By Neil T. Corning
In the fall of 1993, at one of the regular meetings of the New England Society for the Preservation of Recorded Sound, a collector friend from Vermont, Glen Gurwit, approached me with a gift. He had seen in a collection of records in a junk store two RCA Victor home recording discs with this handwritten notation: "John McCormack--Feb. 10, 1933." Knowing my lifelong collecting of McCormack, he purchased the discs and presented them to me.
What were they? What was February 10, 1933? A call to Peter Dolan of the John McCormack Society of America led to the information that, on that day in 1933, McCormack appeared on a radio program entitled "The Inside Story," hosted by Edwin C Hill. It was broadcast over the CBS network.
Could these be home recordings of that program? Do other copies exist? They play terribly, almost inaudibly. I could almost hear McCormack speaking. I could almost hear McCormack singing. What could be done?
Another friend transcribed it, using a multifilter. The results were negligible but this verified it was a radio interview along with the tenor singing several songs. Could the discs be restored? I called several well-known dealers and collectors, who advised me of the potential cost. I couldn't afford to restore the discs but felt the broad cast should be available to all.
I told a U.K. record dealer! friend about it, and he checked with a record company executive whom he knew. A week later I was told that this man would transcribe and clean up these discs, and if they are what we think- -a rare radio broadcast- - then the company would put the broadcast on a compact disc of rare McCormack recordings, which was soon to be issued.
I sent my discs to England and waited. Could anything be done? The answer was a resounding yes!
In a short time, my discs were returned along with
a gracious note from Elliot Levin, of Symposium Records. Under separate
cover I received a preliminary tape of the transcription. We can now hear
the interview though it is still noisy in places. Edwin Hill asks questions
and a light hearted, buoyant McCormack responds. Nathaniel
McCormack tells of his early days in England touring, and he sings seven songs one of which he never otherwise recorded. It is "Isle of Beauty," which he describes as the first song he ever learned.
A collector's dream. I own the original recording. Yes, miracles do still happen in record collecting!Neil Corning lives in Peapody, Massachesetts - He welcomes your comments about McCormack and other great singers of this period
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The above recordings were issued on Romophone CD 1167: John McCormack A Career Recorded 1904-1942.
The song "Isle of Beauty" is unfortunately listed as "An Ireland
Beauty" -a sad mistake on the part of the publishers!!!
Many thanks to Neil Corning for the above article