Although it was not always the intention to preserve the song - often the wax cylinders were scraped off and re-used after the songs on them had been notated - thankfully several wax cylinders have been re-discovered in the EFDSS archives at Cecil Sharp House, London. Amongst them are cylinders recorded by George Gardiner in Hampshire. It has recently become accepted that the recordings were made by Gardiner and not Vaughan Williams as had long been believed.
The early song collectors noted down the songs after repeated listening to them.
The singer was asked to sing the song over and over until all the words and the tune, often with several variants, were notated.
This was a long process and made all the more difficult if the tune was noted much later than the words had been collected.
Some collectors embraced the latest technology of the time and recorded singers onto wax cylinders using portable hand driven phonograph machines similar to the one pictured.
The cylinders are currently deposited with the National Sound Archive at the British Library and have been made available to listen to via their website.
Follow links to listen to the recordings :
GEORGE LOVETT Winchester rec.1909
Fare Ye Well, Lovely Nancy EFDSS Cylinder No.23.
FREDERICK WHITE Southampton Workhouse rec.1909
Claudy Banks EFDSS Cylinder No.98.
DAVID CLEMENTS Basingstoke rec.1909
The Banks of Green Willow EFDSS Cylinder No.97.
DAVID CLEMENTS Basingstoke Workhouse rec.1909
The Banks of Green Willow EFDSS Cylinder No.104.
DANIEL WIGG Preston Candover rec.1909
Lord Nelson EFDSS Cylinder No.95.
UNIDENTIFIED England rec.1919
The Banks of The Nile EFDSS Cylinder No.58.
I believe this could be a recording of HENRY DAY of Basingstoke recorded by George Gardiner. The recording follows almost word for word the text collected by Gardiner from Day in 1906 on the Take6 website.*
Gardiner also recorded Mrs Goodyear of Axford singing Robin Hood and the Three Squires
and Mrs Elizabeth Randall of Ellisfield singing Yonder sits a fair young damsel on cylinders but these have not been discovered so far.
*Responses to my statement that Henry Day could be the singer of The Banks of The Nile.
Email from Gwilym Davies 26.07.09:
The words seem more or less the same, with a few variations, but I guess it was a broadside and you wouldn't expect the words to vary much from singer to singer. The tune is more of a problem. It is similar to the tune in Gardiner but not quite the same. The singer has a lot of variations from verse to verse but none of them quite match up to the MSS. So I would say the jury is still out. If it is a transcription of Henry Day's singing, it is a rather inaccurate one. It is definitely not the Stansbridge tune, which is in a major key, whereas both the cylinder recording and the Day transcript are in the Dorian mode. It would be useful to get some more opinions on it." Not sure now about the Dorian mode as it may be Aeolian.
Email from Bob Askew 26.07.09:
I have good news. I contacted Andrew King [who did the transfers for the National Sound Archive] about the Banks of the Nile, and he says that he has come to the same conclusion: that it is Henry Day. He says another chap (John Shaw) pointed out it could be him in late June, and he agrees. So well done Paul for being the first Hampshire person to think of this! Apparently it had 1919 on it, so the date put him off.
With Gardiner's collection being available through the Take6 website and his cylinder recordings on the British Library website it is now so much easier to cross reference.
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