ABOUT

Welcome to Zono Minstrels.co.uk!

Welcome to the Zono Minstrels tribute site, which was created in 2013, the centenary year of the legendary recordings.

*** BREAKING NEWS! – ALL HALLOWS EVE 2016 – ZONOMINSTRELS.CO.UK ACHIEVES ITS PRIMARY OBJECTIVE! ***

On 31st October 2016, the complete collection of Zono Minstrels recordings became available for the first time in over 100 years, since the original gramophone records were for sale in record shops just before the Great War.

The last remaining gramophone record I needed to complete the collection surfaced in a charity shop in Alfred Scott Gatty’s home county of Yorkshire. The recordings of Ding Dong Ding and Down By Dat Ribber have been transferred and uploaded to YouTube by my good friend Robert Godridge, who is a true record collecting fanatic.

Robert’s channel is a powerhouse archive of vintage music, and the number of recordings he has managed to preserve and make available to the world is literally staggering. Check his channel out here –

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCthHMyxwXTTvGUA-TkrsE3g

as there is bound to be something which will suit your taste.

Less than a week after the record was discovered, Rob set up his brand new website devoted to vintage sound recordings. Check that out here –

http://oldgramophonerecords.co.uk/

The Zono Minstrels recordings have been embedded into the corresponding pages of this website, meaning that the full set of twelve recordings is now available to anyone who wants to hear these unique and wonderful expressions of the minstrel genre.

The higher quality WAV files are available, along with the sheet music for all 24 of Alfred Scott Gatty’s Plantation Songs, through the site downloads.

I am in the process of setting up an autoresponder on this site to deliver the downloads automatically, but until that happens please contact me through the Contact Form and I will do my best to get the downloads to you.

This now means that two of the three objectives of this site have been achieved, less than three and a half years after the site’s inauguration. The third objective, that of organising and recording a live performance of the full set of 24 songs, still remains to be achieved. The year of 2018, the hundredth anniversary of Scott Gatty’s passing, would be the ideal time for this event to occur.

In the meantime, please savour the twelve peerless recordings of the Zono Minstrels, which have now been preserved and made available to the world again.

Andrew Wardle,
http://www.zonominstrels.co.uk/

Now back to the regular content!

Who were the Zono Minstrels?

They were four of the best and most popular singers of the years just before the Great War. They were –

Annie Rees – Soprano
Violet Oppenshaw – Contralto
Ernest Pike – Tenor
Stewart Gardner – Baritone

They came together for two recording sessions in August 1913. The first was on Tuesday 12th, and the second on Friday 15th. They recorded ten of Alfred Scott Gatty’s Plantation Songs, which were then released on the Zonophone label as five double sided 78rpm records.

It is also believed that another tenor, Harold Wilde, appears on some of the 12th August recordings. He is not mentioned in conjunction with the 15th August set. The pianist on 12th August is credited as being James Sale, while the 15th August pianist is sadly uncredited.

What were Alfred Scott Gatty’s Plantation Songs, how many of them were there, and when were they written?

Alfred Scott Gatty was a composer born in Ecclesfield, then a Yorkshire village and now part of Sheffield. He had a ceremonial role in London, and was eventually knighted. Between 1893 and 1895, he composed 24 Plantation Songs. They were released in four volumes of six songs each. It is believed that the first three volumes were composed in 1893, with the fourth coming later in 1895.

The sheet music for all four volumes was published by Boosey & Co. between 1900 and 1902. Volumes One and Three are relatively easy to find. The Second Volume is much harder to obtain, but does come round from time to time. The Fourth Volume is extremely rare. The good news is that I was able to arrange an exchange with the North East of Scotland Music School in Aberdeen, to obtain scans of the rare volume. The scans of all 24 of the songs are now available through this site.

Which songs were recorded and then released?

Here are the known releases on the Zonophone label –

Good Night X-49435
Dat’s Berry Queer X-49436

Click Clack X-49447
De Ole Banjo X-49448

Far, Far Away X-49451
Way Down Dar In Tennessee X-49452

Ding Dong Ding X-49453
Down By Dat Ribber X-49454

Dis Ole Nigger X-44266
Far Away Ober Dare X-44267

Two of the tracks were later released on the Ariel Grand label, in a different pairing –

Far, Far Away 271 1227
Good Night 271 1162

Are the records rare or valuable?

They are rare enough not to be readily available. I am delighted to say, though, that I now have copies of five of the six records. The sixth one is in the custody of a good friend, and I have the digital versions of the tracks. There is one record which has groove damage at the start, and I would like to obtain another copy if possible. If you can help with this I would be delighted to hear from you. There is an appeal below.

Despite being relatively rare, the records are not valuable. I have paid around £30 for two of the Zonophone records, but the Ariel Grand record I actually picked up for less than a pound. Unbelievable, when you consider that it contains my two favourite music tracks of all time.

Have all 24 Plantation Songs been recorded?

No. The Zono Minstrels only recorded ten, which were released to the public. There is evidence in the Gramophone Company catalogue that two further songs were recorded, but there is no catalogue number for public release.

Other groups have recorded some of the songs, but no-one ever produced a complete set. This is a tragedy, when you consider that these songs are masterpieces, and landmark compositions in their own genre. One of my life ambitions is to organise a performance of the complete set of 24 songs, and to have it recorded on audio and video.

What are the objectives of this site?

When the site was inaugurated in July 2013, there were three objectives –

* To obtain, and make available, copies of all ten of the recordings made by the Zono Minstrels in August 1913.

* To obtain, and make available, the sheet music for all 24 of Alfred Scott Gatty’s Plantation Songs, including the rare Fourth Volume.

* To organise performances and recordings of all 24 of Alfred Scott Gatty’s Plantation Songs, possibly in 2018, the centenary year of his passing.

In late October 2016, the first objective was completed. One of the recordings has groove damage at the start, though, so I would like to replace it with a better one. All twelve recordings, including the Ariel Grand re-releases, are now available on this site.

The second objective was completed in 2014. I have scans of all 24 of the Plantation Songs, and they are available through this website.The process of improving the quality of the scans has now been completed, far earlier than I was expecting. It has taken many hours of painstaking work, but the scores of all 24 of the Plantation Songs are now available through the site downloads, in full colour, greyscale and monochrome formats.

The scores are not intended to be pixel-perfect reconstructions. They are intended to be as accurate a reproduction as possible of the original scores, published by Boosey & Co between 1900 and 1902.

It is possible that I may try to create reconstructions using software such as MuseScore in the future, but that is not imminent. It would be an incredibly time-consuming project.

The third objective, of course, remains only a pipe dream, as we are still over a year away from 2018. If you know of any singers who may be interested in performing the songs, please do contact me through the Contact page.

APPEAL

I am still seeking a replacement copy of the following record –

Dis Ole Nigger X-44266
Far Away Ober Dare X-44267

but only if it is in at least Very Good condition, with no obvious playing flaws.

If you have a copy of this record which you would be prepared to sell, please contact me through the Contact form. Alternatively, if you have a copy but do not wish to sell, I would be happy to borrow the record and create a digital transfer for you using high end equipment. This service is usually charged at £10 or more by professionals, but I would do it for free. The only stipulation would be that I could retain a copy of the digital transfer, and use it on this site.