Category Archives: General

Restoration work completed!

I have some extremely good news.

After many hours of meticulous and painstaking work, the restoration of all 24 of the musical scores of Alfred Scott Gatty’s Plantation Songs is now complete. The sheet music for all 24 songs is now available for download in full colour, greyscale and monochrome formats, as part of the site downloads. One of the objectives of this site has now been entirely achieved.

A significant anount of the credit for the fact that I have been able to achieve this is owed to the North East of Scotland Music School in Aberdeen, who provided the scans of the extremely rare Fourth Volume in exchange for a donation of paper scores of the first two volumes. I have never owned the rare volume, and it is extremely unlikely that I ever will. I did, however, briefly get to see it in the Administrator’s office in Aberdeen, while the transaction took place.

The digital scans of all four volumes are perfectly playable, and can be printed for ease of use. There is no reason why Scott Gatty’s material should ever be difficult to find again. The paper scores may become increasingly rare, but the digital versions can be downloaded and printed an infinite number of times with no quality loss.

In the future, I may decide to try to create perfect modern scores using a software such as MuseScore. The scores are complex, and I would need to reach a high degree of competence in using this software. It will be an extremely time consuming project, so I can’t consider it for a long time to come.

I still need to find one rare gramophone record to complete the set of musical recordings by the Zono Minstrels. If you have access to a copy of Ding Dong Ding/Down By Dat Ribber, and are prepared to either sell it or lend it for audio transfer, please let me know.

The third objective, that of organising performances and recordings of the complete series of songs, has now become possible through the acquisition of the sheet music. We are still three years away from the hundredth anniversary of Scott Gatty’s passing, but I am already preparing for what would be a huge landmark in the world of music. These songs are 120 years old, and have never been recorded in entirety.

Good Night-Dat’s Berry Queer Obtained

I have some more exceptionally good news!

This week, I made a trip down to Surrey to collect a copy of one of the two Zono Minstrels records I was still needing to complete the set. I have already completed the transfer to digital files, and the tracks have transferred well.

The other tracks have all been uploaded in August, on the exact anniversary of the day when they were first recorded. Obviously, it would be insane to wait until next August before uploading these. I will probably upload them on 18th December, the anniversary of Alfred Scott Gatty’s passing.

This will mean that eight of the ten Zono Minstrels tracks will be available through this site. The most important objective of the site is now 80% completed. One of the two missing tracks, Ding Dong Ding, is available on a Windyridge CD (Songs of the Old Plantation), so it is now possible to obtain nine of the ten tracks.

I still need to obtain one rare gramophone record to complete the set. That is Ding Dong Ding X-45453 and Down By Dat Ribber X-45454. Obviously, if you have a copy of this record which you are prepared to either sell or lend, I would love to hear from you.

I am also still looking for a better copy of Dis Ole Nigger X-45466 and Far Away Ober Dare X-45467, if anyone has one they wish to sell or lend.

Please contact me through the Wardle Media Helpdesk or Contact page –

http://www.wardlemedia.com/helpdesk/

http://www.wardlemedia.com/contact/

Thank you

Scott Gatty Plantation Songs Volume 4

Objective Achieved!

I have some extremely good news!

After less than a year of this site being online, one of the major objectives of the site has been entirely achieved. When the site started, the three major objectives were –

1) To obtain, and make available, copies of the ten recordings made by the Zono Minstrels in 1913, of the Plantation Songs of Alfred Scott-Gatty.

2) To obtain, and make available, the musical scores of all twenty-four of the Plantation Songs, including the exceedingly rare Fourth Volume.

3) To organise performances and recordings of the entire set of twenty-four songs, possibly to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Scott-Gatty’s death in 2018.

As of now, only 50% of the first objective has been achieved. There are five of the ten recordings available on this site, and I still need to obtain three rare gramophone records to be able to complete the set.

The extremely good news is that the second objective of the site has now been entirely achieved. I now have the musical scores of all twenty-four of the Plantation Songs, in digital format. This has become possible due to the generosity of the people at the North East of Scotland Music School, located in Aberdeen.

St Mary's Aberdeen
St Mary’s Cathedral, in Huntly Street. This building is directly opposite the North East of Scotland Music School, whose entrance can be seen on the left

Obtaining The Rare Fourth Volume

In January of this year, I was performing my usual Google search for the extremely rare Fourth Volume of the songs. Scans of the first three Volumes had been on the site since August 2013, the 100th anniversary month of the Zono Minstrels recordings. During the search, I came across a listing which I had not seen before. It was a catalogue of a library of musical scores, and when I visited the home page of the site, I found that it was the catalogue of a music school.

The School was apparently in possession of the very common Third Volume, and the rare Fourth Volume, but not Volumes 1 and 2. Volume 1 is relatively easy to find, while Volume 2 is more rare but does turn up from time to time. The idea immediately came into my mind to offer my paper copies of Volumes 1 and 2, to complete the School’s set, in exchange for scans of the rare Fourth Volume. This would complete my set in digital form, and satisfy one of the primary objectives of this site.

As the copying of musical scores is a sensitive issue, I should just mention in passing that there are no potential copyright problems. The copyright in sheet music expires 75 years after the death of the composer, as long as the work was performed during their lifetime. Scott-Gatty died in 1918, and there is ample evidence that the songs were performed on many occasions before that date. The scores are therefore now in the Public Domain.

To cut a long story short, the School were happy to take me up on my offer, and so I prepared for a trip to Scotland. I could obviously have sent the scores through the snail mail and saved myself some money, but even Special Delivery is not 100% secure. If the scores had been lost, I have no idea if or when I would ever have been able to obtain replacements. This was too important a project for me not to want to see it through personally.

My Trip To Aberdeen

Coping with Britain’s dilapidated and utterly disorganised transport infrastructure is never a joy, but at least Aberdeen is served by overnight coaches at a reasonable price. I had to travel from London to get that reasonable price, so I made the whole event into a three-day trip. I didn’t need a bed and breakfast, as the journeys to and from Aberdeen both took place overnight. I paid £6 each for advance railway singles from Northampton to London and back, and £31 for the coach trips to and from Aberdeen. £43 for a three day holiday is not really a bad price.

The three day trip included plenty of time in the Royal Parks, listening to Mozart’s string quartets among the rose gardens, and my first sight of the sea for 2014. I normally visit Eastbourne, Hunstanton or Southend for seaside trips. If someone had told me on 1st January that my first glimpse of the sea this year would be in Aberdeen, I would have called for the men in white coats.

Aberdeen Esplanade
My first glimpse of the sea for 2014. Eastbourne? Hunstanton? Southend? Errr….No. Aberdeen!

The weather was much better than I could ever have hoped for. There were heavy showers on the first day, and I had to take special precautions to protect the musical scores which were still in my possession. The day in Aberdeen was windy but clear and bright, and the temperature on the third day in London was up in the mid-twenties.

Most importantly, the exchange of sheet music for scans went entirely without hitch, so the transaction was a complete success. The North East of Scotland Music School now has possession of the complete paper scores of the Plantation Songs, and I have the full series of scans. This not only means that I have achieved one of my primary objectives, it also opens up the possibility of achieving one of the others. Now that the scores have been obtained, performances and recordings can be arranged.

Plantation Song Performance

One of my next tasks is to get in touch with people who may be able to help with the organisation of the performance project. We are still four years away from the 100th anniversary of Scott-Gatty’s death, which would seem to be the best time to perform and record the entire set of songs. By starting now, I will give myself the best chance of organising the event, and of arranging the necessary funding. There will hopefully be many more posts to come detailing how the project is progressing, so please do keep checking back here.

The Next Step

The next step is to prepare the PDF files of the Fourth Volume, and get them uploaded to the site. For now, the Fourth Volume will only be available in monochrome, but that is probably the best format for performance in any case.

Over the course of the next four years, I will undertake extensive restoration work on the scores of all twenty-four songs. Many of the scans of the First Volume are grainy, and there are imperfections which can be removed on all of the existing scores. I will upload the improved versions as soon as each individual score is ready. In the case of the Fourth Volume, I will also create full colour and greyscale versions from the original monochrome scans. By the start of 2018, I hope to have all twenty-four scores available for download in the full colour version which most approximates the 1900-1902 originals in mint condition, and also in greyscale and monochrome formats.

Thank You, NESMS!

For now, the most heartfelt thanks are due to the wonderful people of the North East of Scotland Music School in Aberdeen, who have not only made it possible for me to achieve one of the site’s objectives, they have also opened the door to the possibility of achieving one of the others. In a few days’ time, when I have created the PDF files and uploaded them to the site, the whole world will once again have access to priceless music which has been effectively lost to everyone for a great many years, possibly a whole century. There really are no thanks which are quite enough.

Volume 4 Sheet Music – Upcoming Trip

I have some exceptionally good news!

I have managed to find a source of the Fourth Volume of Alfred Scott-Gatty’s Plantation Songs! This is the incredibly rare volume which I need to complete the set. Once I have the scans of this volume, I will then have the sheet music for the entire set of 24 songs. This will satisfy one of the major objectives of this site.

Not only that, it will also open the door to the possible accomplishment of one of the other objectives. I have always wanted to arrange performances and recordings of the entire series of songs, possibly in 2018, which will be the hundredth anniversary of Scott-Gatty’s death. Performing the songs without the sheet music would, of course, have been impossible.

Now, the possibility exists of finding four singers and a pianist who can complete this objective. The entire series of 24 songs has never been recorded, and most of the songs are unavailable in any recorded format. My aim would be to organise a session in a professional recording studio, so that the best possible quality can be obtained, and a complete set of recordings produced.

I would also like to organise concerts involving live performances of the 24 songs, and record them on video so that anyone in the world has access to a live performance whenever they want one, albeit a recorded live performance. If anyone knows of singers or music groups who would like to take part in the project, please feel free to email me at the address on the home page, or to leave a comment below.

I shall be making a trip from my home in Northampton all the way to Aberdeen, on the 13th/14th/15th of this month. The trip is so that I can donate paper copies of Volumes 1 and 2 to a music school, in exchange for scans of the rare Volume 4. This will give the music school a complete set of paper scores, while I will have the digital scans I need to be able to offer the complete set on this site, and to organise performances. Truly a win/win situation.

I will be making some short posts about the trip over the next two weeks. It will not be an easy trip, as I have to go down to London on a train, and then make two overnight 12-hour coach trips from London to Aberdeen, and then back again. Going via Birmingham would have been quicker, but far more expensive. Stay tuned for more news on this life-changing development.

Preserving Scott Gatty’s Masterpieces

We are now approaching the end of the Centenary year of the Zono Minstrels recordings, so now is a good time to reflect upon the past year, what has been achieved, and what we may be able to achieve in the future. There is no doubt that the world is a better place now than it was a few short months ago, as the Zono Minstrels were virtually unrepresented across the entire World Wide Web up until July. Now, we have this website providing five of the ten recordings, as well as eighteen of the twenty-four sheet music scores of the entire Plantation Songs.

It is obviously frustrating that the entire world is so poorly organised that sound recordings and musical scores are not routinely archived and made available, especially when they are out of copyright and in danger of becoming lost. The situation with the gramophone records is impossible to assess, as there is no central organisation which can provide information on the likely availability of rare recordings. All I know is that the three records which need to be obtained are rare, and not readily available.

The sheet music situation is even more ridiculous, as the copying of paper has been far easier for far longer than the effective transfer of sound recordings. Volumes 1 and 3 of the Plantation Songs appear to be so common that you can virtually find them whenever you need them, and Volume 2 seems relatively easy to find. Volume 4, however, appears to be extremely rare. I have been unable to find a copy for sale anywhere in the world, and I have had some incredibly frustrating experiences trying to locate copies in libraries. The State Library of Victoria, in Australia, has the work listed in their catalogue, but in reality they only have the common volumes 1 and 3. The British Library does hold the extremely rare document, but they refuse to release it or even allow it to be copied.

So far, I have not been able to locate any copy of this set of musical scores. Only one copy needs to exist in the entire world for the music to be saved, because it could be transferred to digital format and then copied an infinite number of times from then on. I will make another plea here for someone, anyone, who owns Scott-Gatty’s Plantation songs Vol 4 to please get in touch with me. [EDIT 17th MAY 2014 – I NOW HAVE A COPY OF SCANS OF THE 4th VOLUME! THEY ARE NOW IN THE PROCESS OF BEING MADE INTO PDF FILES TO BE UPLOADED TO THIS SITE] I don’t need to own it, only to be able to scan it to create digital copies. If this could happen, it would complete the set and give the site’s readers the chance to play all of the twenty-four songs.

The scans which do exist on this site are in various states of disrepair. The scans which were uploaded to be ready for the Centenary are basic in the extreme, and not even optimised for the page size. I am currently in the process of recreating the scans of the first three volumes, and hope to have them uploaded by the end of the year. There should be full colour and greyscale scans, in addition to the standard monochrome version. The scores of “But It Is So” and “Far Away Ober Dare” are unusable in their present form, and extensive reconstruction work will be needed to create something usable from extremely poor quality originals.

I will update the site with another post on the last day of the year, as we say farewell to something which can never be repeated – the Centenary year of the peerless recordings made by the Zono Minstrels.

Zono Minstrels – Closing The Hundredth Anniversary

Today, 15th August 2013, was one of the most significant days in my own life, and in the development of this site. The recordings of “Far, Far Away” and “Way Down Dar In Tennessee” were uploaded to YouTube, and to the pages of this tribute site.

I got hold of my copy of this record in 1986, when I was only 18 years old and could barely afford gramophone records. I had to lovingly preserve it for 27 years before I got the chance to digitise the tracks and present them to the world. I have never seen another copy since, so I have no idea exactly how scarce the record is.

At last, after exactly 100 years to the day, these masterpieces are now accessible to anyone who wants to hear them.

So, where so we go from here? That question is impossible to answer, because so much depends on luck. I need to find three extremely rare gramophone records to be able to complete the Zono Minstrels collection, and there is no obvious starting point for the search. I will keep looking through the eBay listings, but it is like looking for needles in haystacks. I will continue to be active on the 78rpm collectors forum, and to contact retailers known to deal in 78rpm records. It is only maintaining the number of searches which can hope to produce a result. The fourth set of sheet music remains elusive also, so the same vigilance will need to be applied to the book and sheet music markets.

One of the most ambitious goals of the site is to present fresh modern recordings of the entire Plantation Songs, and I will be making enquiries which may help with this in the near future. For now, though, we can look back on the centenary week with the satisfaction that the situation is better now than ever before. Only four days ago, there were no Zono Minstrels recordings on YouTube, and not even any on this tribute site. Anyone can now access five of the ten tracks, or seven if they buy the Windyridge CD.

It is a small start, but a highly significant one. The other material which is needed must be out there somewhere. If you can help, please send an email to the address on the home page.

Zono Minstrels – The Hundredth Anniversary

So, here we are at last – it is 12th August 2013. One hundred years to the day since the Zono Minstrels went into the recording studios of the Gramophone Company at Hayes, Middlesex, to record the first of two sessions of Plantation Songs. Obviously, everyone involved with the session is now long dead, and the only references we have to it are in the Gramophone Company catalogues. This is purely the basic information of who appeared and what was recorded.

To celebrate the 100th Anniversary of these wonderful recordings, I have today uploaded those I have to both this site and to YouTube. They have never been made available in any form since the year 1913, when the original gramophone records were released. For the first time in 100 years, these exquisite recordings of Alfred Scott-Gatty’s masterpieces are now available to anyone who wants to hear them.

Sadly, these recordings are rare, and I have been unable to achieve the cherished objective of completing the set. Only three recordings have been uploaded today, with two more to come on Thursday 15th. Appeals are made throughout the site for anyone with access to any Zono Minstrels recordings which do not appear on this site to come forward, and it is to be hoped that in time the complete recordings can be presented. I do not need to own the records – if anyone has a Zono Minstrels recording, I am prepared to transfer the record to digital media for free, provided that I can retain a copy of the transfer and use it on this site.

The sheet music for all twenty-four of the Plantation Songs should also be available, but I have only been able to obtain the first eighteen. If anyone has access to the final set of six, I would also love to hear from them. Three of these final six songs were recorded by the Zono Minstrels.

Tragically, there were only ten recordings ever made. It is easy to look back now, and to wish forever that all twenty-four songs had been recorded by the Zono Minstrels and released as a box set. It would only have been twelve double-sided records, perfectly feasible. Obviously, there is no way to bring Stewart Gardner and the chorus back to life, so the opportunity is lost for eternity.

However, it should be possible to get together a group of contemporary singers, with a pianist, to produce a 21st Century complete set of the Plantation Songs. How, where or when this could come about, I have no idea, but it is another lifetime ambition of mine. If this website could one day contain the complete Zono Minstrels recordings, the complete sheet music of all twenty-four songs, and contemporary recordings available for everyone, then my life on this planet would have been truly worthwhile. If there is anyone who can help with any of these aims, I would love to hear from you. The email address is on the front page.

Thank you for reading.