Friday, September 16, 2016

1923 Gennett Sleeve

Until I plucked it from an antique store in Moorhead, Minnesota last year, this copy of Gennett 5290 in its original sleeve had not traveled far from home. The stamp on the front shows that it was sold at West Piano Company on 4th Street in Moorhead, presumably 93 years or so before I bought it in the same town. That this sleeve and this record were originally paired is evidenced by the record's catalog number written on the two top corners of the front of the sleeve. They are written by two different hands - a store clerk and the original owner, perhaps? One of them also wrote the number on the back.

The record itself, by the studio dance band Gennett called Bailey's Lucky Seven, is not particularly interesting. But I love the sleeve, and love the fact that it has remained paired to "its" record for nearly a century. The most intriguing aspect is the listing of records on the back - not so much the selection "of special appeal" listed on the left: hymns, sermons, monologues, and light classics - but the "latest popular numbers" listed on the right. There is one pop/dance record listed, but the other four are hard-core jazz and blues. There's one of Jelly Roll Morton's seminal piano solos, as well as two records by the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, from the first racially integrated jazz recording session. I have one of those NORK records, and have thought about putting it into this sleeve, but decided that Gennett 5290 should stay with its original sleeve as long as I have it.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Original Sacred Harp Choir

Sacred  Harp singing, a style named after the hymnbook known as The Sacred Harp, is an unusual and very stylized form of a cappella gospel singing, in which the first verse of the song is performed with solfege syllables (fa, so, la, etc.) before the singers move on the lyrics of the song. The music is written with shaped noteheads; each shape corresponds to a solfege syllable - and the system does not correspond to the standard "classical" system of solfege. The style developed in the earliest days of the United States, and can still be found, especially in the southern states.

Sacred Harp singing was first recorded by the Brunswick record company in a series of sessions in New York in June and July of 1922. Based on contemporary newspaper accounts, the singers were apparently recruited from Texas and Georgia. Sacred Harp singing tends to be slightly rough-hewn, but the singers on the Brunswick recordings sing in a more refined manner, possibly reflecting the tastes of the record company. Brunswick thought enough of these recordings to issue them with a beautiful special label, depicting the shaped notes.

These sessions are notable for the first recording of "Amazing Grace," issued under the title "New Britain." Brunswick 5154, pairing "Greenfield" and "Hallelujah," has remained a more obscure disc; it doesn't appear in any discographies that I have seen.



Thursday, September 1, 2016

Back in the Groove

For a variety of reasons, mostly computer-related, I have been unable to add to this blog for a while, and the links to the sound files have been broken for some time. All of that has been worked out and the sound files have been reloaded. I'll be adding more stuff soon, and have several interesting 78s lined up to post.