Electrical recordings: 1925-1929

   "Glad to have come accross your site,
   it's really good news"
   David Woodford, Cathedral Records
   "Thank you so much for your          magnificent Archive"
   John Bertalot

   ​HMVs Mobile Recording Van outside Hereford Cathedral in 1927

The birth of electrical recordings  1925 - 1929

The introduction of the microphone and electrical recordings changed not only the recording industry, but the world for ever.  The difference in sound quality was extraordinary and no longer did the choir have to travel to the studio but the studio travelled to them.   Columbia made the first ever live outside recording of a choir and HMV lost no time in fitting out their famous mobile recording van which toured the length and breadth of the country in search of choirs.

​The gramophone record had now come of age and this page explores the trials, tribulations and joys of the first few years of electrical recordings which were issued by HMV and Columbia who dominated choir recordings.    With the occasional exception it wasn't until 1930 that other labels began to issue choir recordings and a detailed history is being drawn up on our ' Story of the Record Labels' page

The Gramophone Company Ltd and the HMV record label
The first choir acoustic gramophone record in 1902 and the first choir electrical gramophone record in 1926.
HMV issued over 260 choir gramophone records during the 78rpm era which stretched from1902-1957. 

Columbia Graphophone Company Ltd
The first offices were at City Road in London.  In 1913 the company moved to 102-108 Clerkenwell Road, London, E.C. 1, later called Columbia House and during the 78rpm era they issued over 150 choir gramophone records.

On November 30, 1931, Columbia Graphophone Co. merged with its arch-rival The Gramophone Co. to form the legendary British company EMI (Electric and Musical Industries).  Columbia kept their own distinctive record label.



Acoustic and electrical recordings

Acoustic recordings : 1902 - 1925

The sound was captured by a large metal
horn with a vibrating stylus which cut directly
into a wax master
                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Electrical recordings : 1926 onward

The sound was capture by a microphone and an electircal recording process.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                
All the record companies moved with extraordinary speed to embrace this new technology and the top photograph shows an acoustic recording studio on the 13 November 1925 and below, the same studio, ten days later, completely refitted for electrical recordings with the microphone.
                                                                                                                                                                                                

Telephone relays for electrical recordings

From 1922 the BBC had been broadcasting daily. One of the features of early broadcasting in the UK was the use of landlines to connect their regional stations for shared broadcasts as well as "outside" broadcasts from London venues.

The GPO owned the telephone lines but the need for high quality took the BBC in the direction of the Western Electric Co. of America (Bell Telephones) who were working on specialist apparatus for long-distance 'phone calls. Valve amplifiers were used to boost the signal strength.

So at the recording location there would be a microphone, the necessary amplifier and volume control to feed into the telephone system on a private line.

Even when the HMV Mobile Recording van came into use in February 1927, landlines were still mainly used by Columbia and HMV for all London venue recordings.
The first ever BBC radio broadcast was on 14 November 1922 - this fascinating silent Pathe Newsreel marked the occasion.  Amongst other things, you see the BBC engineers wiring up the telephone lines for the broadcast.
                                                                                    

Columbia Records
and the experimental electrical recording of a gramophone record

Guest and Merriman
.
The very first electrical recording of any description was from Westminster Abbey at the Burial of the Unknown Soldier on the 11 November 1920.

Apart from the historical importance of the occasion itself, this recording is of immense important from a gramophonic perspective as it would be another five years before electrical recordings were commercially issued and six years before a choir issued an electrical recording.

Two Columbia sound engineers, Lionel Guest and Horace O. Merriman had developed an experimental electrical recording system.  Four carbon microphones were placed inside the abbey with cables running to a remote recording van parked in the street outside, where Guest and Merriman they sat amidst heating ovens and cutting lathes. 

Click gramophone record to play
both single-sided discs.

Thirty-six single sided records were cut during the service from which only two were considered suitable for issue and even that is debateable! They were 'Abide with Me' and 'Kipling's Recessional'   Columbia pressed two batches of 500 records which retailed at 7/6 with the money going to the Abbey restoration appeal.

The very poor sound quality makes it difficult to differentiate been instruments and singing.   Acoustic recordings of the period produced far superior results and Columbia, after evaluation, decided not to adopt the Guest & Merriman system.

The weak link was the carbon microphone which was little more than a telephone mouthpiece and it was not until the condenser microphone was perfected by the mid 1920 that electrical recordings were commercially issued. 

Illustrated London News : 18 December 1920

Click on the cover to read the article 'Long Distance Gramophone records in the Abbey'

This clearly illustrates the Guest & Merriman experimental electrical recording system.

The first commerical electrical recordings

In 1926, His Master's Voice recorded Westminster Abbey Special Choir and the Chapel Royal.  These were the first commerical electrical recordings of a choir with the sound being relayed via the GPO telephone lines to either Gloucester House studio or Upper Queen's Hall studio D

Westminster Abbey Special Choir
directed by Sydney H Nicholson
​recorded 1 March 1926 

Click gramophone record to play 
​Side 1: Parry, Never weather beaten sail  
Side 2: Weelkes, Gloria in excelsis        
Chapel Royal
directed by Stanley Roper
side 1 recorded 20 March 1926 

Click gramophone record to play side 1
Mendelssohn, There shall a star
(side 2 recorded 13 October 1926)                                                                   

His Master's Voice Mobile Recording Van

The recording equipment used by HMV, Columbia and Parlophone was all Western Electrics.  Sound engineers from the three companies travelled to the USA in 1925 to familiarise themselves with the equipment

The microphone used was a condenser mounted on a wooden box with the essential amplifier inside, protected from vibration as much as possible. This was a superb instrument in spite of its bulk.   Click the picture oppose to view this rare photograph of the Western Electric microphone 

The van made its debut in February 1927 and  the first choir recordings were from York Minster on 7 April 1927.  The van was entirely self-contained with its own stock of wax masters, cutting lathes, amplifier(s) and microphone.  A heated cupboard was provided to keep the wax at the appropriate temperature.  Therefore, the van had its own batch of matrix numbers for identifying each wax cut. 

Fitted to an Italian Lancia truck chassis, the van had a slightly inauspicious start as the clerestory roof was damaged by a low bridge on its first outing and was taken off the road for repairs.          
Between 1927 and 1929 the choir listed below had all issued gramophone records  - and as we shall discover, not always with the greatest of success!

  • Westminster Abbey
  • Westminster Abbey Special Choir
  • Westminster Cathedral
  • Chapel Royal  St James's Palace
  • New College  Oxford
  • St John's College  Cambridge
  • King's College  Cambridge
  • Temple Church  London
  • St Margaret's Church  Westminster
  • Canterbury Cathedral
  • Winchester College
  • York Minster
  • Three Choirs Festival from Hereford Cathedral
  • Eton College
  • Salisbury Cathedral
  • St Paul's Cathedral
  • Norman Ware, chorister at Grafton Square Congregational Church

The leaflet shows HMV's well honed publicity machine expounded the qualities of these new electrical recordings, particularly the fact they were 'actually made in Historic Buildings'    (click leaflet to view full size)  The kudos of having recordings from the Chapel Royal itself was not lost on HMV and there were more test recordings in these early days from there than from any other choir.

Second in popularity for HMV was the Temple Church in London from where Mendelssohn's Hear My Prayer, with Ernest Lough, had become their most successful gramophone record to date.

Outside Hereford Cathedral  (click)
Inside the recording van  (click)
Inside the recording van  (click)

The first HMV electrical recordings - with the van

The first choir to make an electrical recording from the van was St John's College Cambridge, on 8 Mary 1927 and by the end of the year, eight further choirs had been visited by the mobile recording van
​​Click photos to  enlarge

Edward Bairstow in the Song School, 1930
St John's College  Cambridge
directed by Cyril Rootham
recorded 8 March 1927

Click photo to play gramophone record B2448 (10")
Both sides: Byrd, Have mercy upon me
                                                  
New College  Oxford
directed by William H Harris
21 March 1927

Click gramophone record to play
Side 1: Byrd, Justorum animae
Side 2: Stanford, Beati Quorum
                                                                               
York Minster
directed by Edward Bairstow
7 April 1927 

Click photo to play gramophone record C1334   
Side 1: Byrd: This Day Christ was born
Side 2: Byrd: O Christ who art the light & day                                                                          

Columbia Records

​​The first electrical recording of a choir on the Columbia label was from Rochester Cathedral on 1 November 1926 and issued in February 1927.     The master discs were recorded at Columbia's London Petty France HQ while the choir sang at Rochester, some 30 miles away.  This session followed a BBC broadcast the previous day, a significant point, a high quality GPO landline being in use.

In addition to the issued sides the choir recorded O Thou the Central orb and Stewart recorded Bach's Fugue in G minor. Neither record has ever turned up. The choir recorded on 11 April 1929 a session from which nothing seems to have survived  

On the 7 - 8 December 1926 a second recording session took place at St George's Chapel Windsor when four 10" and two 12" gramophones records were recorded and subsequently issued. ​

Unlike HMV, Columbia didn't have a mobile recording van and the waxes for these early records were cut at their London Petty France HQ  via a GPO high-quality telephone line relay with a quite remarkable sound quality.

Rochester Cathedral
directed by Charles H Stewart
​organist, Percy Whitlock
recorded 1 November 1926

Click gramophone record to play 
Side 1: Stanford Magnificat in Bb
(Side 2: All people that on earth do dwell)                                                                                   
St George's Chapel Windsor
directed by Edmund H Fellowes
organist, Malcolm Boyle
recorded 7 December 1926

Click gramophone record to play
and read its fascinating story 
Side 1: Stanford, Magnificat in G
Side 2: Walmisley, Magnificat in D minor                                                                                       

Columbia had an eclectic mix of choirs in their catalogue as well as pressing 78s on behalf of the School of English Church Music, later to become Royal School of English Church Music (RSCM)   However Columbia's 'premier' choir was St George's Chapel, Windsor, from where they issued numerous gramophone records. 

In these early years of electrical recordings (1925-1929) Columbia

recorded the following choirs:
  • Rochester Cathedral
  • St George's Chapel  Windsor
  • Exeter Cathedral
  • St Marylebone Church  London
  • Manchester Cathedral
  • St George's Church, Hanover Square  London
  • Christ Church, Westminster Bridge Road  London
  • St Margaret's Church, Westminster  London
  • Winchester College Quiristers

St George's Chapel  Windsor, 1926

​​'How a Columbia record is made'
1928 : silent newsreel

Columbia's flagship store
Clerkenwell Road, London, 1931
1931
   
Tested to destruction!
Each side of a record had to be recorded in one continuous take - there was no stopping or editing and each side usually had two or three takes before everyone was satisfied.   One side of a 12" record lasted for about 4 minutes and for a 10" record, 3 minutes. 

However, even if the choir sung to perfection, there was other gremlins which could easily spoil the recording, hence the technical and ware tests which were undertaken on each recording.     Fail these and the finished gramophone record would never see the light of day.
​Wear test
This involved playing the test record on a turntable with several tone arms until the first sign of wear was seen. Electric recording brought with it the problem of bass/pedal notes causing wide swings of the cutting tool. These were often ploughed through by the heavy tone arms of those days, thus equating to heavy wear. No bass control was included in the push-pull amplifiers of the time making adjustment only available via the volume control.

Technical test
Many early electric recordings were beset by mechanical and other noises not obvious on acoustic records. The simple control for modifying volume was also prone to causing 'thuds' on the sound and unsurprisingly, telephone circuits were the cause of what were termed "foreign recorded noises" on the recording sheet notes.  
​​
HMV Sound engineers test recording sheets  

This is a small selection of information taken from the HMV sound engineers technical sheet from 1926 - 1929  but offers a fascinating window in the early days of electrical recording - and a tantalising glimpse into the sheer amount of recordings which never saw the light of day!

Cambridge  King's College
directed by Arthur (Daddy) Mann

​30 May 1927
all the recordings in this session were recorded onto wax masters in the HMV mobile recording van
CR1057 (12"):  Charles Wood,  Hail gladdening light          
          Take I - passed technical and wear tests; mastered then destroyed  
          Take 2 -  passed technical and wear test; "Hold 30 days" then destroy
BR1058 (10"):  Bach,  Up, up my soul with gladness
          Take 1 - passed technical and wear tests;  mastered then destroyed on 26/8/1929
BR1059 (10"):  Bach,  God liveth still
          Take 1, 2 - passed technical and wear test;  both takes destroyed on 18/7/1927
CR1060 (12"):  Charles Wood, Expectans expectavi   
          Take 1 - passed technical and wear tests;  mastered then destroyed 26/8/1929 
          Take 2 - passed technical and wear tests;  destroyed 26/8/1929
None of these test pressings were issued as gramophone records 
  

19 July 1929
all the recordings in this session were recorded onto wax masters in the HMV mobile recording van
Same matrix numbers were used as the 1927 recording session 
BR1059 (10"):  Bach,  God liveth still
          Take 1,2 - passed technical and wear tests.  
          Take 3 - passed technical and wear test:  Mastered
          Take 4 - failed tests: destroyed
BR1058 (10"):  Bach,  Up, up my soul with gladness
          Take 2 - failed tests: destroyed
          Take 3 - passed technical and wear test: Mastered
Issued as gramophone record B3707 in 1931 and you can listen to this recording

BR 2395 (10"):  Brahms, Es ist das Heil  :  Part 1 (sung in English, A saving health to us is brought)
          Take 1,2,3 - 'unable to improve surface'   Destroyed
BR 2396 (10"):  Brahms, Es ist das Heil  :  Part 2 (sung in English, A saving health to us is brought)
          Take 1,2 - 'unable to improve surface'  Destroyed
A copy of the test pressing of sides 1 and 2 managed to escape destruction and is now held in the Archive.


King's College Choir, 1927​​
click to enlarge

Chapel Royal
directed by Sir Stanley Roper
all the recording from this session were relayed to Gloucester House or the small Upper Queen's Hall studio D by telephone land line.

20 March 1926
BR194: (10")  O love that will not let me go  (hymn)
          Take 1 - failed technical and wear test
          Take 1a - passed tech and wear test;  mastered
BR196: (10")  Onward Christian soldiers  (hymn) 
     
    Take 1 - passed technical and wear test; mastered
          Take 1a - failed technical and wear test

Test 194 & 196 were ussued as record E435


BR195: (10")  Lord of our live  (hymn) 
          Take 1,1a - both rejected on wear test with 35, 30 plays 
BR197: (10")  Thy hand O God has guided  (hymn)
          Take 1,1a,2,2a - all tests passed technical test but rejected on              wear test at 30,30,35 plays
None of the above two test pressings were issued

BR198: (10")  Mendelssohn, There shall a star

          Take 1 - passed technical and wear test; mastered
          Take 1a - rejected on wear test after 35 plays
This test was paired with BR774 (opposite) Parry's Jerusalem, recorded 13 October 1926 and issued as record E451

BR199: (10")  Abide with me  (hymn) 

          Take 1,1a - both passed technical test, rejected on wear test                 at 30, 20 plays 
BR200: (10")  Rock of ages   (hymn)
          Take 1,1a - both rejected on technical test  "Bad surface" 
BR201: (10")  There is a green hill  (hymn)
          Take 1,1a. - both rejected "wrong note on organ at start"
None of the above three test pressings were issued


22 September 1926
Herbert Dawson played the organ for a number of records, five sides in all with a Christmas theme, all were relayed to the small Queen's Hall D studio by telephone land line

BR702 (10"):   Welcome Yule/Infant so gentle/Across the desert lands
          Take 1,1a,2,2a,3,3a - passed technical and wear tests 
BR706 (10"):  Sleep my Savour/What child is this/The holly  and the ivy
          T
ake 1,1a,2,2a - passed technical and wear tests
Tests 702 and 706 were issued as record E443


BR703 (10"):   As I sat on a sunny bank/organ interlude/Here we come a wassailing
          Take 1,1a,2,3a,3,3a - passed technical and wear tests
          Take 1 - 'musically poor'
          Take 2 - 'tone not bright'
          Take 3 - 'good tone but blasty notes in boys' voices'
          Take 3a - 'tone not as good as in 3
BR704 (10"):  A virgin most pure/We saw a light
          Take 1,1a - passed technical and wear tests
          Take 1,1a - 'blasty notes in boys' voices'
BR705 (10"):  When the crimson sun was set/On this day
          Take 1,2,2a - all passed technical test, rejected on wear test
None of the above three test pressings were issued



​​13 October 1926​​
all the recording from this session were relayed to the small Upper Queen's Hall studio D by telephone land line.

BR757 (10"):  Gabriel's message/Born this day/Organ interlude
          Take 1 -  passed technical and wear tests; hold for 30 days 
          Take 2 -  passed technical and wear tests; master
BR758 (10"):  Bach, Jesu joy of man's desiring 
          Take 1 - passed technical and wear tests; hold for 30 days
          Take 2 - passed technical and wear tests; master
These two test records were issued as record E445

BR774 (10"):  Parry, Jerusalem
          Take 1 - passed technical and wear tests; master
          Take 2 - failed wear test 
This test was paired with BR198 (opposite) 'There shall a star' recorded 20 March 1926 and issued as record E451


2 November 1927  (all 10")
all the recordings in this session were recorded onto wax masters in the HMV mobile recording van

BR1186:  Abide with me/Fight the good fight     
BR1188:   Fierce raged the tempest/Rock of ages
Test 1186 & 1188 were issued as record B2693

BR1187:  Eternal Father/now thank we all our God 
          Mastered by not issued  
BR1189:   When I survey/Art thou weary
          Destroyed as "impure notes"
BR1190:   Nearer my God/Rejoice today
          Destroyed as  "impure notes"
BR1191:   Lead kindly light/Jesu lover of my soul
          Failed wear test at 40 plays;  destroyed
BR1192:  Now the labourers/Ten thousand times
          Destroyed as "impure notes"
BR 1193:   Hark, Hark my soul/For ever with the Lord
          Destroyed as "impure notes"
None of the above six test pressings were issued

13 April 1928
all the recordings in this session were recorded onto wax masters in the HMV mobile recording van
          Re-takes of the above with same matrix numbers

BR1189,  BR1190,  BR1191,  BR1192,  BR1193.
Comment on the engineers recording sheet for this session. "Lack of variety and insufficient volume"   
All tests destroyed


24 October 1928
all the recordings in this session were recorded onto wax masters in the HMV mobile recording van

BR2246: (10"):   Sullivan, Yea though I walk
          Take 1 - passed technical test but failed wear test at 30 plays
          Take 2 - passed technical test but failed wear test at 20 plays
BR2247: (10"):
          Take 1 - passed technical test but failed wear test at 30 plays
          Take 2 - failed technical test and wear test at 35 plays
          Take 3 - failed technical test, not tested for wear
          Take 4 - failed technical test and wear test at 30 plays
CR2248: (12"):  Hiller, A song of victory
           Take 1 - passed technical test but failed wear test at 35 plays
           Take 2 - passed technical test but failed wear test at 30 plays
None of the above three test pressings were issued



​10 July 1929
all the recordings in this session were recorded onto wax masters in the HMV mobile recording van

BR 2385: (10"):  Sullivan, Yea though I walk
Failed all tests, not issued

BR2386: (10"):  Goss, O saviour of the world
          Take 1a - passed technical and wear test
          Take 2  - failed technical and wear test
          Take 3a - passed technical and wear test; mastered
BR2387: (10"):  Spohr, As pants the hart
          Test 1a - passed technical and wear test; mastered
          Test 2 - failed technical and wear test
These two tests were issued as gramophone 
record B3711

Chapel Royal, 1926
click to enlarge

St Paul's Cathedral Choir
​directed by Stanley Marchant 

all the recordings in both these sessions were recorded onto wax masters in the HMV mobile recording van

3 June 1929
BR2359 (10"):   Elgar, Jesu word of God
          Take 1,2,2a - all rejected after 45 plays on the wear test
BR2360 (10"):   Attwood, Come Holy Ghost           
          Take 1,1a,2a - rejected on wear test. 
          Take 2 - passed technical test.  All takes destroyed

BR2361 (10"):  Tchaikovsky, Angels ever loving             
          Take 1,1a - destroyed.   
          Take 2a - hold for 30 days then destroy
          Take 2 - mastered & issued 
BR2362 (10"):   Contents unknown
          Take 1 - played back once and  wax ruined

26 June 1929 
BR2372 (10"):  Charles Wood, Hail gladdening light
          Take 1,2 - rejected after technical and ware test
          Take 2a - mastered & issued
BR2373 (10"):  Schubert,  Strike your timbrels
          Take 1,2,2a - rejected after technical and ware test
          Take 1a - mastered and issued
The rest of the days session was taken up with some very successful organ solos by Stanley Marchant

Tchaikovsky's Angels ever loving & Wood's Hail gladdening light was issued as gramophone record B3103 in 1929
Schubert's Strike your timbrels & Handel's Let their was issued as gramophone record B3754 in 1931
  

St Paul's Cathedral, 1930
click to enlarge

Temple Church London
directed by George Thalben Ball

Test recordings for the two gramophone record issues, CR1329  (12") of Mendelssohn's  Hear My Prayer
sung by Master Ernest Lough.
​All recorded in the mobile recording van

​​15 March 1927​​
Part 1,  C1020
          Take 1,1a,2 - passed technical and wear test
Part 2,  C1021
          Take 1,2,2a - passed technical and wear test
All these tests were destroyed as "too distant in tone, particularly organ and solo"
         
5 April 1927
Part 1, CR1020
          Take 3 - passed technical and wear test:  mastered and issued  
          Take 3a - passed technical and wear test: hold for 30 days
          Take 4 - passed technical and wear test: destroyed
          Take 4a - passed technical and wear test: destroyed
Part 2, CR1021
          Take 2a - passed technical and wear test
this test pressing of Take 2a has survived and a copy is in the Archive
          Take 3,4,4a - passed technical and wear test
          Take 3a - mastered and issued

21 February 1928
Part 2, CR1021
          Take 5 - rejected on technical test
          Take 5a - passed technical test but rejected at 40 plays
          Take 6 - passed technical test but rejected at 40 plays
          Take 6a - passed technical and wear test:  master
          Take 7 - rejected on technical and wear test:  destroy
        
30 March 1928
Part 2, CR1021
          Take 8 - passed technical test but rejected on wear test after 40 plays: destroy 
          Take 8a - passed technical and wear test: master
          Take 8a - passed technical test but rejected on ware test after 30 plays   
          Take 9a - passed technical and wear test: hold for 30 days
          Engineers remarks, '9a only to be used if master breaks down'

HMVs effuse publicity leaflet
for 'Hear My Prayer'

Click photo to visit the
 Ernest Lough page

Westminster Abbey Special Choir
directed by Sir Sydney H Nicholson

all the recording from 19 February 1926 to 26 March 1926 inclusive were relayed to Gloucester House or the small Upper Queen's Hall studio D by telephone land line.

19 February 1926
CR167 (12"):  Mendelssohn, Lift thine eyes
          Take 1 - test purposes only
CR168 (12"):  Mendelssohn, Come unto him  (boy soprano & choir)
          Take 1 - test purposes only

​1 March 1926
BR177 (10"):  Nares, The Souls of the righteous
          Take 1 - 'blasty notes'  rejected
          Take 2 - failed technical test; rejected
          Take 3 - passed technical but too quiet in parts; rejected
Not issued

CR178 (12"):  Parry, Never Weather beaten sail
          Take 1 - past technical and wear test
          Take 2 - failed technical test
          Take 3 - passed technical test but rejected on wear test at 15 plays
          Take 4 - passed technical test
CR179 (12"):   Weelkes, Gloria in excelcis Deo
          Take 1,2 - passed technical test but failed wear test at 20 plays       
+  Despite the test failures, this was issued as gramophone record D1083
see notes below

BR180 (10"):  Pearsall, In dulci jubilo - Part 1
           Take 1,2 - both passed technical test but rejected on wear test at 35 plays
BR181 (10"):  Pearsall, In dulci jubilo - Part 2
          Take 1 - passed technical test but rejected on wear test at 25 plays
          Take 2 - failed technical test
          Take 3 - passed technical test but rejected on wear test at 20 plays
+  Despite the test failures, this was issued as gramophone record E419 - see notes below

CR182 (12"):  Bach, We bow our heads  (St Matthew Passion)  Parts 1 - 2
          Take 1 - passed technical test but rejected on wear test after 15 plays  ("sub clicks at end")
          Take 2 - passed technical test but rejected wear test after 15 plays
CR183 (12"):  Bach, We bow our heads (St Matthew Passion)  Part 2
          Take 1 - Passed technical test but rejected on wear test after 15 plays
          Take 2 - Passed technical test only
          Take 3 - Passed technical test but rejected on wear test after 20 plays
          Take 4 - Passed technical test but rejected on wear test after 15 plays
+ Despite the test failures, this was issued as gramophone record D1084 - see notes below

BR184 (10"):  Bach, If I should e're forsake thee  (St Matthew Passion)
          Take 1 - damaged in process
          Take 2 - wax cracked
BR185 (10"):  Bach, Though all men should forsake Thee  (St Matthew Passion)
         Take 1 - slightly out of tune; rejected
These two not issued

+ On 22 March 1926 the Sales Committee intervened  and actually breached the norm for 'rejection'.  so that these test pressing could be issued as gramophone records.  I think that the loss of prestige and reputation with a wary Dean and Chapter, had nothing ensued, not to mention the likely wrath of Nicholson after so much time and effort had been expended, was persuasive!!   These are fine performances and their loss would have been grievous.

29 March 1926
CR218-CR225 (12"):  Bach, St Matthew Passion

          All takes mainly rejected on wear tests, plus 'blasty notes, weak orchestra, clicks'
Not issued

11 July 1927
all the recording from this session were relayed to the small Upper Queen's Hall studio D by telephone land line.
BR1440:  (10") Jesu lover of my soul
BR1441:  (10") Abide with me
BR1442:  (10")  Hark, Hark, my soul

None of these were issued

    
12 December 1928
​directed by Ernest Bullock
all the recordings in this session were recorded onto wax masters in the HMV mobile recording van
CR2274/5 (12"):  Wesley, Ascribe unto the Lord
All takes rejected


CR2272 (12"):  Byrd, Exsurge Domine
          Take 1a,2,2a - passed technical and wear test.  Mastered & issued
CR2273 (12"):  Child, O bone Jesu
          Take 1,2,2a - failed technical and wear test.  Mastered & issued
+  Even though 'O bone Jesu' failed both tests, it was nevertheless decided to use this test pressing so that the 12" gramophone record C1678 could be issued in 1929

+  Normally, it would be very difficult for failures to be rescued but exceptionally this was done so that production of the gramophone record could go ahead, as in these two instances.


  

  
    

HMV's publicity department in
action again!

Westminster Abbey Choir



4 November 1926 
directed by Sir Sydney H Nicholson
​all the recording from this session were relayed to Gloucester House or the
small Upper Queen's Hall studio D by telephone land line.

BR821 (10"):  Hark the herald & O come all ye faithfu
          Take 1 - passed technical but rejected on wear test: destroyed 
          Take 2 - passed technical but rejected on wear test: destroyed
          Take 3 - passed technical and wear test: mastered
          Take 3a - failed technical and wear test: destroyed
BR822 (10"):  Good King Wenceslas
          Take 1- passed technical by rejected wear test
          Take 2 - passed technical and wear test: mastered
          Take 2a - passed technical and wear test:  hold for 30 days
Issued as 10" record, B2385  in 1926

BR823 (10"):  Nicholson, King Jesus had a garden
          Take 1,1a - tone too weak; rejected wear test: destroyed
BR824 (10"):  Basque carol, The infant King
          Take 1 - passed technical test but rejected on wear test: destroyed
          Take 2 - passed technical test but rejected on wear test: destroyed
Not issued

31 October 1928 
directed by Sir Ernest Bullock
all the recordings in this session were recorded onto wax masters

in the HMV mobile recording van​

BR2256 (10"):  Morley, Nolo mortum peccatoris
          Take 1 - rejected after testing

          Take 2 - mastered & issued​
BR2257 (10"):  Mozart,  Ave verum
          Take 1 - rejected after testing

          Take 2 - mastered & issued
Issued as record B2892 in 1929

Westminster Abbey, 1926
click to enlarge

Westminster Cathedral
directed by Lancelot Long
Recordings relayed from Westminster Cathedral to small Queen's Hall D studio

 11 June 1928
CR2085 (12"):  Benediction Service Part 1,  a) O Salutaris Hostia;  b)Tantum Ergo;  c)Adoramus
          Take 1a,2,2a - take 2 mastered & issued
CR2086 (12"):  Benediction Service Part 2,   Eslava, Bone pastor
          Take 1,1a - take 1 mastered & issued
Issued as 12" record  C1611 and you can listen to this recording.
  

Westminster Cathedral, 1922
click to enlarge

Winchester Cathedral
directed by William Prendergast
all the recordings in this session were recorded onto wax masters in the HMV mobile recording van 

​​27 October 1927
CR1176 (12"):  S S Wesley, Blessed are they that always keep judgement
          Take 1a - rejected after 40 plays of wear test
          Take 2 - passed technical test only
          Take 2a - passed technical and wear test​
CR1177 (12"):  Arise O ye servants
          Take 1a - passed technical and wear test
          All takes on both test pressings were destroyed with the terse comment written on the recording sheet 'Poor Singing'
Not issued

  

Winchester Cathedral, 1933
click to enlarge

York Minster
​directed by Sir Edward Bairstow
all the recordings in this session were recorded onto wax masters in the HMV mobile recording van

7 April 1927
CR1028 (12"):  Gibbons, O Lord increase my faith & O clap your hands 
          Take 1 - passed technical and wear test: hold for 30 days
          Take 2 - passed technical and wear test: mastered as C1337
CR1029 (12"):  Byrd, This day Christ was born
​          Take 1 - passed technical and wear test: mastered as C1334​
CR1030 (12"):  Byrd, Christe qui lux es et dies  
          Take 1 - passed technical and wear test: mastered as C1334
          Take 2 - passed technical and wear test:  hold for 30 days 

8 April                             
CR1031 (12"):  Gibbons, God is gone up
          Take1 - passed technical and wear test:  mastered as C1337
          Take 2 - passed technical and wear test:  hold for 30 days
CR1028 & CR1031 were issued as 12" record, C1337  in 1927
CR1029 & CR1030 were issued as 12" record, C1334 in 1927:


CR1032 (12"):  O praise God in his Holiness 
          Take 1,2  - passed technical and wear
           Both takes destroyed
           A partly unreadable note says 'Unpleasant notes.......
CR1033 (12"):  Salvator mundi
          Take 1,2 - passed technical and wear
          Take 1 - mastered but not issued
          Take 2 - destroyed
Not issued

York Minster, 1929
click to enlarge

A thank you from the Archive
The detailed information on this page has been generously shared by Colin Charnley.

He has undertaken extensive research into early recordings of choirs and the Archive is most grateful for his assistance. 

Without it, this page would not have been possible.

This article, which I wrote for 'Cathedral Music' magazine in 2018, charts the first fifty years of church music recordings on 78rpm records.   I hope it may be of interest.



Read the story of the 78rpm record labels