Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Christmas 2018, Part 4!--Even more 78s! Trinity Choir, Olive Kline, Thelma Gracen, Arthur Pryor

I was reading on line about a lack of cultural inclusiveness on the part of Christmas.  Let's see--celebrated around the world by billions of people.  Hm.  Yeah, that's hardly an inclusive festival.  Sounds to me like a members-only affair.  We need to fix that.

While we're fixing that, I have yet more holiday shellac to share.  And "shellac to share" is one heck of a tongue-twister, at least when I try to repeat it.  Anyway, I'm posting things our of order with the time I rip them, so I have to look at the list to see what we've got.  So, two recordings of the Trinity Choir doing the same hymns, same arrangement.  Only the first (from 1912) is acoustical and the second (1926) is electrical.  So it's a rare opportunity to listen to an acoustical side and then hear how it would have sounded with the electrical method.  Pretty cool.  They're also fine performances.

Bud Roman's Frosty the Snowman is from 1952, according to Discogs, which is two years after Gene Autry made it famous.  The flip, The Night Before Christmas, is a reissue of a Record Guild of America side.  The recording date was possibly 1948.  In fact, I think I have one of the label's picture-disc versions of it, but I recall it's badly damaged.  Somebody folded it.  Not good.

1950's Christmas Symphony, by Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm Orch., with a vocal by Thelma Gracen and Ensemble, is a wonderful oddity for the season.  I have it on a pretty beat-up MGM vinyl 78, but I did some MAGIX tricks, and it sounds okay.  Gracen is a good singer--too good for the band, really.  (Not to insult Shep, but....)  Thelma went on to record for Wing and Verve.  She also sang for Jan Garber.  Near the start, where there's considerable groove damage, I substituted a portion of the repeated section.  I did quick fade-in/fade-outs, and it fools even my ears when I listen to it.  This was a major rescue job, but it worked.

Ringing the Old Year Old, from 1911, is a little early, unless we take into account that the disc is 107 years old, in which case it's pretty past due.  It was composed by Lillian Currie, who also gave us On a Christmas Morning and Children's Toy March.  No luck in finding internet info on her, unfortunately.  There's a possible newspaper mention, but I'd have to pay.  Love to know something about her, because I really love her "descriptive" pieces.  So did Charles A. Prince, apparently.

The charming numbers by Olive Kline and Elsie Baker were apparently from children's songbooks, possibly for school use.  The books, I mean.  The 78s may have been used in that fashion, too, though the sides--Victor 17869--aren't designated for school use.  I repeated Around the Christmas Tree, because it goes by so fast (another clue it may have been for classroom use).  The classroom songs of my day were nowhere near this level, musically.

The two Nutcracker selections are cool, because they're well done and very old.  Casse-Noisette is the French word for "nutcracker," hence the Overture Miniature credit.  The Victor labels use the old spelling of Tchaikovsky--"Tschaikowsky."  Arthur Pryor's musicians were extraordinary, as we hear here.  I love typing "hear here."

Two more Trinity Choir selections, speaking of excellent musicians.  And we have tenor Evan Williams singing The Star of Bethlehem on a murky-sounding disc, especially by 1923 standards.  My copy looks good, so it should sound better--it's the Victrola label, after all.  Bad day at the pressing plant, maybe.  Christmas Chimes is an oddity on the Conqueror (Sears mail order) label. and I gave it 1932 for the year, because of where it falls in the label's discography.  But darned if I can find any info on it.  There's an earlier Christmas Chimes on this label (from 1927), so maybe this is a reissue with different credits?  I did my best to silence the disc's rumble, but there's still some there.  The piece was composed by Frederick William Vandersloot, Jr. (1866-1931), whose name is all over my older pieces of sheet music.

The 1911 Victor recording of the German carol O du frohliche, o du selige is a gem.  Gorgeously sung, and to one of the most memorable tunes of its type, which, thanks to Wikipedia, I can identify as O sanctissima.  An on-line translator tells me that Weimarsches Vokal-Quartett means "Weimar MOORSIH Vocal Quaret."  Sure enough, "sches" means "MOORISH" in German-to-English, but why the all-caps, I don't know.  The Victor label keeps things simple: "Quartet German."  Works for me.  The mistimed intro is kind of amusing, with the bell player and organ on two different parts of the page.  Did the bells start too early, or the organ too late?  It's a little too late to do it over.

Joy to the World is credited to Handel and Isaac Watts on the Trinity Choir 78, though it's now the consensus that Lowell Mason wrote the tune, not Handel.  The Watts credit is correct.   FWIW, the words to Amazing Grace fit with this melody.  They also go with the theme to Gilligan's Island.  To fit words to any given melody, you need to know the number of syllables per line.  That's the purpose of the confusing Metrical Index included in hymnals.  On that note...

To the sounds: Christmas 2018, Part 4

Christmas Hymns and Carols, Nos. 1 and 2--Trinity Choir, 1912
Christmas Hymns and Carols, Parts 1 and 2--Trinity Choir, 1926
Frosty the Snow Man--Bud Roman and the Toppers w. the Hal Lomen Orch., 1952
The Night Before Christmas--The Music Hall Drama Group, 1948?
The Christmas Symphony--Shep Fields and His Rippling Rhythm Orch., v: Thelma Gracen and Ensemble, 1950
Ringing the Old Year Old--Descriptive (Currie)--Prince's Orch., 1911
Merry Christmas--Sleighing Song--Olive Kline, Soprano w. orchestra and Sleigh Bells, 1913
Around the Christmas Tree--Christmas Shoes--Elsie Baker, Contralto w. Orch., 1914
Overture Miniature (From Casse Noisette)--Arthur Pryor's Band, 1912
Nut Cracker Ballet (Dance Characteristique)--Arthur Pryor's Band, 1911
The Star of Bethlehem (Adams)--Evan Williams, Tenor, 1923
Christmas Chimes (Chimes with String Quartette, Vocal Refrain; Vandersloot)--Salon Orchestra, 1932?
Joy to the World (Watts-Handel, though it's really Watts-Mason)--Trinity Choir, 1911
Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful (Oakeley-poss. King John IV of Portugal)--Same
O du frohliche, o du selige--Weimarsches Vokal-Quartett, 1911



Ernie said...

Thanks again, Lee! You dig up the most fascinating stuff. Seems like sometimes the only Christmas 78s I can find are from the Merry Christmas set by Bing Crosby.

Oh, meant to ask you, ever seen a set called A Christmas Fantasie?

Saw a copy recently but didn't want to pay what they wanted. Looked interesting and up your alley. :)

Buster said...

Thanks, Lee - I share your admiration for Thelma Gracen, a very fine singer. Looking forward to this set.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


I have that set! I forgot all about it. It was in a stack with most of my other 78 sets--I'd piled them up on the bottom shelf of bookcase in this room. Just pulled it out. I'm ripping it as we speak.

I recall I was going to put it up a few years back, the sound is pretty murky. But I have response-curve software now, so maybe I can get it sounding decent. Thanks for reminding me!


Yes, she's terrific. The side is quite weird, but in a fascinating way. It's a little surreal when the orchestra comes in--the contrast between Field's corny sound and Gracen's vocal is jarring.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

I mean, Fields' sound. Apostrophe error!

Then again, apostrophes seem to be on their way out, along with commas. I'm feeling old again.

Buster said...

both puncutation and speling correctly seem to be passe

lots of emoji (emojis?) though (insert smiley face here)

Ernie said...

Awesome! Loved the cover, wish I could have gotten my own copy of it for a reasonable price. I'll look forward to hearing it!

Kwork said...

Thank you very much!

Kwork said...

Thank you very much Lee!

Zoomer Roberts said...

I have a copy of the 1926 Trinity Choir record that was worn out when I got it. After a few years of heavy rotation, I finally dubbed it to cassette, where Dolby B softened the harshness a little. Then I uploaded the tape to my PC and tried to clean up the file with GoldWave. The results were akin to the famously ruined fresco of Jesus. Still, I played it every December, even after I found an upgrade on YouTube. I grew up mentally filtering music through noisy discs and faraway AM radio stations, and still do it as needed. It's a good skill to have. Now I have stumbled across your blog, with its meritous 78 transfers and articulate patter, its unapologetic love of Gospel music, and its generous mention of the programs you use. And right there on top of the stack du jour is the Trinity Choir record! It like to brought tears to mine aging eyes when the first, clear bells chimed forth brightly from my crummy Logitech PC speakers. It was a maiden aural experience. After hearing it for years, I was hearing it for the first time. Rife with tone and presence, but with enough artifacts to make it real. I bookmarked your site and helped myself to some Chuck Wagon Gang and Paul Whiteman while the getting was good. God bless you, Sir, and thank you for spreading joy in this world!

Zoomer Roberts
El Paso, Texas

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Hi, Zoomer.

Thrilled I was able to give you a good restoration of the Trinity Choir 78. That did take a bit of work--the sound was kind of muddy, but I worked my way around it. Appreciate the very kind words. And I think it's important to present gospel music as... music. No explanation needed, no excuse, no attempt to make it "topical" (a hopelessly relative thing, anyway)--just, "Here's some great music. Enjoy it." Or don't. If the latter, then it's the listener's loss!

Thanks again, and hope you keep coming.