This article was written by Jasper Rees and published on theartsdesk 11 April 2012
Centenaries are sizeable business in 2012. It just so happens that the Olympics are coming to the United Kingdom for the third time in a year which finds us thinking very hard about if being British still means the same thing as it did 100 years when two momentous calamities singed themselves into the national psyche: the Titanic sank, and Captain Scott and his four companions never made it back from the South Pole.
Adam Sweeting has already reported on the deluge of Titanica fanning across the television schedules from National Geographic docs to Drownton. The Scott industry is spreading itself more widely across the year. As well as three exhibitions – at the Natural History Museum, the Queen’s Gallery and the National Museum of Wales – you can also enjoy a musical flavour of what it was like to be a the bottom of the world with the Terra Nova expedition by investing in a new double-disc CD. On it is a selection of scratchy recordings Scott and co took south with them to remind them of home in the long polar night. In fact they had a library of hundreds of tunes to listen to, and the choice can do no more than suggest the range of musical tastes catered for, from Enrico Caruso to Nellie Melba, from Harry Lauder to Weber’s Concertino for horn. Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” was on hand to gird the loins as the men prepared to strap themselves into man-hauling harnesses. For many of the jauntier tunes some of the chaps will dressed up in drag and danced along.
The records were donated to the expedition by The Gramophone Company (nowadays known as EMI), along with two splendid old gramophones, one of which is on display at the Natural History Museum’s current exhibition. The main track listing concludes with “God Save the King”. Two additional tracks include Ernest Shackleton taking about his own unsuccessful attempt on the Pole three years earlier. There is a piquant irony to its inclusion. Scott and Shackleton had history, and were not friends, although that did not stop Scott using Shackleton’s expedition journal as a useful pathfinder. The full track listing of Scott’s Music Box is as follows.
- The Black Diamonds Band – Dollar Princess Two Step
- The Dollar Princess Operatic Party – Opening Chorus (The Dollar Princess)
- George Grossmith Jr – Yip-I-Addy-I-Ay (Our Miss Gibbs)
- Margaret Cooper – Love is meant to make us glad (Merrie England)
- R. Kennerley Rumford – Four Jolly Sailormen (The Princess of Kensington)
- Huntley & Carroll – The Golf Scene (Three Little Maids)
- Yvette Guilbert – I want yer ma honey
- Band of HM Coldstream Guards – Trafalgar March
- Walter Miller – We all walked into the shop
- Florrie Forde – Oh! Oh! Antonio!
- George Robey – The Prehistoric Man
- Harry Lauder – Stop your tickling, Jock!
- Harry Tate – Motoring
- Gus Elen – Wait till the work comes round
- Olly Oakley – Anona Two-Step
- John Coates – Take a pair of sparkling eyes (The Gondoliers)
- Eleanor Jones Hudson – The sun whose rays are all ablaze (The Mikado)
- The Sullivan Operatic Party – When Britain really ruled the waves (Iolanthe)
- HM Band of the Royal Artillery – The Blue Danube Waltz
- Stanley Kirkby – The Trumpeter
- Harry Dearth – A Sergeant of the Line
- Clara Butt & R. Kennerley Rumford – Night Hymn at Sea
- Edward Lloyd – The Holy City
- Elizabeth Dews – O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (Messiah)
- A Church Choir – Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
- Geraldine Farrar – Un bel dì vedremo (Madama Butterfly)
- Enrico Caruso – Recitar!…Vesti la giubba (Pagliacci)
- Nellie Melba – Waltz Song (Roméo et Juliette)
- Titta Ruffo – Largo al factotum (Il barbiere di Siviglia)
- Luisa Tetrazzini – Ombra leggera (Dinorah)
- Maurice Renaud – Serenade (Don Giovanni)
- Mattia Battistini · Emilia Corsi – Là ci darem la mano (Don Giovanni)
- Jan Kubelík – Chanson bohème (Carmen)
- Enrico Caruso – Mattinata
- Nellie Melba – Nymphes et sylvains
- Evan Williams – I’ll sing thee songs of Araby
- Edward Lloyd – Come into the garden, Maud
- Charles Draper – Weber: Concertino
- La Scala Theatre Orchestra – The Ride of the Valkyries (Die Walküre)
- Joseph Szigeti – Bach: Prelude (Partita No.3)
- Wilhelm Backhaus – The Harmonious Blacksmith
- Peter Dawson – Rule Britannia
- Ernest Pike – The Light of the World
- Robert Radford – Honour and Arms (Samson)
- Clara Butt – Abide with me
- Band of H. M. Coldstream Guards – God Save the King
- Major Sir Ernest Shackleton – The Dash for the South Pole
- Stanley Kirkby – ’Tis a story that shall live forever
- Scott’s Music Box is released on 14 May
If your interested in learning more about Captain Scott’s Gramophone check out EMI Group Archive Trust website.
2 thoughts on “Captain Scott’s Desert Island Discs. A flavour of what were the happening sounds in Antarctica 100 years ago”
This is a great story — thanks so much for publishing it, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen it! Timely, as my students were asking me earlier this term when we covered mechanical music what records Scott had with him; I’d been curious, too!
Hi Carey – In terms of investigating titles, the best and most reliable source of
information can be found in the following books, which have all been written
by members of Captain Scott’s expedition.
Scott’s Diaries – by Captain Robert Falcon Scott
Worst journey in the World – by Aspley Cherry-Garrard
and my favorite
The Norwegian with Scott: Tryggve Gran’s Antarctic Diary 1910-1913 Book by –