The recordings of Charles Alexander & Choir.

 

As far as is known, the 1905 London recordings are the only ones made by Alexander. This is quite curious, as he had been an extremely well-known evangelist for quite a few years already. One might have expected the odd cylinder. Above all, he spent quite some time in his native U.S.A. up until 1919, when he and his wife finally returned to their new home in England.

 

Still, if this be the case, the discs he did record in London are all the more important. The data below is based on Alan Kelly’s listings from the E.M.I. archives, with grateful acknowledgements.

 

There were three sessions for the Gramophone & Typewriter Company, as follows.

 

Session 1. Monday, 20th February 1905.

 

Charles Alexander with the Choir of The Torrey Alexander Mission.

Piano acc. Robert Harkness.

 

Master

Title

Cat. No.

1811

The Glory Song  (Gabriel)

G.C.-4804

1812

An incident in The Glory Song (Alexander)

G.C.-4805

1813

The Glory Song, with incident - the story of the bootmaker (Gabriel)

G.C.-4806

 

 

Zono X-44756

1814

Tell Mother I’ll be There (Alexander)

G.C.-4807

 

 

HMV Private

 

 

These are all 10"single sided discs. There is slight disarray in the composer credits. While ‘The Glory Song’ was written by Gabriel, and entered as such in the files, it was attributed to Torrey-Alexander on our copy of G.C.-4804. We have not yet seen a copy of G.C.-4805, but Alexander, as entered in the files, is understandable, as the bulk of the performance was probably Alexander narrating the incident, the song coming in to round off the recording. G.C.-4806 and 4807 are also unseen, but the Zonophone has no composer credits, and the yellow-label private record has a hand-written label, with no composer credits. Again, both performances consist of speech by Alexander, only bringing in the songs as a conclusion.

 

Session 2. Monday, 17th April 1905.

 

Charles Alexander, and others, including Helen Cadbury Alexander.

Piano acc. Robert Harkness.

 

Master

Title

Cat. No.

1998

Conversion of a humorous entertainer (Alexander)

Zono X-44757

1999

Conversion of a humorous entertainer (Alexander)

G.C.-4808

2000

The old-time religion (Alexander)

G.C.-4809

2001

The old-time religion (Alexander)

Unissued

2002

The ninety and nine (Alexander)

Unissued

2003

The ninety and nine (Alexander)

G.C.-4810

2004

The sunbeam song (Alexander)

G.C.-4811

2005

The sunbeam song (Alexander)

Broken

 

Charles Alexander with The Minster Singers.

Piano acc. Robert Harkness.

 

2006

The Glory Song (Gabriel)

Unissued

2007

The Glory Song (Gabriel)

G.C.-4812

 

 

HMV Private

 

Again, all 10" single sided discs, as normal for the time. Only three have been examined: Zonophone X-44757, G.C.-4810 and the Private HMV, none of which have composer credit. The Gramophone Co. files attribute all to Alexander. The most interesting feature is that Helen Cadbury Alexander is a performer herself on G.C.-4810, and is introduced by Charles. She reads what must be a paraphrase of the ‘Ninety and Nine’ – there would not have been time for a full version. Helen Cadbury Alexander is not mentioned in the Gramophone Co. files on this session, though she is fully credited on the label. Master 2007 is very similar to the performance on 1811, and one wonders why this re-recording was made.   

 

Session 3. Tuesday 20th June 1905.

 

Charles Alexander, and others?

Acc. Unknown, but probably piano by Robert Harkness.

 

Master

Title

Cat. No.

974

The Glory Song (Gabriel)

Master destroyed

975

The Glory Song (Gabriel)

Master destroyed

976

Never lose sight

Master destroyed

977

Never lose sight

Master destroyed

2178

Incident of a conversion

Master destroyed

 

There is nothing to say about this session, as all were rejected & the masters destroyed. 974-977 were of course 7" (18cm) diameter recordings.

 

Notes for those unfamiliar with early disc records.

 

The prefix ‘G.C.-’ stands for ‘Gramophone Concert Record’. This was the main catalogue series of the Gramophone Company, which later (1910) adopted the name ‘His Master’s Voice’. ‘Zono’ stands for Zonophone, a subsidiary company, sold at a rather lower price.  ‘Unissued’ means here that two versions of the performance were recorded, and that the one regarded as the better was selected for issue. The other version was still retained for possible future use, as was the case with 1998/1999. ‘Broken’ means that the original recording (which was made on a thick wax disc), had been accidentally broken while removing it from the recording lathe, or in some subsequent handling of it. ‘Master destroyed’ may mean that (a) there was a technical problem with the recordings, and so they were non-viable; (b) the company decided not to issue those recordings for some  reason which we will never know; (c) possibly CMA himself regarded them as unsatisfactory. It has ever - or at least should be - the prerogative of the artist to veto the issue of recordings which they themselves deem unsatisfactory. Especially if they are not being paid for making them! 8^)   In any event, the master recordings of these sides were seemingly discarded, as a deliberate measure.

 

N.B. Unlike modern digital recordings which are immune to pitch variation, analogue disc recordings were made at a certain number of rpm – ‘revolutions per minute.’ It is obviously essential to replay such a recording at the correct speed. If they are played too fast, the pitch will rise and the performance will be shorter in length. If played below speed, the pitch will be flattened, and the duration will be too long. Both of these are distortions of the original performance. We have made every attempt to get the pitch of the mp3s correct, but there are always problems. For example, the first version of ‘Glory Song’ (master 1811) works well in its published key of A flat; but the second version (master 2007) sounds much ‘happier’ in the key of G, and if increased to A flat, sounds far too high and fast. So probably it actually was performed in G on the April session. Changing the key of a performance to suit circumstances was – still is – quite a common occurrence; nothing is written in stone. We can never know exactly what went on, 110 years ago.

 

 

 

 

Page written 22nd December 2015.