Thursday, December 22, 2022

Christmas 2022--Various Artists, Part 2: Dolan, The Wesley Bell Ringers, Jan Cyman and the Musicalaires, Clark Gassman


Another round of assorted artists, starting with the 23-member Wesley Bell Ringers choir of Christ UMC, Salt Lake City UT--we'll hear three very cool selections, starting with my all-time favorite Yuletide song, Jingle Bells.  What can I say?  It's the catchiest melody ever devised.  The bell choir is beautifully recorded, especially for a private-pressed 1979 effort, and, at times, its sound is downright surreal.  I say that as a big compliment.  At the time of this recording, the choir had a bass boom-a-gong to add low tones.  Far out.  We also have the return of Ferde Grofe's 1934 Christmas Eve, as expertly played by organ master Barron Smith on "The world's largest concert organ," the John Wanamaker Organ, Philadelphia.  And the organ indeed sounds awesome.  No year given at Discogs, but a past eBay listing mentioned 1956, which seems probable.  Here's the lowdown on Christmas Eve.  As with his Grand Canyon suite, Grofe appended a very old-fashioned play-by-play text of the type dating back to the late 1700s!

Plus, three selections by Jay Cyman and the Musicalaires. And if that sounds like a polka group, you are correct!  New York polkas, to be precise.  My favorite Cyman track: Jolly Old St. Nicholas, whose words come from an 1865 poem by Emily Huntington Miller, as published in the children's periodical, The Little Corporal.  I'll need to check my Little Corporal stash to see if I have that one or not; I've acquired a good number of them over the years, and mainly for the picture stories, drawn in silhouette, which exactly resemble modern comic strips.  Children were to guess the narrative, which would be published in the next issue, from the visuals.  Cool, Christian-style magazine of a politically progressive type--not unusual for its time.

Two marvelous tracks by the Evangelical Festival Choirs, from a Christian Faith LP gifted to me by Diane: Christians Awake! and There's a Song in the Air.  If you love rock-solid, old-fashioned Christmas choral singing, this group brings it.  Then the RCA Camden studio concoction The Organ Masters (Music for Skaters, 1969) with Waltz of the Flowers.  Very cool, Readers-Digest-boxed-set type of stuff.  And we have Dolan (aka, Bob Dolan) with three holiday numbers, many with close friend Celia Fisher, who is pretty consistently in the background, though she's only formally credited for three tracks, with Bob's other close friend, Sonny Charles, getting a single official citation.  Perhaps the highlight of Dolan's LP is the Duane Eddy-influenced God Rest You Merry Gentlemen, with twangy guitar and percussion effects accomplished by the drumming of fingers on a table (?).  Or maybe an amplifier chassis.  I considered ripping the entire Dolan LP, and I may still.  Bob signed, and his script isn't the easiest to make out, though what first looked like "To Siesan" is most likely "To Susan."  Like I have any room to judge--at my age, my cursive is hopeless.

Clark Gassman, on the Moog Synthesizer in 1970, performs a Ralph Carmichael arrangement of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus (The New Hallelujah) which is quite fun, and the Northminster Presbyterian Choir of Tucson AZ gives us our second rendition of Jingle Bells.

I labeled the "Dolan Presents..." sides as by Bob Dolan, as they're credited on the label, even though his back-cover pic identifies him as "Dolan."  Whatever.  The main point is, Merry Christmas!

DOWNLOAD: Various Artists, Part 2--Christmas 2022

Jingle Bells--The Wesley Bell Ringers, Dir. E.J. Duncan, 1969

Christmas Season Polka--Jan Cyman and the Musicalaires, 1978

Waltz of the Flowers--Grand Valse--The Organ Masters, 1969

Here Comes Santa Claus--Bob Dolan, Celia Fisher, Sonny Charles, 1967

Sleigh Ride--The Wesley Bell Ringers, Dir. E.J. Duncan, 1969

Christmas Eve (Ferde Grofe, 1934)--Barron Smith, John Wanamaker Organ, Philadelphia, 1956?

Christians Awake! Salute the Happy Morn--Evangelical Festivals Choir, Dir. John Lunberg

I Saw Three Ships--Wesley Bell Ringers, Dir. E.J. Duncan, 1969

Jolly Old St. Nick Polka--Jan Cyman and the Mucicalaires, 1978

The New Hallelujah (Arr: Carmichael)--Carl Gassmant, Moog Synthesizer, 1970

Jingle Bells--Northminster Presbyterian Church Choir (Tucson AZ)

Footsteps on the Roof Polka--Jan Cyman and the Musicalaires, 1978

There's a Song in the Air--Evangelical Festivals Choir, Dir. John Lunberg

God Rest You Merry Gentlemen--Bob Dolan, 1967

Little Drummer Boy--Bob Dolan, 1967


Thursday, December 15, 2022

Languages of Christmas--Taiwan, Tanzania, Nigeria, Madagascar, Japan, etc.! (Augsburg Publishing House 23-1660; 1973)


"Though united in its expression of Christmas joy, this album is a collection of songs from various cultures, languages, and musical backgrounds...Voices from the Far East, the Middle East, Africa, and the Pacific islands join in an international chorus of praise to the Christ child."--LP notes.  That about sums up this 1973 gem.  For some reason, I was afraid that this collection would be too... bland or contrived.  Or even boring.  I have memories of lackluster, tedious, same-sounding "world music" segments on the radio, circa 2005, and I hoped this wouldn't be an example of same.  And I'm happy to report that it is not!  It is the antithesis of such programs--fresh, fascinating, and totally worthy of the season.

Sources include a live television broadcast, plus radio studio and field recordings.  Hard to pick my favorite tracks--I suppose the Taiwanese, Nigerian, Japanese, and New Guinean please me the most.  Sound quality is mostly outstanding, even if I didn't detect much stereo, compatible or otherwise.  But since the jacket indicates stereo, I didn't sum the channels.

The different (i.e., non-Western) choral approaches, even when Western harmony is involved, are fascinating, and the Pidgin English Hark! The Harald Angels Sing (New Guinea) is an amazing combination of Western and non-Western vocalizing.  Let's Be Happy, Jesus Is Born (Ethiopia) has a quasi-hoedown feel (how's that for an adjective?) with its on-the-beat clapping and use of the gapped pentatonic scale.  For me, one of the many surprises on this 1973 LP.

Only the two Lebanon tracks fail to move me--they sound too off-key.  Of course, off-key is a relative thing--it's one culture's notion of proper pitch relationships vs. another's.  And, of course, I can't judge Lebanese Christmas selections from two examples.

No "world music" monotony here.  A varied and vibrant program, and don't let the 20-track playlist put you off!

DOWNLOAD: Languages of Christmas (Augsburg Publishing House 23-1660; 1973)


Silent Night

Stars of Ice

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel


A Swahili Carol

Lo, How a Rose


Christmas Has Come

Why Are We Together?


The Day of My Savior

Child Jesus


Joyful, Joyful Christmas

Sheep Sleep on Beds of Grass


Joy to the World

Let's Be Happy, Jesus Is Born


Wise Men Follow a Star

Baby Jesus Come to Earth

Harim Ensel Mekin Song (Hark! The Herald Angels Sing)


We Three Kings

O Come, All Ye Faithful


The Morning Star

The Wise Men Adored


Monday, December 12, 2022

Brunswick Concert Band: "Kiddies' Patrol"/"Kiddies' Dance" (1920), plus the VMB


Strange times call for strange measures--my out-of-nowhere Windows hassle has knocked my blog posting off course, naturally (I should be one LP-rip ahead at this point).  And so I'm offering this six-selection zip file which, in fact, only contains one Christmas title--the rest are 12-inch non-holiday Victor Military Band gems, all new to the blog.  What happened was, I just ripped the Brunswick Concert Band's Kiddies' Patrol/Dance for YouTube, and I decided to post it here, as well (in non-video form).  And I figured, why not add the VMB sides?  So I did.

This Brunswick Concert Band "descriptive" number was penned by Walter B. Rogers (Victor's "house" band leader--and, I think, arranger--until 1916), with Rogers the likely director, since he worked in a Victor-style capacity for Brunswick starting in 1919.  I combined sides A and B (Kiddies' Patrol--Christmas Eve/Kiddies' Dance--Christmas Morning) into a single file, and because one of these two sides (the B side?) is at Amazon for download, I got a copyright claim notice at YT, though I was still allowed to post.  This is ridiculous, of course, because all pre-1923 recordings are pubic domain.  By law.  But I somehow don't feel like arguing the point with YT, since my channel isn't monetized, anyway.

The 1913-1914 VMB sides are terrific, and I'm quite satisfied with my rips.  Also, even though I understand why Hits of 1915 was thus titled, despite having been recorded in late 1914, I still find the situation amusing.

DOWNLOAD: Kiddies' Patrol/Dance, plus VMB

Kiddies' Patrol (Christmas Eve)/Kiddie's Dance (Christmas Morning) (Walter B. Rogers)--Brunswick Concert Band, approx. Oct., 1920

Hits of 1915--Medley--Victor Military Band, Dir. by Edward T. King, 1914

Dengozo--Brazilian Maxixe (Ernesto Nazareth)--Victor Military Band, Dir. Rogers, 1914

Destiny Waltz (Sidney Baynes)--Same

The Night Owls (Vincent Scotto)--Same


Sunday, December 11, 2022

Unwanted keyboard "help"--Update

So... The Microsoft support person told me that the auto-complete feature was enabled by my browser (which is something I had suspected, though I could find no way to disable any such function in Edge).  Anyway, long story short, I am now using Chrome as my browser, and the problem seems to have vanished.

On the other hand, suddenly my type looks kind of funky.  Not as sharp.  I have no idea why that would be.  It's as if font quality is less.  Every other aspect off the display is fine, save for the lettering.

Maybe there's a setting for font/type.  But I don't feel like messing around with settings at this point.

The tech also suggested that the auto-complete feature is unique to a given "chat" page.  And I guess Blogger would qualify as such?  Don't ask me.  I never thought of Blogger in terms of a chat page.  Strange.

At any rate, I am no longer being dogged by word and phrase suggestions.  But what an adventure--I had to download the app which permits the tech/user interface, insert an activation code, AND then I had to come up with a new Microsoft password.  I'm lucky that I'm bald on top, or I'd have been tearing out my hair.

Then our chat connection failed, but the tech was still able to communicate with me on the Word pad, or whatever you call it.  This was flat-out surreal.

Maybe I dreamed the entire thing.  Any moment now, I'll wake up... (Hm.  Nope, I must already be awake.)


Saturday, December 10, 2022

Christmas 2022: Various Artists, Part 1: Merv Griffin, Clebanoff, Lew White, Julius La Rosa, Dixie Dean, more!


Various Christmas 45s and album cuts today, and... And this is totally, utterly UNREAL.  Suddenly, Windows 10 is trying to anticipate what I'm going to type.  I went into Settings and turned off this inane feature called "Typing insights"--a feature I did NOT activate in the first place--and it's continuing to mess with my text.  I it turned OFF, and yet it is still messing with my typing.  (Cue Twilight Zone title music.)  The extent to which I do not need this cannot be expressed in mere words.  Unintelligible grunts, maybe.  I have to know how to stop this.  This just started today.  Again, I turned off the "Typing insights."  It should be disabled.  Why isn't it?  (Relax.  Breath in, breath out.  Slowly.  Repeat.)

Tomorrow, I'll have to contact Microsoft's help desk, or whatever it's called, and demand an answer to this idiocy.  A number of unwanted typing features were suddenly activated as of today, and it must have been the last round of updates--because I sure as heck didn't turn this stuff on.

Does Microsoft know the difference between assisting and harassing?  I know, I know--get an Apple.

So... there are two tracks I ripped--one which involved much manual splicing--and then I decided to axe them.  Copyright risks.  This includes the Les Brown track requested by musicman, I'm afraid--You Forgot Your Gloves.  It had no vocal, anyway.  But it must be an in-demand item.  That's all I can guess.

Anyway, Les Paul and Mary Ford start things out with Jungle Bells.  (That's right--Jungle.)  From 1953, and virtually a tutorial on rock-era guitar-and-amplifier shenanigans (to suggest animal noises).  Wonderfully weird.  Then, the excellent Freedom Quartet from, whenever (a private pressing minus a formal label title), doing Charles H. Gabriel's wonderful The Star and the Wise Men (shortened to The Star, to save ink), which I previously featured in an LP by a Mennonite choir.  Gabriel is my favorite gospel songwriter, in case I've never revealed this before.  Then, from Christmas at Quinto, the expert concert accordion of Dixie Dean gracing a combination Hallelujah Chorus/Joy to the World arrangement.  It's quite clever, but as we all know by now, Handel had nothing to do with Joy.  Nor did Lowell Mason write the tune, as I once thought--rather, he arranged an existing melody.  And keep messing with me, "Typing insights."  I'll silence you yet, you unwanted nuisance.

The "insights" feature has something to do with Artificial Intelligence.  Well, I get the "Artificial" part, but I have issues with the second word.

Where were we?  Okay, from the same LP, virtuosity on the marimba by Gene Jordan in a majorly enjoyable O Come, All Ye Faithful.  Then, Fran Alexandre with Christmas Everywhere, a 1958 classic that I posted, um, two years ago, but here it is again, because I love it.  And maybe you missed it last time around.  It is a not-to-be-missed-out-on 45, and I sure puzzled "Typing insights" with that one.  It had no idea where I was going.  (Here I am, reduced to outguessing Windows 10.)

The Brigham Young University (good job, Microsoft, on anticipating "University") A Cappella Choir (I guess "A Cappella" is past the AI IQ threshold) sings Make We Joy Now in This Fest.  If you've heard of this one, then you're ahead of me (and Microsoft).  "Fest" must have been 16th century hep talk for "festival."  We switch gears for my all-time favorite Pickwick kiddie Christmas track, The Sleigh Bell Song, ripped from an EP from the 50 Christmas Favorites boxed set on Pickwick's Playhour label.  Next, Merv Griffin's wonderful Christmas City, recorded by Merv in 1962 for the annual Christmas City of the North Parade in Duluth, Minnesota. And every time I listen to Merv singing, "Come this Christmas, and you'll suddenly find your youth," I hear "'ll suddenly find you're you."  Which is a nice thing to discover.  (Hey, I'm me!)  Merv is followed by Julius La Rosa in terrible 1966 MGM stereo with We Need a Little Christmas.  And, to be honest, I'm not in love with the song, but I dig the elaborate, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink treatment.  It's classic old-fashioned holiday overkill!  Pre-light shows and giant amplifiers and first-row-seat hearing loss.

Tracks 10 and 12 feature the great Lew White on the RCA Organ Studio in the Paramount Theater (the first track does, anyway).  On Victor Herbert's mega-classic March of the Toys, Lew is assisted by Harry Breuer on drums.  Ripped from the Camden LP, Famous Melodies.  The album's surface was an essay in light crosscuts, but VinylStudio got 'em all.  I don't go for this notion of vinyl sounding more authentic with clicks/ticks and pops--I can live happily without the "full experience" of analog audio media.  And we (almost) close with the delightful Bobsled, from the 1961 Clebanoff and His Orch. LP Strings Afire.  It's from the stereo edition, which actually came out in 1962, but the mono LP is from 1961, and I'm assuming ditto for the stereo version.  Ha! I totally stumped "Typing insights" with "assuming ditto."  

Oh, and the DAHR entry for Lew White's 1938 Waltz of the Flowers lists a vocal chorus which does not appear on the reissued cut, but I'm assuming this is a solo from the same session.  Or that maybe the RCA Victor files were mistaken?  (No, not "mistakenly," darn it!)  Must... destroy... Typing insights.

DOWNLOAD: Various Artists, Part 1: Christmas 2022 (I'm inverting the blog title line)

Jungle Bells--Les Paul and Mary Ford, 1953

The Star (Charles H. Gabriel)--The Freedom Quartet, from ?

Joy to the World--Dixie Dean, Concert Accordion, 1960

O Come, All Ye Faithful--Gene Jordan, Marimba, 1960

Christmas Everywhere--Fran Alexandre, 1958

May We Joy Now in This Fest--Brigham Young University A Cappella Choir.

The Sleigh Bell Song--Playhour Records TB-5-11

Christmas City (Don Peterson)--Merv Griffin, 1962

We Need a Little Christmas (Herman)--Julius La Rosa With the Choraliers, 1966

March of the Toys (Victor Herbert)--Lew White, Organ, and Harry Breuer, Drums, 1941

Bobsled--Clebanoff and His Orchestra, 1961

Waltz of the Flowers (Tchaikovsky)--Lew White, Organ, 1938


Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Laymen Singers, Vocal and Orchestral Direction by Ralph Carmichael--O Come, All Ye Faithful (Sacred LP 8013; 1958)


If you're asking yourself, "Didn't Ernie put this up a while back?" then the answer is yes--in 2019.  I didn't even think to check until I was almost done with the rip.  But Ernie doesn't mind if I post the same stuff from time to time--he's posted some items that I had previously put up, so it balances out!  It's not like a "double" post does the kind of damage caused by, say, a cosmic collision.  You know--like, two galaxies deciding to share the same portion of space, with a disastrous impact (or two, or three, or several billion).

And did I say that Ernie had posted this LP?  Yes, and no, if we're being technical.  Because his copy is on the Chapel label, and I'm guessing it's a reissue of this Sacred release, as the Chapel is dated 1959, and this is dated 1958.  And this is on red vinyl, and I'd meant to do a larger scan to show off the red vinyl, and I plumb forgot.  But you can see some of the red peeking through the blue label on the A side scan.

Like Ernie's copy, mine is mono, only it's in "Spectraphonic Sound," which you can read about on the back cover scan, if you need to know.  And the extraordinarily good Laymen Singers evidently had a syndicated radio show, The Baptist Laymen's Hour, which, from 1945-1960, was directed by none other than Ralph Carmichael, who directed and arranged this album.  And this is why I strongly suspect this LP was probably (not totally sure) a Diane gift, because she has sent me a good number of Carmichael LPs.  However, the inner sleeve appears, for all the world, to be one of mine--hence, my not being sure.  But it's still probably a Diane gift.  So, thanks, Diane!

 An inspired collection of Christmas standards in performances that can only be described as astounding, including the best version of John Jacob Nile's I Wonder as I Wander I've ever heard.  The fantastic tenor soloist is Ben Allen.

I seem to recall a hipper-than-hip blog trashing the Sacred label, but I'm not able to substantiate this via Googling, so maybe it's a false memory.  In fact, Sacred (like Word) boasted top talent.  This didn't prevent someone at a Google group (which I won't name) from declaring Word an "outsider music" operation.  I asked him if Jerome Hines, The Lewis Family, Dale Evans, Bill Gaither, Glen Campbell, Anita Kerr, Kurt Kaiser, or Rudy Atwood could be considered "outsider" artists, and I recall that he never answered me.  Odd.  I mean, the least he could have provided me was a detailed and logical case for grouping someone like Ralph Carmichael with, say, The Shaggs.

Oh, and any group that can get me to liking O Come, O Come Emmanuel deserves a special reward, anyway.  The Laymen Singers have me convinced I've always loved this number.  A Christmas miracle.  And, as ever, Handel did not compose Joy to the World and Martin Luther (1483-1546) had nothing to do with Away in a (aka the) Manger.

DOWNLOAD: Laymen Singers--O Come, All Ye Faithful, 1958

Star Carol

What Child Is This

O Come, All Ye Faithful

Behold That Star

Silent Night

Christmas Hymn

Joy to the World

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

I Wonder as I Wander

Away in a Manger

O Holy Night

O Come, All Ye Faithful--Laymen Singers, Ralph Carmichael (Arranger-Conductor), Sacred 8013; 1958.

Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Delightfully vernacular: Christmas at Guardian Angels, Ft. Washington OH (1968 or 1969)


Today's LP is tons of lively fun, at least to my ears, and it has a very vernacular character.  I'm using that word in the sense of common, ordinary, everyday.  (In fact, I personally prefer the phrase "vernacular culture" over "popular culture," especially since many folks don't quite grasp "popular.")  We could say that the concept of "popular" doesn't register on a popular level, which is quite ironic.  But I think it's a case of people being too close (so to speak) to the reality to see it.  Too close to their own culture and cultural values to regard them objectively.  Because, after all, popular culture is OUR collective culture.  Most culture is popular, by definition, but a lot of people don't like that word, especially when it's shortened to "pop."  "Why, I don't listen to pop!  That's for kids.  I listen to serious/alternative/progressive rock."  It's basically a case of "Your pop is pop, but my pop is something better."  It's the common human arrogance of believing that things familiar and dear to US are special by default, whereas things familiar and dear to others are just... things they like, and who cares.  Nothing to be ashamed of, because we all share that fault.  It's probably a matter of evolutionary biology.  Our best and worst human features are products of same.

And, so, I favor "vernacular culture" to "popular culture," because it emphasizes the fact that popular culture is the culture of everyone (aka the people), even as it sponsors any number of discrete cultural traditions.  And you didn't come here to listen to me babbling away on this subject.  You came to listen to this delightful and very vernacular (did I mention vernacular?) collection of amateur-choir selections unmatched for their energy, sincerity, and enthusiasm.  These folks love the music, and that love just pours out of the grooves.  I could see it radiating from the turntable as I ripped this.  Which has me thinking I need a new optical prescription.  (Or that maybe a couple of my prescriptions aren't getting along correctly.)

The Guardian Angels choir, at the time, was made up of sixty members of the then-small Guardian Angels church (actually, there were two choirs--the adult and the boys--but on this LP they join forces).  According to the church's online "About Us" essay, "In 1964, the undercroft was used for Sunday Masses while our church building was being completed." (It was completed in 1971.)  So, where exactly was the choir recorded?  In the undercroft, in some part of the uncompleted church, in another church, in a studio, or...?  The jacket only tells us that it was recorded in Cincinnati, which we already know, since Mt. Washington is part of same.  I'd love to know the location of the recording, because it would confirm where Guardian Angels operations were happening prior to the completion of their current church in 1971 (there is some confusion between the online account and the back-jacket notes).  It would also help if I were Catholic, because then I could properly distinguish between "church" and "parish."  But I'm a mainline Protestant, so...

I tend to not care for amateur choirs singing material beyond their ability, but on this LP, those moments are rather charming.  Something to do with those plus points (is that a term?) I mentioned already: enthusiasm, love of the material, a joyous tone.  Nothing solemn about this program.

The audio quality is especially fine.  And I'm guessing the year to be 1968 or 1969, by cross-dating "CFS-2036" to other Custom Fidelity Company releases.  Musical notes: Ring Christmas Bells is best known as Carol of the Bells, and nothing beats this masterpiece as originally written--and anything which can survive an assault by the (gag) Trans-Siberian Orchestra and still sound great is an amazing piece, indeed.  And Bells, unfortunately, is easily reduced to imbecility, since it's basically a matter of building up a single phrase.  Take away the ingenious contrapuntal trappings, and you have that lone phrase over and over.  (No, I'm not a Trans-Siberian "Orchestra" fan.  How did you guess?  I might even pay not to see them.)  And the "J. Stainer" credited for four selections was actually the publisher of an early, very significant 19th century carol/hymn collection--hence, I've credited him as an arranger, though he did compose the four-part (SATB) setting for one of the traditional titles ("traditional" meaning "We don't know who penned it").  And Joy to the World, its famous text by (of course) the brilliant Isaac Watts, is credited, tune-wise, to Handel on the jacket, but Handel experts have decided there's actually no Handel connection.  Rather, we have a tune, Antioch, of (far as I know) unknown authorship, in an arrangement by Lowell Mason.  Now you know.  Anyway, I'm happy that this 1968/1969 performance by hard-working, holiday-loving volunteer church members was preserved for discovery in a local Goodwill.  It befits the holiday, because Christmas (despite its being politicized to death by both the left and right) is the holiday of the people, celebrated by billions across our planet.  It's our species' biggest shindig, basically.  Contrary to current PC mentality, Christmas has more than earned its preeminent status (and therefore shouldn't be dissed for its status as THE solstice observance), having evolved over a period of seventeen (or so) centuries into the event we know today.  Those intent on finding something "wrong" with the festival are... well, disturbed.  Culturally clueless.  And why don't they just go out and create a massively popular "secular" observance that ranks with the famous one?  I mean, if it's so easy, why don't they give it a try?  Sure, it may require any number of centuries, but...

Do I editorialize ay my blog?  Nope, not me.

Oh, and organist-director J. Donald Barrett arranged Go Tell It on the Mountain and the lovely Sleep, Holy Babe.  And he wrote the boys-choir descant to Joy to the World (the upper obbligato-style melody line).  The liner notes credit Donald with getting the choir off the ground, and I admire people with such a gift for inspiring enthusiastic participation.  It's a rare talent.  Join me as we travel into the realm of the ordinary, to the shared-values zone, to a place beyond elitist bias.  The Vernacular Zone!  

DOWNLOAD: Christmas at Guardian Angels, 1968 or 1969.

Ring Christmas Bells
Joy to the World
Go Tell It on the Mountain
O Holy Night
Deck the Halls
Away in a Manger
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Wassail Song
Silent Night
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming
Angels We Have Heard on High
Virgin and Child
The First Nowell
We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Christmas at Guardian Angels (Custome Fidelity CFS-2036; 1968 or 1969)--Adult and Boys Choir, Dir. By J. Donald Barrett, Organist, 1968 or 1969.  My. Washington, Ohio.


Friday, December 02, 2022

The London Concert Choir, Directed by Cyril Green: The Best Loved Christmas Hymns and Carols--In "StereoAcornfonic."


Both Sides Now, describing the Acorn label: "Of all the budget labels that graced supermarkets during the late 1950s and early 1960s, this one may have been the silliest, at least as far as packaging goes." For proof, BSN shows a couple of odd titles (Accordeon Favorites, anyone?) and quotes the label's back-cover stereo blurb, for which "silly" is a kind adjective.  Among other matters, the stereo blurb discusses the "philosophy of microphone placement."  Not their philosophy of microphone placement, but "the."  Somehow, I doubt that the philosophy of microphone placement was a common topic among engineers during the early stereo days, though who knows?  ("What's your microphone placement philosophy, Jim?")

And we have a small topside banner which reads, "StereoAcornfonic," and... what the heck is StereoAcornfonic?  Even if we read this as "Acorn stereofonic," we still have the problem of "fonic."  It must mean "Acorn stereofonic" (without the "ph"), though why didn't they label simply use that phrase?  And spell "fonic" correctly?  I guess Acorn was trying for a fancy look/hook, and totally not succeeding.  A typical junk-label fail. 

So, you can see why I just had to buy this tatty classic.  And I knew I had something special when I Googled "The London Concert Choir" and "Cyril Green" and came up with... nothing.  The search did not "match any documents."  Sweet.  That's always comforting--when you can't find your latest thrift find in the vastness of cyberspace.  Now, Cyril Green does show up at Discogs, but (far as I can tell) only in association with Acorn (just not this particular issue).  Big red flag, there.  It suggests that Cyril was the Bobby Krane of Acorn--a made-up, all-purpose pseudonym for a musician (or musicians) working outside of his or her contract (or union rules, or both).

The performances, meanwhile, are highly professional and highly artistic.  Delightful, even.  How they ended up in this format must make for a fascinating tale, if we only knew it.  As for the London Concert Choir, I suspect we're talking these highly respected performers, who are probably still wondering how they ended up on Acorn in StereoAcornfonic.  Maybe they're under strict orders to never discuss it.

Acorn was bought by P.R.I. in 1961 (why?), and so a lot of Tops Records material showed up on it, at least at first, though I don't believe this release is an example thereof.  I just know that Acorn's stereo issues don't exist in any mono-designated releases that the Both Sides Now page has been able to locate, though today's offering is obviously a mono recording turned into "StereoAcornfonic" by panning between the channels.  In its stereo blub, Acorn insists that "the music has not been reshaped or reformed for the benefit of stereo," but it wasn't telling the truth in this case, because nothing better describes Acorn's treatment of the original mono signal than "reshaped" and "reformed."  Luckily, unlike some examples of pan-between-right-and-left "stereo," these tracks were easily channel-summed into acceptable, steady mono.  Quite a relief.  For the most part, this (very) humble release is a typical holiday choral outing, but graced with classy performances which belie the horrors of "StereoAcornfonic."  You wouldn't even know that the sound originally sucked.  Er, unless I told you--which I did.

The Concert Choir sings the first number correctly ("Deck the hall," not "halls"), but Acorn still got the title wrong.  And Come All Ye Faithful and Little Town of Bethlehem?  Yup, Eli Oberstein, all right.

UPDATE: Buster has identified the probable source for this LP: the 1957 World Record Club release of Christmas: A Festival of Yuletide Carols and Choruses by The Sinfonia of London and the Hampstead Choir, conducted by Martin Sidwell.  Assuming that Acorn deleted "Christmas Be Joyful" from the original lineup, it's a perfect match.  Why Acorn changed Martin Sidwell to "Cyril Green," who knows?  Eli Oberstein's labels were like that.

DOWNLOAD: The London Concert Choir, Directed by Cyril Green: The Best Loved Christmas Hymns and Carols (Acorn 651)  (UPDATE: Very probably The Sinfonia of London and the Hampstead Choir, conducted by Martin Sidwell in 1957 for the World Record Club label (UK).

Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly

Come All Ye Faithful

From Handel's "Messiah": There Were Shepherds; And Lo! The Angel; And the Angel Said Unto Them; And Suddenly There Was the Angel; Glory to God

Little Town of Bethlehem

All Through the Night

For Unto Us a Child Is Born, From Handel's "Messiah"

Silent Night

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

The Holly and the Ivy

Good King Wenceslaus

Now Vengeance Has Been Taken (Christmas Oratorio)

The Best Loved Christmas Hymns and Carols--The London Concert Choir, Dir. by Cyril Green (Acorn 651) (Or... The Sinfonia of London and the Hampstead Choir, c. by Martin Sidwell, 1957)