Here in London, it’s traditional that the chiming of Big Ben rings in the New Year. The following recordings, from November 1926, includes that distinctive bell, and other bells of Westminster, together with Stanley Roper playing the organ of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster.

St. Margaret’s Chimes, Westminster. “O God, our help in ages past”
Impressions of London (Westminster). Actual recording of BIG BEN and traffic noises. St. Margaret’s Chimes and Organ (“The Old 100th”)

Stanley Roper, organ

St Margaret’s Chimes. “O God, our help” – Roper

Impressions of London. “The Old 100th” – Roper

(mp3 files – click to play, or right click the link, then select “Save as”)

His Master’s Voice B 2398
Matrices BR 868-III, 869-I (9764, 9765)
Recorded 24th November 1926, St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, London

New Year’s Day itself brings the concert from Vienna, with waltzes, polkas, galops and so on, usually by the Strauss family. The four recordings presented here are dances of the same type, but by a wider range of composers, and ensembles.

Warschawsky (or Vasily S. Varshavsky) recorded for a number of different labels (Beka, Columbia, Favorite, Gramophone Co., Zonophone) with his “Harmonia Orchestra”. This was in fact an accordion ensemble. He conducted accompaniments for choirs and solos. More details can be found at Russian Records.

Warschawsky Polka
W. Warschawsky’s Orchester

Warschawsky Polka

(mp3 file – click to play, or right click the link, then select “Save as”)

G&T Gramophone Concert Record G.C.-20596
Matrix 1556z (20596 II)
Recorded 1903, Moscow

This plays in G major at 78rpm (with concert pitch of A440). My copy of this record is very worn, particularly at the start.

Chris Chapman was an American percussionist who recorded for Victor from 1905 to 1909, playing mainly bells or xylophone. In this recording he plays a Gavotte by Charles W Kremer, about whom I can find no further information. This is the only recording of one of his works to appear in the Victor acoustic catalogues.

Charles W Kremer – Southern Girl Gavotte
Chris Chapman, bells with Orchestra

Kremer – Southern Girl Gavotte – Chris Chapman

(mp3 file – click to play, or right click the link, then select “Save as”)

Gramophone Concert Record G.C.-9383
Matrix B-4764 (Victor master – English pressing gives A4764 (9383 IV))
Recorded 5th August 1907

This plays in F major at 78rpm.

Although named on the label as “Clarkes London Concert Band,” this recording was issued in the French catalogue as being played  by the Musique de la Garde Républicaine, and its use of the o-series matrix number also suggests a French recording.

Waldteufel – Toujours ou jamais Waltz
“Clarkes London  Concert Band” – Musique de la Garde Républicaine

Waldteufel – Toujours ou jamais – Garde Republicain (G flat major)


Waldteufel – Toujours ou jamais – Garde Republicaine (G major)

(mp3 file – click to play, or right click the link, then select “Save as”)

G&T Gramophone Concert Record G.C.-2-145
Matrix 4397o (2-145)
Recorded 1904-5, Paris

Curiously, after the end of the Waldteufel, there is a gap in the grooves, and then another track – a few seconds of a steady single note on a trumpet.

The French military had already adopted diapason normal by this time and this recording plays in G flat major at 75.9rpm. At this speed, this trumpet tone appears as A440. A speed of around 80.4rpm would put the work in G major, with the test tone as a B flat, this would put result in many of the transposing instruments playing in A major and E major, which may be less likely than playing in A flat major and E flat major. However, I’ve provided transfers at both pitches, and leave it to the listener to decide which sounds more likely. The original orchestral key of E major is unfeasible!

As with the Warschawsky, there is a great deal of wear and distortion, particularly near the start of this record.

The label for the following record of music by Lumbye names “Elite Orkester”, then København, Danish Orchestra. However, the matrix listings name the Black Diamonds Band, the Gramophone Company’s house band. At the same session they recorded several other works by Lumbye, Lund, Eriksen and Wenrich, likely for the Danish catalogue.

H.C. Lumbye – Salut for August Bournonville, Galop
“Elite Orkester” – Black Diamonds Band

Lumbye – Salut for August Bournonville – Black Diamonds Band

(mp3 file – click to play, or right click the link, then select “Save as”)

Gramophone Concert Record V.*70659
Matrix 11414e (V*70659)
Recorded 4th March 1910, London

On the basis that standard military band pitch at the time was A452, I’ve transferred this at 80rpm, which puts it in B flat for this pitch standard. The original orchestral version is in D, which would give a turntable speed which is unfeasibly fast for Gramophone records of this period. It would however give the piece at a speed comparable to modern recordings of this galop!