Syria Lamonte

The Hound would like to thank Mr Tony Locantro for sending these rare images of one of the first recording artists  for the Gramophone Company, Miss Syria Lamonte.

‘Courtesy of John Culme’s Footlight Notes’.

‘Courtesy of John Culme’s Footlight Notes’.

By Tony Locantro

The Australian soprano Syria Lamonte was probably the first woman to be commercially recorded outside of the USA and history does her a great disservice by remembering her as a waitress at Rule’s Restaurant ‘with aspirations to be a singer’ as I saw quoted recently. She had already been successful in Australia in the theatre singing in operettas and giving concerts during the 1890s before coming to Europe to further her career and was apparently working at Rule’s in 1898 while seeking work in London. She eventually went on to appear successfully for several years on the music halls both in England and abroad before returning to Australia.

Syria Lamonte,  Melbourne Punch 19 October 1899

Syria Lamonte, Melbourne Punch 19 October 1899

Listen to Syria Lamonte  ‘Comin’ through the Rye‘ on  Gaisberg’s Travels #2

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Gaisberg’s Travels #2

“8-8-1898”

The young Fred Gaisberg arrived in Liverpool and made his way to London to set up his studio. Despite the long journey and unfamiliar country Gaisberg was in high spirits and recalls

“Arriving in London at the tail end of a strawberry glut of which I took the fullest advantage.”

– Fred Gaisberg

Before any recordings could be made he needed to find the correct space for the studio and purchase all the necessary materials and chemicals. His Notebook is filled with a long list of items such as:

        A gallon of coal oil

        Jars and pitchers of earthenware and glass

        A soldering iron

        Acid

        Gasoline

        An etching tank

        Scissors

        Oil cloth

        Linoleum

        Cotton cloth

        A bucket

All parts were necessary to make the discs after the recording.

The studio was based in the basement room of the dingy Old Coburn Hotel.

 

  Copyright courtesy of  EMI Group Archive Trust


Copyright courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

“Yes, grimy was the word for it. The smoking room of the Old Coburn Hotel was our improvised studio. There stood the recording machine on a high stand; from this projected a long, thin trumpet into which the artist sang. Close by on a high movable platform, was an upright piano.”

-Gaisberg’s description of the studio

Although it was grimy it was very well placed near the theatres, concert and dance halls of London’s west end, which made finding artists to record easier for the young American.

 Copyright courtesy of  EMI Group Archive Trust


Copyright courtesy of EMI Group Archive Trust

By the end of the first week of August all the necessary materials were purchased, the studio was set up and began recording.  The records were made in Hanover at Berliner’s bothers factory.  The earliest discs issued are dated

“8-8-98”

One of the first recording artists was Syria Lamonte, an Australian singer working at Rules Restaurant in Maiden Lane.