Master Ernest Lough

Ernest Lough was born in Forest Gate, West Ham and was a treble in the local church choir of St Peter's.   He auditioned at Southwark Cathedral, but joined the choir of the Temple Church in London in 1924, under the direction George Thalben-Ball who had just succeeded Sir Henry Walford Davies. As a chorister of the Temple Church, Lough had a choral scholarship to the nearby City of London School.

Lord Justice Eldon Bankes suggested that the Temple choir should make a record; on 5 April 1927, the Gramophone Company brought its new mobile recording unit to the Temple Church where the choir recorded Felix Mendelssohn's "Hear My Prayer". Lough, then aged 15, sang the famous solo "O for the Wings of a Dove", and had to stand on two large books in order to be near enough to the microphone. 

HMV issued the record, C1329, in June 1927 and was an instant hit, became thier biggest seller for 1927.  Six presses worked day and night at HMV's factory to keep up with demand and this recording made Mendelssohn's anthem,  the Temple choir and Ernest Lough world-famous.

Crowds of people packed the congregation to hear Lough sing at Sunday services, and his singing on the recording was considered so beautiful that a legend grew up that Ernest had died after singing the last note! The original master recording wore out, and a second version had to be recorded to replace it in 1928.

HMV Publicity Photo,  1927
Click on any photo to enlarge

This recording continued to sell throughout the twentieth century. In January 1963, it earned a gold disc specifically to mark the 35th anniversary of the recording and the completion of over 35 years of co-operation between the Temple Church and HMV.  One of the very few recordings which has never deleted from the catalogue and is still available on CD, now having sold over six million copies. The Record Guide in 1951 described it as "one of the outstanding best-sellers of gramophone history".

Ernest Lough's voice broke in 1929 after he had made a number of other recordings, although none of them achieved the iconic status of "O for the Wings of a Dove". He continued to sing in his spare time as a baritone, and was one of the "gentlemen" or adult members of the Temple choir.

He made little money from the recording. A 5% royalty was paid to the Inner Temple, with half of that shared by George Thalben-Ball and 24 members of the choir.    

Choir camp 1926
Ernest Lough, 2nd from left

City of London School Sports Day, 1925
Ernest Lough, far left

Ernest Lough, 2nd from left


Probably the most famous choir record of all time x 2!

Ernest Lough and the choir of the Temple Church first recorded Mendelssohn's Hear My Prayer on 5 April1927 and due to the metal stampers wearing it, it was re-recoded again on 30 March 1928.

Listen to the full 1927 recording which Ernest Lough preferred, describing his voice at 'crisper'

Hear the difference in the opening bars of each recording

The first recording of 1927 is longer by a full 16 seconds and in the opening bars Ernest sings an aspirated (breathy) ‘H' on each ‘Hear.'

In the second recording of 1928, he’s ironed out his ‘H’s’ breathy tone anymore. ’  

Listen for yourself to the opening bars of each recording and hear the difference.

'The most sublime record ever made'

Read HMVs deliciously effuse four page publicity leaflet on Ernert Lough's recording!

TV broadcast

Ernest Lough
Channel 4 Television,  1993

A documentary on Ernest Lough and his legendary recording of Mendelssohn's 'Hear My Prayer/O for wings of a Dove'

Written and produced by his son, Robin Lough

BBC Radio documentaries

George Thalben Ball talks about Ernest Lough and his recordings

​Broadcast 26 October 1959

In April 1927 a 15-year-old boy soprano made what was to become one of the most famous recordings in gramophone history

​Broadcast 14 March 1987

A broadcast tribue to Dr George-Thalben Ball in celebration of 60 years as organist of the Temple Church.  One of the guests is the adult Ernest Lough

Broadcast 6 March 1979

Recordings of Ernest Lough

Other gramophone records of Ernest Lough will be added soon

Go to Dr George Thalben-Ball webpage