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James Collis Bird - 1898 Concertina Record


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#1 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 01:17 PM

Nick Collis Bird has started a thread on melodeon.net; J. Collis Bird, Concertina record; about a 78 rpm recording that his great-grandfather made in 1898. It's on Berliner E-9105 and he is playing "Men of Harlech" on it.

 

That number puts J. Collis Bird's recording slap-bang in the midst of a pile of the concertina virtuoso/music hall artist Percy Honri's ones, and Honri's Berliner E-9107 "Happy Darkies" is known to have been recorded on 1st October 1898, it was re-released on G&T 9107 around 1901, as were a good few more earlier recordings by him (below):

 

G&T 9102: "Honeymoon March"
G&T 9103: "Marauder's March"
G&T 9104: "Killarney"
G&T 9106: "Castilda March"
G&T 9107: "Happy Darkies"
G&T 9108: "The Lost Chord"
G&T 9109: "Santiago Waltz"
G&T 9110: "Toreador Waltz"
G&T 9112: "Selections from the Geisha"
G&T 9113: "Austrian Hymn"
G&T 9116: "Coon's Delight"
G&T 9117: "High School Cadets"

So could E-9105 also have been issued as G&T 9105 too?

 

Also, "Simpson's Chelsea, Pimlico, Brompton and Knightsbridge Directory and Court Guide, 1863" lists "Bird, James. Professor & Teacher of the English Concertina, 26 Denbigh Street, Pimlico, London."

 

So Nick would very much like to know if anybody has any information about James Collis Bird, or any recordings of him?



#2 wes williams

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 09:00 AM

European Berliner records are G&T (or more precisely Gramophone Company). At the same time as The Gramophone Company (the name was changed to The Gramophone and Typewriter in 1901) was formed in London, a German company was also formed in Hannover which was ~60% owned by the London based company. The Hannover based Gramophone Company (later Deutsche Grammophon) was the pressing plant for all Gramophone company records, and run by Berliner himself.

 

So for the first few years, all Gramophone company records were released using Berliner's original 7 inch format - engraved/embossed information in the central area. In 1901 the 10 inch record was introduced, and all records from then on have paper labels. So the G&T recordings in your list aren't re-releases, they are the same records with a different centre. Britain didn't have a G&T pressing plant until 1907.

 

The first list of Gramophone Co. records was issued 16 November 1898 in Britain. Records with vocal content have been listed in Volume 1 of Voices of the Past by John Bennett, available here https://archive.org/...hepast017049mbp , but instrumental recordings have largely been ignored. I'm trying to rectify this with a Wiki (http://78rpmcommunit...-sided-listings).

 

Edit: This has been written from the results of very recent research, which is not yet reflected in any of the discographies on my site.


Edited by wes williams, 09 February 2014 - 09:36 AM.


#3 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 09 February 2014 - 11:13 AM

Thanks for that Wes, I thought you'd have some input on the subject, in fact I was going to message you about it in the next day or two.

 

I see that the Gramophone Record Catalogue 1899 only lists Percy Honri's recordings, and states:



 

Our Concertina Records are a special feature in our Catalogue, and we have been fortunate in obtaining the services of Mr. PERCY HONRI to make these Records. We think they will be found very satisfactory reproductions of the instrument as well as of his artistic playing.

 

So I wonder if J. Collis Bird's one ever got released? But Nick would obviously love to hear his great-grandfather play, whilst EMI say that they do have it in their archives, somewhere... :unsure:



#4 wes williams

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 01:02 AM

I've put aside my G&T research, and hit the CHARM database, which only gives you the right info if you supply the right search terms (so it's female?). I can now announce the results of the earliest flat disc concertina recording artists with fair certainty. So fanfare and roll drums as we announce the winners   :D  :

In Gold Medal position its.......
Salvation Army Staff Captain LINACRE who recorded 'Glory to God' on Thursday, 1 September, 1898.
(yes, he's new to me too!!)

In Silver Medal position its ........
PERCY HONRI who recorded 'Onward Christian Soldiers' on Thursday, 15 September, 1898.
(not typical of Percy's repertoire, is it? Percy also recorded on Wednesday, 21 September 1898)

In Bronze Medal position its .....
 J COLLIS BIRD who recorded 'March of the Men of Harlech' on Monday, 26 September, 1898.

Way behind in 4th place is Professor John Hill Maccann (inventor of the Maccann Duet Concertina) with his recording of 'The Coral Pearl, Gavotte' on 12 September 1900.

I was rather hoping that Nick's gt-grandpa might have sneaked into 1st or 2nd, but still a valiant effort. Any idea if he might have been part of one Percy Honri's reviews, Nick? The costermongers scene photo in Peter Honri's book shows many performers holding concertinas, so might it be possible that he was sent in Percy's place when Percy couldn't make it?

So the Fred Gaisberg quote in Peter Honri's book seems to be disproved, which isn't too surprising as Fred would have been 73 years old then, and wasn't beyond slight embroidery of his tales, as recent research seems to suggest.

{posted both here and on melodeon.net}



#5 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 01:33 PM

Great stuff Wes, thanks!

 

In Gold Medal position its.......
Salvation Army Staff Captain LINACRE who recorded 'Glory to God' on Thursday, 1 September, 1898.
(yes, he's new to me too!!)

 

And that recording was Berliner E9100, the first in the Concertina series.

 

In Silver Medal position its ........
PERCY HONRI who recorded 'Onward Christian Soldiers' on Thursday, 15 September, 1898.
(not typical of Percy's repertoire, is it? Percy also recorded on Wednesday, 21 September 1898)

 

Which was E9101 in the Concertina series.

 

Maybe not typical of what he usually recorded, but there's a newsreel in which Percy plays "singalong" songs (whilst mouthing the words of them to the audience) and I guess "Onward Christian Soldiers" could be seen in terms of that part of his repertoire; a crowd pleaser...

 

I'd already concluded that the issued record of "Happy Darkies" couldn't have been the "first recording" and the tale of that may well be apocryphal, though (given the circumstances described) I wonder if it might possibly have been done simply as a "test" recording for the new equipment and never given a number or released, then re-recorded (properly) a few weeks later? (As well as again in January 1949.)

 

(In which case, Percy would still have made "the first recording" but not "the first commercial recording". :huh: )

 

In Bronze Medal position its .....
 J COLLIS BIRD who recorded 'March of the Men of Harlech' on Monday, 26 September, 1898.

 

Do you know if there's any evidence that E9105 got issued, or the other two (E9100 or E9101) for that matter, since none of them are listed in the Gramophone Record Catalogue 1899?

 

If J.Collis Bird's one was, Nick may have a hope of finding a copy, other than that "lost" recording in EMI's Archives...

 

And if Staff Captain Linacre's one wasn't, Percy Honri would still have made "the first commercially-released record" of a concertina.

 

{posted both here and on melodeon.net}



#6 wes williams

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 07:58 PM

I managed to find the first 23 of the concertina series. Since all these are allocated numbers, its fairly safe to assume they were released, or at least intended to be. The date of that catalogue wasn't stated last time I looked; it could be up to October 1901. Later entries in the database show recordings made but not issued, but with the earliest ones they aren't listed. The last of the 23 is Maccann on 12 September 1900 when he recorded 9118 to 9122, which are the first in the series to have matrix numbers. I couldn't find any more on the database until Dutch Daly's 9137: "Wedding March and Carnival" recorded 13 August 1903, but the database is slightly cranky with its search terms, so they could be there somewhere. The recording dates of Zonophone issued concertina records exclude them as possibles from this missing period. I've added the list below, all are 7 inch, and 'Berliner'.

 

As I said earlier on melodeon.net, the number of records that could be pressed from a master was very limited, so most of these records are extremely rare, and that was made even worse by the 'trade-in' policy which allowed one third of the original cost of a returned record against a new purchase. I was outbid at £165 for one of Maccann's on ebay, which gives you some kind of indicator, although they normally sell at around £50 up.

 

9100: Glory to God; Salvation Army Staff Captain LINACRE;Thursday, 1 September, 1898
9101: Onward Christian soldiers (Sullivan), PERCY HONRI, Thursday, 15 September, 1898
9102: Honeymoon, March; PERCY HONRI; Thursday, 15 September, 1898
9103: The marauders, March;PERCY HONRI; Wednesday, 21 September, 1898
9104: Killarney (Balfe); PERCY HONRI; Wednesday, 21 September, 1898
9105: March of the Men of Harlech; J COLLIS BIRD; Monday, 26 September, 1898
9106: Castilda, march;PERCY HONRI; Saturday, 1 October, 1898
9107: Happy darkies (Honri); PERCY HONRI; Saturday, 1 October, 1898
9108:The lost chord (Sullivan); PERCY HONRI; Saturday, 1 October, 1898
9109: Santiago, Waltz (Corbin); PERCY HONRI (with piano); Tuesday, 11 October, 1898
9110: Toreador, Waltz; PERCY HONRI (with piano);Tuesday, 11 October, 1898
9111: Medley of popular airs; PERCY HONRI (with piano); Tuesday, 11 October, 1898
9112: The Geisha: Selection (S Jones); PERCY HONRI ; Monday, 31 October, 1898
9113: Austrian Hymn; PERCY HONRI; Monday, 31 October, 1898
9114: Lyceum, March; PERCY HONRI, Monday, 31 October, 1898
9115: Gramophone March; PERCY HONRI; Monday, 31 October, 1898
9116: Coon's delight (Honri);PERCY HONRI; Monday, 31 October, 1898
9117: High School Cadets, March (Sousa); PERCY HONRI; Monday, 31 October, 1898
9118: The coral pearl, Gavotte; Professor McCANN; 12-9-00 (Recorded by Fred Gaisberg)
9119: ’A Frangesa, March (Costa); Professor McCANN; 12-9-00 (Recorded by Fred Gaisberg)
9120: The Beatrix Schottisch; Professor McCANN;12-9-00 (Recorded by Fred Gaisberg)
9121: The Princess, Schottisch; Professor McCANN; 12-9-00 (Recorded by Fred Gaisberg)
9122: The Empire, March; Professor McCANN; 12-9-00 (Recorded by Fred Gaisberg)

 

{posted both here and on melodeon.net}


Edited by wes williams, 10 February 2014 - 08:07 PM.


#7 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 08:27 AM

I managed to find the first 23 of the concertina series. Since all these are allocated numbers, its fairly safe to assume they were released, or at least intended to be.

 

Great, so it's not impossible that Nick might be able to find a copy of J.Collis Bird's one somewhere!
 

The date of that catalogue wasn't stated last time I looked; it could be up to October 1901.

 

I took the year from The British Library website, where it is listed for 1899, but maybe that's wrong... :huh:
 

Later entries in the database show recordings made but not issued, but with the earliest ones they aren't listed.

 

So Percy Honri could have made "the first recording" but it wouldn't show up if it was only a "test" and never issued?

 

As I said earlier on melodeon.net, the number of records that could be pressed from a master was very limited, so most of these records are extremely rare, and that was made even worse by the 'trade-in' policy which allowed one third of the original cost of a returned record against a new purchase.

 

No wonder Percy Honri's records are so rare then, seeing that these seem to be the bulk of the ones he recorded.

{posted both here and on melodeon.net}


Edited by Stephen Chambers, 11 February 2014 - 08:28 AM.


#8 wes williams

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 11:41 AM

Nick might be able to locate a copy, but its a long shot. I'd suggest he contacts the CLPGS http://www.clpgs.org.uk in case one of their members has it. I'll post it on a few sites.

 

The British Library site dates aren't reliable, and should only be taken as a guide. For instance they list a '1910 HMV Records of Unique and Historical Interest' that must be over a decade later since it lists recordings by 'the late' Enrico Caruso who died in 1921. And the catalogues and supplements don't contain the whole available range. I have a 1912 HMV Trade List that has far more records than the catalogues show.

 

There's no way we can prove or disprove any earlier recordings by Honri, but I'm tempted to think the recording mentioned was 9102. After a restrained performance of Onward Christian Soldiers, Honri and Gaisberg probably let rip on Honeymoon March.

 

The Berliner/G&T recordings are only about half of the Honri recordings I've managed to list so far. The others are much more likely to appear at some point.

 

{posted both here and on melodeon.net}


Edited by wes williams, 11 February 2014 - 11:42 AM.


#9 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 12:47 PM

There's no way we can prove or disprove any earlier recordings by Honri, but I'm tempted to think the recording mentioned was 9102. After a restrained performance of Onward Christian Soldiers, Honri and Gaisberg probably let rip on Honeymoon March.

 

I guess the only "proof" would be if that claimed "first recording" was to turn up - maybe from the darkest depths of EMI's Archives - with "Ersten Plattenaufzeichnungs" or somesuch scratched in the middle of it...

 

I'm just going on what Peter Honri quoted Christopher Stone as writing, in a December 1946 article for the Daily Mail ... :
 

.. Percy Honri.... was a young man who played the concertina. One day he happened to be with Freddie Gaisberg - lately arrived from the Berliner outfit in the USA and starting operations by making a studio out of a first floor room in the Maid's Head Hotel in Maiden Lane.... That morning a new Bechstein piano had been installed, and the German operator was busy with the recording apparatus that he had just brought over from Germany. Fred tried the piano and Percy improvised on his concertina, and presently they had evolved the melodies and a brilliant accompaniment which they decided to record....

 

Which sounds very much like a fortuitous coincidence when the new studio was only in the process of being set up, rather than an arranged "recording session" as such, and maybe something a little more scintillating than "Onward Christian Soldiers" being performed...



#10 wes williams

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 03:36 PM

To give you a bit more to back up your case, there's no info to suggest that 'Honeymoon March' was recorded after 'Onward', and the catalogue order of issue isn't related, as the dates in other sections are mixed.  'Onward' should have been something that Fred knew, and knew how to accompany, whereas 'Honeymoon' would perhaps have been something new, that needed a few practice runs.

 

On the counter side, Fred Gaisberg wrote an autobiography which has been shown to be incorrect in places when compared to his diaries (http://www.recording..._documents.html ), but nobody's memories are perfect. ;)



#11 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 07:13 PM

... 'Honeymoon' would perhaps have been something new, that needed a few practice runs.

 

When they re-recorded it on 21st January 1949, Percy's recollection was that they'd played "Happy Darkies" for the first recording, though Fred couldn't remember.

 

Now, if only there was a record of the date Bechstein's delivered that new piano... :huh:

 

Has anybody checked on immigration dates for Fred Gaisberg and the German recording engineer? (Do we know the name of the latter?)

 

 

... nobody's memories are perfect. ;)

 

Absolutely, and (though it can be very precious) that's always a major issue with "oral history" -  and hence, why I wrote my Louis Lachenal Part 1 article the way I did.



#12 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 07:21 PM

Has anybody checked on immigration dates for Fred Gaisberg ...

 

OK, 23rd July 1898 through the Port of Liverpool, so that doesn't help.

 

But the engineer???



#13 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 10:02 PM

Has anybody checked on immigration dates for Fred Gaisberg ...

 

OK, 23rd July 1898 through the Port of Liverpool, so that doesn't help.

 

Only maybe it does, because that would fit in with recording starting on 8th August, 1898 as stated in Howard Friedman's paper The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925 .

 

(Though Friedman also states "Berliner also sent his nephew Joseph Sanders and Frederick Gaisberg, both of whom he had trained in the art of making and reproducing recordings on flat discs. They embarked for London on July 30, 1898" which can hardly be right if the two of them arrived, aboard the Cunard liner "Campania", on 23rd July - unless Berliner invented a Time Machine too! :huh: )

 

So that would suggest Percy Honri might possibly have recorded a "test" (if it happened as described) in the first week of August...

 

But the engineer???

 

On that score, Friedman reckons "Gaisberg stayed in London to organize the recording studio, established at 31 Maiden Lane, The Strand, London, and assembled from instruments provided by Eldridge Reeves Johnson" so there's no suggestion of a "German operator" there, or "recording apparatus that he had just brought over from Germany"...


Edited by Stephen Chambers, 11 February 2014 - 10:03 PM.


#14 wes williams

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 04:08 PM

The ship was Cunard's SS Umbria which left New York on 23 July 1898 at 9 a.m. - I told you by email that Friedman's research disagreed with mine :D

Abridged versions of Fred Gaisberg's two diaries for the first Gramophone Co. years are here : http://www.recording..._documents.html but they probably won't help you.

 

Edit: Just ordered a copy of Gaisberg's biog. I'll let you know if anything relevent is mentioned.


Edited by wes williams, 14 February 2014 - 04:35 PM.


#15 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 09:53 PM

The ship was Cunard's SS Umbria which left New York on 23 July 1898 at 9 a.m. - I told you by email that Friedman's research disagreed with mine :D

 

Wes, the part about their arrival was my own and not Friedman's research - he only said "They embarked for London on July 30, 1898".

 

I got my information from the Passenger List of "Campania" (Class: BT26; Piece: 122; Item: 22.) on Ancestry.com, where Joseph Sanders, age 20, "Electrician" and Fred. Gaisberg, age 24, "Expert" are listed, consecutively, as arriving on 23rd July, 1898 - hence my comment about the time machine... (Even if Campania was the first twin-screw Cunarder and set a trans-Atlantic speed record of 5 days, 17 hours, 27 minutes on her maiden New York to Liverpool run.) But what I looked at was the same page as Hugo Strötbaum illustrates, so something is wrong somewhere... :huh:

 

I see the source of Friedman's assertion about recording starting on 8th August, 1898 must be Fred Gaisberg's first notebook - so I'll start looking to see if I can find out where Percy Honri was around that time, since that could establish if it was even possible for him to have recorded then.


Edited by Stephen Chambers, 14 February 2014 - 10:19 PM.


#16 Stephen Chambers

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 10:53 PM

Hmmm, well according to Masters of the Sea by A.I.M. in Town and Country, Saturday 19th April 1902, the name of the Ship's Captain (on another page of the Passenger List) seems correct for "Campania":

 

"Captain Henry Walker. the commodore of the Cunard fleet, has commanded the Campania since 1895. He will celebrate his fiftieth year of service in seamanship next year. He was in the Indian transport service during the Indian mutiny, and the Chinese war. He entered the service of the Cunard Company in 1867, receiving his first command in 1875. During the Zulu campaign, in 1879 he was in charge of the transport Olympus, one of the earliest Cunard screw vessels. He was assigned to the Servia, the company's first express steamer, in 1881, and succeeded in establishing for the vessel a record passage of seven days, less ten minutes, between Queenstown and New York. Captain Walker has since commanded the Aurania, the Etruria, and the Campania."

 

 

Curiouser and curiouser ... ponder2.gif

 

But a bit of a red herring for my purposes, which are only to try and work out a time frame for a claimed Percy Honri "first disc recording", so I'm not going to attempt to unravel it any more.



#17 pga

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Posted 29 April 2015 - 03:15 AM

I am not a concertina-player, but I do know a thing or two about the early discs, so I thought it worthwhile to put in a few 'tuppence-worths' about points already raised -- and I've joined the forum on that basis. :)

The Gramophone Company (by then 'Ltd') became the Gramophone & Typewriter Ltd in December 1900.  They started putting paper labels on 10" discs towards the end of 1901 (there are a fair number of 10" discs in Berliner format from up to October 1901 or so) but the 7-inchers had to wait a while longer to get paper labels.  Indeed the latest disc I have in Berliner format was recorded as late as early summer 1902, issued that autumn.  So being in a 'G&T' catalogue doesn't necessarily mean having a paper label!  I've not seen any sign of Honri's discs being re-recorded, so we're confined to his late 1898 output, all Berliners and quite possibly not converted to paper label format.  (Any earlier Berliners converted to paper labels tended to become cheap green Zonophones rather than G&Ts, as far as I can tell.)

The December 1946 'Daily Mail' article quoted by Peter Honri is, frankly,  a bit of a mess: how much was garbled by Percy H, how much by Fred Gaisberg, and how much by Christopher Stone is open to speculation, of course.

The name of the 'old' hotel in Maiden Lane was the Cockburn (one of a small chain so named), and the recording-machine was brought over by Fred from the USA, not from Germany. I have no idea who is meant by "the German operator"; the German connection would at this stage have been confined to onward arrangements for processing and pressing discs (in Hanover).   The studio piano was (it seems) a Steinway rather than a Bechstein. 

 

And 'Happy Darkies' is probably the piece by Arthur Godfrey (1892), not the outcome of a 'jam session' -- it appears on other later recordings (eg by bands).  'Coon's Delight' might be a candidate for this honour, and certainly that is the record (not 'Happy Darkies') that was played for the floppy 7-inch LP that comes with Honri's book, along with the 1949 remake excerpt from the same piece.  But then again, they went and played the Berliner disc far too fast, at 78rpm, which makes it a tone sharp!

Lastly, Fred did definitely come over on the passenger ship 'Umbria', as he states in his autobiography, embarking on 23 July 1898 (he bought his 'steamer ticket' on 22 July, according to his diary) and arrived in the UK on 30/31 July 1898.  Fred and Jerrold Northrop Moore (in his retelling of Fred's career) between them make rather a meal of this (along with the 'first artist' that Fred recalls).  But the passenger lists in the National Archives make it clear enough -- or rather they did...

Since I saw the physical records at Kew in 1995, the passenger lists have become garbled, at least online and possible also physically, presumably at the time of digitisation.  My mother always used to say that you mustn't believe everything you read in newspapers; but it is true also of things online, even (alas) from National Archives, it would seem.   If you do a passenger-list search for Alma Hall (also coming over on the Umbria and evidently friendly with Fred for a while...) you'll find her and her mother and some other passengers apparently on two other transatlantic ships instead... :(

 

I hope that this helps to clear things up a bit!

 

Peter Adamson



#18 pga

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Posted 01 May 2015 - 10:27 AM

PS: 'Happy Darkies' is indeed the apparently very popular barn dance by Arthur Godfrey, published in various arrangements. I checked the 1892 piano solo score at the British Library...   No sign of 'Coon's Delight' so that remains a tentative candidate, I think.






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