down into the auditorium; no other non-participants were present, just performers and recording engineers. I had been taken there by my father, Hugh Frederic Gadsby (on leave from the RAF) and his own father, Frederic Walter Gadsby, a long-serving member of the HCS Committee (and its President: 1947-1949). I remember acute embarrassment as my elders in the mayor’s box stood up in unison – and I demurely followed – on two occasions to demand a re-start.

In those days of direct shellac recording re-starts were discouraged – get it right first time! I remember the repetitive stops & starts as successive maximum-12 minute sections were put down for each of the 78-rpm’s 24 sides onto which the master (HMV recording C.3435-3446) was directly archived. Only those two sides (nos. 4 & 9 out of 24) were re-started, a remarkable contrast to today’s ‘perfecting-technology’. Cleverly, the sound technicians, I learned since, over-lapped many of the sides “as if anticipating how this could help bring together the recording as a whole at sometime in the future.”

This had been the first recording of the full 1900 work (those in 1927 under Elgar himself had been of extracts only). So, how did this performance compare with later ones? Bill Rosen has posed five short questions: Was Elgar England’s finest composer? Is The Dream of Gerontius his finest work (“the best of me”)? Was this Sargent’s finest hour and his 1945 recording of this work the greatest ever made? Was Heddle Nash the finest Gerontius ever? Whilst I am ill-qualified to compare this with a dozen post-war recordings, Rosen believes that others played the drama too early, Sargent (1945) sustaining it to the end. Perhaps his 1941 performance in London’s Queen’s Hall, hours before its destruction, moved and motivated him.

For years I had to make do with a poor cassette recording of an 8th December 1978 Radio 3 broadcast taped from the original discs, until I obtained, with great joy, the 2006 Direct Audio Transfer made by Pristine Audio (PACO.009). Despite bringing me a beautifully continuous performance, it will never cloud my personal reminiscences of that day. Two questions I pose: Does anyone know the exact date in April 1945 and, is there anyone else alive who bore witness to this musical treat? HCS’s 125th anniversary booklet (1961) omits this major contribution to choral music in its Notable Dates, it being covered in the Performance Listing.

Perhaps my visits to Birmingham Oratory, passing Cardinal Newman’s own office also adds a touch of sentiment! Being an early music buff, I don’t relish Gladys Ripley’s style, but my heart savours the whole. Heddle Nash’s “Take me away” will never be surpassed.

I was indeed so privileged to have witnessed the occasion, and after this arduous day was done, I proudly remembered being introduced to Mr. Herbert Bardgett, chorus master since 1932, and being patted on the head by Dr. Malcolm himself (two years before his knighthood)!

Comments invited and publication and archiving encouraged – by Ted Gadsby  

If you are interested in taking part or would like more information about the Memories of EMI Campaign please contact:  email: info@emiarchivetrust.org
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Many Happy Returns

The Hound is please to present some more metaphorical memories from our resident philosopher Wayne Shevlin.

Many Happy Returns

I may not know much, but I know what I like. And – like most people – I only like what I know. But, how do we discover, and thus get to know the music we like?

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Along the many roads of the music industry I have travelled, I spent quite a few years working in what became one of NYC’s largest record and audio equipment stores – let’s call it R&J Music Universe.  When I joined, R&J was a small hi-fi store. The record department was in the basement  with another small basement around the corner serving as the warehouse, which is where I worked.  One day J, the manager, approached me with a “new job opportunity”.   Record returns.  The Returns Authorisation or RA Manager – as I decided to refer to myself – is essentially the garbage man of the record business.  RA was not exactly the most glamorous of music biz jobs and one that endeared you to absolutely no one – particularly the record salesman who avoided you like the vampire you were, since whatever you returned was deducted from his commission.

HMV Oxford Street late 1950's

HMV Oxford Street late 1950’s

My introduction to this glorious career consisted of being escorted to a small room behind the sales counter from which spilled (literally) many thousands of allegedly defective phonograph records. I say allegedly because most were not actually defective.  They had been returned as defective by customers dissatisfied with the music who hoped to exchange them for something else.  Such devious tactics would only lead to disappointment, since R&J policy was “exchange for same only“.  These many thousands of DFs – as we called them in the RA trade – were the legacy of the previous RA man having quit many months earlier without anyone noticing or bothering to replace him.  How they didn’t notice the tide of records sloshing out of that room I’ll never know but it was now my job to clean up the mess.

RA was not a mentally demanding job and, on the face of it, promised to be stupefyingly tedious.  It consisted of sorting, listing, packing and shipping the thousands of DF records.  Sorting was by distributor, then by label and finally by catalogue number.  Once sorted, you counted the records and filled in the quantity for each catalogue number on the appropriate form – assuming there was a form.  The big league companies like WEA, CBS and EMI had forms, but smaller “labels” – particularly jazz and disco – were frequently one-man-bands who showed up in a van, dropped off a box of records and were paid in cash.  They didn’t have forms.  But that didn’t matter since many were never seen again anyway, and thus there was no one to return the DFs to – with or without a form.  If the miserable wretch did appear again – because he had a new record – the technique was for me to ambush him just as he was about to be paid, dump the DFs on him and deduct the value from the cash he received.  You can see why the RA man was feared and loathed.

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But for the big league labels the process was more mundane.  Having sorted and listed the DFs to be returned, you boxed them up, organised a freight pickup, loaded the truck and had them shipped across the country, back to whence they came.  Eventually a credit note would arrive.  Ultimately, I developed a system (a prelude to my current career) to efficiently organise the overall process.

Working in that initial cramped havoc was almost impossible as there was no room to stand let alone sort, or list, or box.  Nonetheless, eventually I did finally clear out that room.  But suddenly, R&J acquired a much larger building – previously an archive – providing vast amounts of space not only for the store, but the warehouse and even the humble RA man.  And it was here that I suddenly found myself in a huge room, all by myself, with rack upon rack of every conceivable record, a job that required practically no mental input and a kick-ass stereo. Well, what would you do with that?

I’ll tell you what I did. I listened. I did my mindless job and I listened to everything. Every conceivable record imaginable: classical, jazz, rock, metal, pop, folk, avant-guard, OPERA…even disco… A veritable cornucopia: the popular, the obscure, the ephemeral, the degenerate, the unpalatable, the weird. It was here that I conquered my Pink Floyd phobia and made friends with Wish You Were Here, floated on the transcendental audio-yoga of Brian Eno’s Music For Airports, studied the techniques of the pro pop writers like Carol King and Billy Joel,  was flabbergasted by the Temple City Kazoo Orchestra’s version of Whole Lotta Love (you have to hear it to believe it),  bopped with Coltrane, swang with Sinatra, looked sharp with Joe Jackson, punked, proged, baroque n’ rolled and eventually even discovered that some disco didn’t suck (there, I said it).

It was there, in R&J’s RA room that I disposed of my musical bigotry, preconceptions and attitude and truly understood what Miles Davis meant when he said “it’s either good or bad, the rest is just style” – though I can find no evidence that Miles Davis actually ever said that.  In any event, if he didn’t say it, I think he should have said it, and anyhow, I’m saying it and it was in that RA room that I learned it:  how to appreciate the inherent quality of a piece of music even if I didn’t like the style.  Even disco.

Most people discover music through radio, TV, friends & family or perhaps a chance hearing in a shop or club. These media channels enforce musical myopia since so much of what is offered has been filtered and targeted based on taste or a commercial agenda with a predetermined bias toward a particular listening audience.  How unfair.  How limiting.  What made my RA wall so special was that the only criteria for what was available there was that it was reasonably current and someone had bought it and either liked it enough to require an unblemished copy or really didn’t like it enough to try and exchange it for something else.

If everyone were presented with such a wall of music:  with strange sleeves beckoning you to discover what lies within, with plenty of time to explore, experiment and take chances and listen, free from prejudices and attitudes, without an agenda – how much broader would most people’s taste be? Quite a bit broader, I suspect.  Perhaps the internet will provide a virtual RA wall where people can easily discover more of what they like.  But the key to my RA wall was not just that it had a diverse variety of records, but that my job required me to make contact with each one – since they had to be sorted, listed and counted.   Musical discovery was made almost unavoidable.  And I got paid while doing it.

Decca Studio

Decca Studio

The DFs I listened to were all records people actually bought.  But there were also records that weren’t bought.  These were called overstock, and I was responsible for those too.  Overstock reflects a side of the record business where cynicism, greed, stupidity and failure meet in the place where taste and money collide.  But that story is for another day.

Memories of EMI – Malcolm Addey on “Move It!”

The Hound would like to thank the EMI Archive Trust for this great interview with lengendary Abbey Road Sound Engineer Malcolm Addey.

The EMI Archive Trust was delighted to sit down with the wonderful Malcolm Addey. He was hired in March 1958 as a trainee/assistant engineer and after an unprecedented short three months was promoted and invited to join the renowned “pop” recording team of Peter Bown and Stuart Eltham. By July he had already recorded Cliff Richard’s “Move It!” soon to be followed by many hits by Cliff, The Shadows, Helen Shapiro, Adam Faith, Johnny Kidd and many more. Malcolm experimented with and pioneered the use of such things as liberal amounts of equalisation and compression in addition to placing microphones much closer to instruments and vocalists than was considered prudent by his contemporaries. As a result his records tended to be louder, more “present” and attention-getting.

In this short video he shares a memory of how somehow opera got involved in the making of the hit record, “Move It!”, generally accepted as the first “all-British” rock’n’roll record.

Malcolm currently resides in New York City, where he continues his work recording and mastering mostly Jazz and Classical music in addition to re-mastering historic re-issue CD sets. He also enjoys recording live concerts for radio broadcast networks.

If you are interested in taking part or would like more information about our Memories of EMI Campaign please contact us on:
email: info@emiarchivetrust.org
Write: Film Project, EMI Archive Trust
Dawley Road
Hayes, Middlesex
UB3 1HH

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Photo credits:
Photo of Malcolm Addey – Copyright: The Malcolm Addey Collection
Photo of Michael Grafton Green – Copyright: Courtesy of The EMI Archive Trust
(Michael Grafton Green – Was Abbey Road’s top pop department cutting engineer of the late ’50s to mid 60s. This image is exactly as his room was when “Move It!” was recorded.)

Friday Mystery Object of the week #9 Answer

And the answer is… The Lumiere Gramophone (HMV Model 460). Well done to those of you who answered correctly!

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The Lumiere Gramophones were a great novelty of 1924, making a highly successful debut at the Piccadilly Hotel, London, on Wednesday 22nd October an esteemed audience.The HMV Model 460 was introduced in early 1925, and is unique by virtue of its Lumiere pleated diaphragm instead of a conventional horn. This enabled the tone arm and sound box to be eliminated and in theory would have been cheaper to make (the price tag didn’t reflect this). The sound produced was less directional than a horn, but as the diaphragm was fragile and easily damaged, the 460 was removed from the catalogue after about a year. The cabinets were then used for the Model 461 which used a conventional internal horn and soundbox. It originally cost £22 in Oak, and £25 in mahogany.

Friday Mystery Object of the week #8 Answer

And the answer is… The Peter Pan Clock Gramophone. Well done to those of you who answered correctly!

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The Peter Pan Clock Gramophone was a relatively simple ‘talking clock’ from mid-1920’s onwards. By winding both the clock and gramophone motor, setting the desired alarm time and placing the needle on the record, the record would play when triggered by the alarm. The alarm itself was patented and sold in France, but had a Swiss motor and diaphragm.

Recording pioneers- Part 8, William Conrad Gaisberg

 

“We realised how many different degrees of smells there are in the world”

-William Gaisberg’s observation of Hyderabad, India

Name:              William Conrad Gaisberg

Born:               26th June 1877

Resident:        Born in Washington DC, USA

Occupation:   Recording engineer, managing director & head of London Recording Department

Loves:            Travelling, opera, pushing the boundaries of music and his brother (Fred)

William Gaisberg

In 1894, Fred Gaisberg came to work at Emile Berliner’s laboratory in Washington D.C. Shortly afterwards he was joined by his school friend William Sinkler Darby and also by his younger brother William [Gaisberg], who had previously worked for a period of time as a recording engineer with the Berliner Gram-O-Phone Company in Canada. It was during this period in America where Berliner imparted his knowledge of the secrets of disc record-making to these young men.  Within a few years the three of them moved to Europe, where, as recording engineers, they became the most important figures in The Gramophone Company’s staff.

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    -Recording in the Vatican, Recording in the Vatican, April 1902. Left to right: William Michaelis, the castrato Alessandro Moreschi and William Gaisberg

William Gaisberg’s enthusiasm and enterprising nature led him to take over many of his brother’s duties, which included managing and leading the third recording tour of India. The third tour began at Calcutta in 1906, and then proceeded onto Lucknow, Delhi, Lahore, Hyderabad and Madras.

Despite the Gramophone Company’s dominant position and success in the talking machine and disc record trade in Asia, It could not rest on its laurels of achievement, as American recording companies such as The Columbia Phonograph Company began making great advances. This motivated William to record artists of a higher repute and achieve a product of a much higher quality.

Gaisberg sought to record vocalists associated within the theatrical circuit, which resulted in him making the first recordings of Miss Janki Bai of Allahabad. He also placed emphasis on recordings of Gauhar Jaan, whose status had grown significantly, earning the reputation as a ‘Gramophone celebrity’.

In 1910 at the age of 33, William became manager of the Recording department, where he provided a vital link between the head office and its overseas territories.

In October 1918, a month before the Armistice was signed, The Gramophone Company became involved in a project to record the sound of the war. The reasoning behind the venture was that if there were to be no more war, then for the benefit of posterity, it was important to record and document the sounds of battle.

The Company elected to send William to the Western Front. It was in the French city of Lille that he recorded The Royal Garrison Artillery firing off a gas barrage. By the time the recording was completed, the war was over. Gaisberg had been slightly gassed during the expedition, and fell victim to the flu pandemic and tragically died a month later in November 1918.

50th Anniversary of the Moog Modular Synthesizer

October 12, 2014 marks the 50 Year anniversary of the unveiling of the Moog modular synthesizer at the Audio Engineering Society’s (AES) New York convention. On that day in 1964, Dr. Robert Moog introduced the world to a completely new type of instrument that would go on to change the course of music history and influence decades of future instrument design. Told by a Moog engineer, Moog Historian, and Bob Moog himself, this mini-documentary explores Moog Music’s quest to resurrect the original methods, materials and designs used in the foundational modular synths. Through recreating Keith Emerson’s modular system, Moog Music rediscovers the power, elegance, and enduring legacy of its first instruments.

Find out more at http://www.moogmusic.com/products/mod…

Footage of Keith Emerson from the film “Isle Of Wight” used with permission of Murray Lerner.

Photo of Keith Emerson & Bob Moog at by Mark Hockman