New album is compiled from gramophone recordings explorer took on ill-fated journey to the Antarctic
This article was written by Adam Sherwin published by The Independant, Thursday 10 May 2012
Huddled together inside their hut while blizzards raged outside, Captain Scott and his men found solace in the gramophone records of comical music hall hits, operettas and stirring anthems which the doomed explorer transported with him to the South Pole.
A century on, the original recordings that lifted spirits and prompted moist-eyed thoughts of home during Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated expedition are being released on Monday on an EMI album, compiled using the journals left by the expeditionaries.
When Scott embarked upon the Terra Nova expedition in 1910, he took with him two HMV “monarch” gramophones, donated by The Gramophone Company, which later became EMI, together with several hundred 78rpm discs, chosen to boost the team’s morale.
The 25 men who shared the hut played discs ranging from celebrity classical recordings to the most popular musical hall performers and hits from the latest musical shows.
One of the gramophones was kept with Scott in the Cape Evans base-camp hut, which survives in Antarctica today, with the other moved to the Northern Party’s smaller hut at Cape Adare.
Scott noted: “Meares has become enamoured of the gramophone. We find we have a splendid selection of records.”
Scott and his final four companions perished during a desperate return journey, after reaching the Pole in January 1912 only to find that a rival team led by Norwegian Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it by 33 days. But Scott’s gramophone was rescued and returned to the Gramophone Company – it is currently on display at a major exhibition about the expedition at the Natural History Museum – and the diaries kept by his team of scientists record the vital role the recordings played in lifting spirits.
A team of archive experts at Abbey Road transferred and mastered the original recordings from the EMI archive to produce the double album, released in June, called Scott’s Music Box. Some have dubbed the eclectic 48-track selection, “Captain Scott’s iPod”.
The musical tastes reflect a class divide. Tony Locantro, who compiled the sleeve notes for the CD, wrote: “The serving men of the Terra Nova generally liked the songs from the musicals, dance tunes and musical hall items, especially comic songs and sketches.
“The officers apparently preferred something more cultured like stirring ballads and operatic arias.”
Tracks range from “The Dollar Princess Two-Step” by Black Diamonds Band and “Stop Your Tickling Jock!” by Harry Lauder, to “Trafalgar March” by the Band of the Coldstream Guards and Enrico Caruso’s “Mattinata”.
EMI hopes the album will demonstrate the inspirational role music can play in people’s lives.
If your interested in learning more about Captain Scott’s Gramophone check out EMI Group Archive Trust website http://www.emiarchivetrust.org
To see Captain Scott’s Gramophone and learn more visit The Natural History Museum exibition ‘Scott’s Last Expedition’ 20 January – 2 September 2012