01 February 2006

More Voices of Christmas Past

About a month ago I wrote this post, about a CD of Victorian/Edwardian Christmas music. I commented on how the singers' voices sounded markedly different in those days (and not just to do with the technical aspects of the recordings).

Well, it turns out that George Nelson, the "proprietor" of The Antique Christmas Lights Museum site, also collects old phonographs and has added to his site two pages of links to .mp3s of late Victorian/Edwardian/WWI-era Christmas music recorded from his own collection of cylinders and disks. He comments about his amazement at these disks still being viable after being recorded without the use of electricity 100 years ago.

In listening to these recordings, you can not only hear the difference in singing styles and voices, but also, on the earliest recordings, hear the custom of announcing the name of the piece and the singer or orchestra before the music started. Nelson also has two later pieces, Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" and "Jingle Bells" from 1942, played on a 1918 wind up phonograph.

(I love looking at Nelson's site, no matter what time of year, because I love looking at the technology of the time. I am not too young to remember when my mother's electric iron and other appliances around our house had thread-wrapped electrical cords instead of the plastic ones with a groove in it like today, and I remember the old lights with their two-color wiring. There were still some C-6 bulbs in the attic when we cleaned it out and I forgot to bring them home, to my regret. For the longest time, my parents kept as a "spare" an old toaster—with the thread-wrapped cord—which didn't "pop." Instead each side opened like the door on a toaster oven and you leaned the slice of bread against the wires and then had to watch it to make sure your toast didn't burn.)

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