Scottish Music on Early Cylinder Recordings

Before Covid19, the idea of online concerts was rather niche, but in the past two years, these have become an interesting and innovative way to share music.  While most concerts are recorded on video, some – including the one discussed here – are curated from historic recordings, and provide an insight into historic repertoire and recording practice.

The City of London Phonograph and Gramophone Society was founded in 1919, with a mission to share music socially using new recording technology.  Regular meetings allowed people of relatively modest income to form a community of listeners and share their music.  Today, the society has an interesting website with curated online concerts curated from gramophone and phonograph cylinders, and one such offering presents a specially curated event with historic Scottish recordings.  Both audio and short notes about the pieces and performers are available on the site, and the programme list illustrates nicely how new recording technology helped spread awareness of Scottish music and musicians in the early years of the 20th century, both in the British Isles and North America.

  • “Stirling Castle Strathspeys” (although it sounds like a reel to me!) played by Lanarkshire miner and accordion shop-owner Peter Wyper, released in 1910.
  • “Afton Water”, “Annie Laurie” and “Scots Wha Hae” sung by American contralto Christine Miller, released in the 1910s
  • “Willie’s Gane Tae Melville Castle” and the “March of the Cameron Men” sung by Thomas Kinniburgh, released in 1913
  • “Bonnie Lass O’Bon Accord” played by virtuosic Aberdeenshire violinist James Scott Skinner, released in 1910
  • “Bonnie Dundee” sung by Marie Narelle and “Auld Lang Syne”, released in the 1910s
  • “Hundred Pipers” sung by J M Hamilton, recorded in 1906
  • “The Lament of Flora Macdonald” sung by Archie Anderson, released in 1912
  • “The Campbells are Coming” played by bagpiper Pipe Major Forsyth of the Scots Guards, royal piper to George V, Edward VIII and George VI, released 1907
  • “You Can’t Make Music With that” sung by Music Hall singer and comedian Daisy Taylor, released 1914
  • “The Pipers” sung by Music Hall singer and comedian Wullie F. Frame, recorded in 1904
  • “Barbara Allen” sung by Scots-American Appalachian artist Frank Luther and his ‘Pards’, released in 1928
  • “Coming thro’ the Rye” played by Scots-Canadian commonwealth reserve soldiers, the Famous Kiltie Band of the 48th Highlanders, released in 1904
  • “Rob Roy MacGregor” sung by the Edison Light Opera Co., released 1914 – another example of Scottish musical diaspora, here a piece from early 20th century Broadway operetta
  • “Just a Wee Deoch an Doris” sung by Harry Lauder, released 1912 and again 1913
  • “The Land O’ the Leal” sung by William Davidson, issued 1912
  • A reel played by (?American) fiddlers John Baltzell and Samuel G Shults, released 1928

The Society publishes a quarterly journal, For the Record (formerly Hillandale News), and has members around the world. There is a  Scottish group, and reports from their meetings can be read here.

The Society welcomes new members, and also has a Facebook page where you can read their news as it is released.

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