Carpenter, John Alden (piano)

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John Alden Carpenter (1876-1951) was one of four artists who recorded for the Chicago Gramophone Society, and one of two living composers whose music the Society issued on disc.

This page is part of the site Classical 'Society' Records by Nick Morgan.

It addresses solely Carpenter's relationship with the Society, and his private and commercial recordings; his life and career are well documented elsewhere.[1]

For dates of creation and latest update, please see 'Page information' in left sidebar.

Chicago Gramophone Society

For all Carpenter's prominence and popularity, by his fiftieth birthday only a handful of his songs had been issued on commercial records,[2] and he himself had performed only on private discs (see below). So it is all the more remarkable that when he visited a Columbia studio in New York City on 5 December 1927, it was not to record for Columbia or another commercial label, but for a tiny group of music-lovers and gramophone enthusiasts in his home city, the Chicago Gramophone Society. The Society issued only four 78 rpm discs before disappearing from view: on one of them, the mezzo-soprano Mina Hager sings Carpenter's Water-Colors, settings of ancient Chinese poems, with the composer himself at the piano. How did this come about?

Standard works on Carpenter do not discuss the recording's genesis or reception.[3] The Chicago Gramophone Society was short-lived and little reported: its activities are known mainly from notices in a Boston-based magazine, The Phonograph Monthly Review, which acted as its mouthpiece. To summarize the detailed account presented elsewhere on this site, the Society had started life, probably in late 1925, as a private circle for aficionados of recorded music,[4] one of several North American groups formed around this time which were modelled on Britain's gramophone societies. The Society was formally and publicly constituted in late 1926, when it elected as its President a Chicago stockbroker and record-collector, Vories Fisher. At that stage, originating new recordings was not among its stated aims. Fisher himself did have ambitions in this direction, which he hoped to realise through a contest for readers of The Phonograph Monthly Review. But he seems to have abandoned this fairly quickly, and in early 1927 he proposed that the Society issue a recording which he was underwriting with a fellow-member, Robert Pollak. The proposal was accepted, and in May or June the Chicago Gramophone Society distributed its first issue, consisting of César Franck's Prelude, Chorale and Fugue for solo piano, recorded complete on two 12-inch (30 cm) discs by Marion Roberts, an up-and-coming local pianist and composer.

In October 1927, Fisher told readers of The Review,

'I am allowed to announce, very tentatively, that The Chicago Gramophone Society will have ready for Christmas time another set of records. [...] I do not feel that things are yet definite enough for me to announce the title of the work selected for recording, but can assure all interested that it will be one every bit as interesting as the last.'[5]

In November, the Review relayed another communication from Fisher, explaining that 'an over-crowded schedule at the recording studios has necessitated the postponement for a few weeks of the making of these records', again with no hint as to their contents; perhaps these were still under negotiation.[6] The recordings were finally made during the following month, by Columbia's 'Personal Record' Department: Carpenter's disc was completed on 5 December, when a start was made on a companion disc of songs by Hugo Wolf and Richard Strauss, also sung by Hager but with a different pianist; that was less successful and required a second session a week later.[7] The issue was announced in full in January 1928: consisting as before of two 12-inch (30 cm) discs, it was pressed in a limited edition of 200 sets, priced at $5 each, and distributed later that month or in early February.[8] For a small, amateur enterprise, this was a significant achievement: the fifth published record of any work by Carpenter, and his first (and only) published disc as a pianist, it also immortalized the partnership between the composer and one of his most devoted interpreters.

Mina Hager

Mina Hager (1891-1981) was born and brought up in South Dakota. She studied and lived in Chicago from 1914, and performed Carpenter's songs from as early as 1915,[9] but she did not meet the composer until late 1917. As she recalled in old age,

'I met and auditioned for Mr. Carpenter in a rather unorthodox way. There was a Chamber orchestra being formed in Chicago which, for prestige and encouragement, very much needed a new work by a "Name Composer" for the opening performance. Mr. Carpenter was the ideal choice. He accepted, perhaps because he had just finished orchestrating his Water Colors, a group of four Chinese tone poems [...] and was glad for this opportunity of having it heard. A friend knew that he, therefore, needed a singer so, without telling me, brought him up to The Great Lakes Training Base [sic] where I was singing. The songs I sang that night were hardly material for an orchestral appearance – I think one of them was Annie Laurie – but evidently they were right because he engaged me. I fell in love with Water Colors immediately, and that performance introduced me to the wealth of the wonderful collection of his songs, [...] and also to the man, Mr. Carpenter. Perhaps the first reason I love his songs is that they "do something to me." Also the learning of them and the singing of them did something for me, musically, artistically and professionally.'[10]

By then, the USA had entered the first World War. In May 1917, Carpenter had approached John Philip Sousa about training bandsmen at the US Navy's Great Lakes Training Station in Chicago. As a result, Sousa enlisted and became bandmaster of the Station's band;[11] and in September, Carpenter was appointed a member of the US National Committee on Army and Navy Camp Music.[12] In this capacity, he more than once visited the Great Lakes Training Station,[13] giving him ample opportunity to hear Hager. It is not known how often she sang at the Station, or on what occasion she unwittingly auditioned for Carpenter: perhaps it was at one of the 'singing schools' organized for the 'bluejackets' or 'jackies', when old favourites including 'Annie Laurie' were sung,[14] or at an entertainment such as the Station's Thanksgiving Ball.[15]

Originally set for female voice and piano, Carpenter's Water-Colors had been premiered on 4 October 1916 by the Scottish-born mezzo-soprano Christine Miller (1877-1956) with the composer.[16] Carpenter's new version for orchestra (including piano) was premiered by Mina Hager on 30 December 1917, during a benefit concert for the Navy Relief Society at Chicago's Illinois Theater; Carpenter was again at the keyboard, and Arthur Dunham (1875-1938) conducted his Philharmonic Orchestra.[17] This was the beginning of a significant and enduring musical partnership, Hager becoming a life-long champion of the composer. It has been stated that on 30 March 1918 they gave a recital devoted entirely to his songs, described as 'very possibly the first of its kind';[18] but no source of the period confirming either the event or the date has been located. Perhaps the recital in question was one given exactly a year later, after a charity supper at Chicago's Arts Club, although its programme has not been ascertained.[19] In the meantime, in May 1918, at a music teachers' convention in Bloomington, Illinois, Carpenter had given a talk on music and the war effort, after which Hager joined him in fourteen of his songs, including Water-Colors; this is currently the earliest documented all-Carpenter recital. A critic noted that the singer, with her

'contralto voice of excellent quality and used with artistry, [...] proved an excellent interpreter. She shared with Composer Carpenter in the success of the songs.'[20]

The previous month, Carpenter had been put in charge of the music for a gala celebration of the centennial of Illinois' statehood at Orchestra Hall. During the festivities, Hager, dressed in 'an old brocade gown' of the period, sang 'songs that were favorites of the belles and beau [sic] of civil war days'.[21] In June 1918, Carpenter accompanied Hager in two groups of his songs, once again at Chicago's Illinois Theater.[22] Eighteen months later, they performed together at a meeting of the Englewood Woman's Club; this was received as 'a big compliment to the club.'[23] Hager took the orchestrated Water-Colors to Minneapolis in November 1920,[24] and the following October she chose several Carpenter numbers for her New York debut.[25] A few days later, she sang a Carpenter group at the National American Music Festival in Buffalo, New York,[26] and in December 1921 the composer joined her for a private recital of his songs at the home of a Chicago society hostess.[27] Over the following years, they appeared together less often, but Hager remained loyal to him, programming his songs regularly and taking them abroad - the first time, in 1924, to London, Berlin, and possibly elsewhere.[28] Before leaving for Europe, she apparently recorded one of Carpenter's best-known war songs, The Home Road, at the Victor studios in New York; designated a 'trial', this was not issued.[29] In 1920, Carpenter had composed Two Night Songs to texts by Siegfried Sassoon,[30] dedicating one to Hager, Serenade: she gave it in concert and on air at least half a dozen times by 1928,[31] when a newspaper could claim that

'Miss Hager is said to have sung, at one time or another, every song ever composed by John Alden Carpenter, modern composer.'[32]

In 1924, while Mina Hager was in Europe, the US press had carried early reports of a new ballet venture for Chicago.[33] Formally launched in November 1924, Allied Arts, Inc., was founded by Carpenter, who secured the backing of leading Chicago patrons.[34] Under a former choreographer for Diaghilev's Ballets russes, it aimed to offer a 'new form of dramatic entertainment [...] combining music by a small orchestra, the ballet, and notable scenic effects'.[35] It is not known whether Hager's partnership with Carpenter led directly to her being engaged by Allied Arts but it surely cannot have been a hindrance. In January 1925, she was given a prominent role in the company's second production: in a long and varied bill of music and dance, she sang Igor Stravinsky's pithy Pribaoutki and the vocal solos in Manuel de Falla's ballet El amor brujo, receiving its Chicago premiere.[36] A year later, in January 1926, came an even more significant premiere: the first performance in Chicago of Pierrot lunaire Op.21 by Arnold Schoenberg, staged by Allied Arts with choreography and scenery. In full costume, Hager delivered the solo Sprechgesang ('speech-song') part in both German and English, on different days, and made a powerful impression on the music critic of The Chicagoan, who described her 'chanting, singing, wailing, a rising and falling ecstatic voice'.[37] The writer was the Chicago Gramophone Society member Robert Pollak, who also attended the last Allied Arts production in December 1926 and January 1927, when Hager performed Water-Colors with an orchestra.[38] The organization itself folded some months later;[39] lamenting its demise, Pollak listed a 'catalogue of pleasant memories' left behind, among them 'Mina Hager singing Carpenter and Stravinsky and Schoenberg'.[40]

Hager's work for Allied Arts suggests a plausible explanation of her engagement by the Chicago Gramophone Society, and of the choice of Water-Colors out of Carpenter's large body of songs. Strictly speaking, it was probably not the Society which engaged Hager, although it may have contracted her:[41] it had held no meetings since March 1927, so that a second issue could be not have been formally proposed and voted on (except by post, for which there is no evidence). Nor is Fisher's contest in The Phonograph Monthly Review likely to have played any part in its planning: by mid-1928 it too was dormant, and neither Carpenter nor the other composers recorded for the second issue were mentioned in connection with it. This project was almost certainly Fisher's and Pollak's alone, the repertoire closely reflecting their known interests and enthusiasms - as the announcement in The Phonograph Monthly Review made clear:

'Miss Hager was associated with the Allied Arts of Chicago for several years and was responsible for the first hearing in Chicago of such an important modern work as Schonberg's [sic] "Pierrot Lunaire". Mr. Carpenter is a composer of international consequence, whose works are too well known to need any particular enumeration.'[42]

It might seem strange that Pierrot lunaire, which would not be recorded for another twelve years,[43] was used in this way to promote this issue and Hager. But Pollak was not alone in his regard for Schoenberg's work. Ten months earlier, Vories Fisher had relayed to readers of the Review a rumour that a 'semi-private' recording society in Berlin

'have made much Ernst Kreneck [sic], they have made the Strawinski "Histoire d'un Soldat" [sic], and (and this one I consider the most important) they have made the Schöenberg "Pierrot Lunnaire" [sic].'[44]

(The rumour could not be substantiated.[45]) Fisher was enough of a collector, and sufficiently motivated by the rarity and novelty of a work like Pierrot, to want to acquire it unheard. But it seems likely that he too had witnessed Hager's Allied Arts performance, although this cannot be confirmed. There could be no question of taking on music as difficult and expensive as Schoenberg's or Stravinsky's, but anything Berlin might do could at least be emulated by what Pollak described as their 'corking musical town',[46] which could certainly afford to take a gamble on another name from the Allied Arts bills, mentioned by Pollak in the same breath as the other two: Carpenter. True, the orchestral version of Water-Colors given by Allied Arts was also too expensive, but the original with solo piano was just within their means. In addition, it fit neatly onto one 12-inch (30 cm) disc, as well as being the work which had brought Hager and Carpenter together. As a music critic with a regular column in The Chicagoan, Pollak was well placed to approach the singer, and she in turn was ideally placed to approach the composer to record with her - better, perhaps, than Pollak, who had been less than complimentary about Carpenter's new ballet Skyscrapers after its recent Chicago premiere.[47] Whether this hypothesis is correct, and exactly how negotiations proceeded - whether, for instance, an 'over-crowded schedule' at Columbia was the true reason for the delay in recording this issue - will only be known if relevant original sources are located and can be consulted.[48] (The Wolf and Strauss songs on the companion disc also spoke directly to Pollak's and Fisher's known predilections; a similar hypothesis regarding these choices is presented on the page devoted to the Society.)

As a leading businessman, artistic and social figure, Carpenter cannot have had much time to spare. It says a great deal for his friendship with Hager that he was prepared to travel to New York and record just two sides for the Society; whether he had other business there has not been ascertained. The session probably started with a sound check and rehearsal, followed by a series of takes, until two of each side were deemed good enough to send to Columbia's factory for processing and pressing; the second take of both was duly issued. By contrast, the Wolf and Strauss sides recorded the same day went less well and had to be redone a week later; both were issued from fourth takes (these were recorded with another pianist, who is not known to have had any previous contact with Hager, and may have been supplied by Columbia). This disparity may reflect Hager's decade-long familiarity with Water-Colors, perhaps bolstered by the composer's presence in the studio, whereas she appears to have sung Wolf in concert for the first time only weeks before the sessions.[49] Carpenter must have been invited to 'pass' test pressings of his sides, if only as a courtesy; these have not surfaced, which does not mean they have not been preserved.

Whatever its genesis and gestation, the Chicago Gramophone Society's issue of Water-Colors was a notable gramophone premiere. Understandably, as a limited, semi-private edition, it was not reviewed in the general press or musical periodicals, only in The Phonograph Monthly Review.[50] Neither Carpenter's nor Hager's recollections or opinions of it are documented. They must each have been presented with a copy, but Hager's is not among the many recordings donated with her papers to the Newberry Library in Chicago,[51] and whether Carpenter's survives is likewise unknown. In general, his view of the gramophone seems not to have been studied. He had previously made one extensive, remarkable, historic, if purely utilitarian private recording, but he appeared only once more on a commercial disc (see below). He certainly did not need exposure or session fees (what he and Hager were paid to record for the Society is, like so much else, not known). Perhaps he was not interested in setting down his interpretations of his own music. Composers' recordings had been used as a marketing ploy for some time by the gramophone industry - notably, in Britain, by the Gramophone Company and Columbia, and also by the National Gramophonic Society[52] - but the practice, and any ideas underlying it, were still rather undeveloped, and it seems to have had less traction in the US: tellingly, in its limited publicity for this issue the Chicago Gramophone Society made nothing of Carpenter's participation, while the author of the unsigned review apparently did not have high expectations of his performances:

'The composer's accompaniments are played with gusto and insight – a rare feat for a composer!'[53]

Ten years later, in her last known published recording, for the small New York label Musicraft, Hager revisited Water-Colors. By now the set must have seemed even more old-fashioned: no one had recorded it again in the intervening decade, and Hager's new disc included only the first two numbers. The coupling, too, was backward-looking: Carpenter's Berceuse de guerre, a lullaby-cum-lament composed during World War I on a poem by the Belgian Emile Cammaerts (1878-1953). Hager had sung the Berceuse many times in public, from her New York debut in 1921[54] until 1932 and possibly later,[55] and she later praised Carpenter's setting for its speech-like quality.[56] The pianist was Celius Dougherty, well known as an accompanist, although he is not known to have performed in concert with Hager. This was her only record to receive widespread notice in the press.[57]

Hager does not appear to have sung in public with Carpenter after 1933,[58] but his admiration and private support for her did not waver. In October 1940, Chicago's Arts Club hosted a recital and lunch party in his honour; with the pianist Felix Borowski, Hager sang a group of his songs, ending with The Home Road,

'with every one standing and singing. It's the finest of American patriotic songs, with an all-American lilt to it that brought tears to many who sang. [...] At luncheon upstairs, Mr. Carpenter said it might have been trying to listen to a morning of his own writings were it not for Miss Hager's beautiful triumph over their shortcomings.'[59]

In 1941, he wrote to the composer and critic Virgil Thomson, hoping to persuade him to review a forthcoming performance by the singer:

'It has long been my conviction that Miss Hager has very unusual gifts. [...] She has had some success in a limited way since she left Chicago and established herself in New York some years ago but nothing like the recognition to which, in my judgement, she is entitled.'[60]

(The performance has not been identified.) Hager continued to sing Carpenter's songs during World War II, when her concert career was clearly on the wane (known performances are listed on the page of this site devoted to her), and after the composer's death in 1951. On 27 July 1952, at the Castle Hill estate in Ipswich, Massachusetts, a bandshell was dedicated to his memory. Donated by his widow and friends, it was 'suitable for chamber operas, ballets, and small orchestra concerts', to be given during the estate's recently established music festival. Mina Hager sang some of his songs, George Roth (another champion of the composer) played piano pieces, and the New Music String Quartet performed his String Quartet.[61] Much later in life, Hager wrote a touching and perceptive tribute to Carpenter:

'[...] he was a rare individual. He did not happen to be one of those artists who must work in attics, but I am not sure it was any easier to compose in the atmosphere into which he was born. [...] His accompaniments which are not only very beautiful but also occasionally very demanding are evidence of the fact that he was a fine pianist. His playing was very exciting and not like any other pianist I have ever heard. [...] He had an exceptional gift of comprehension and of expressing his opinions with clarity, honesty and humor, qualities which proved invaluable in his business career and in dealing with temperamental conductors and singers. He had a peculiar awareness of Nature, a delight in children, especially in his own adorable daughter for whom he wrote many of his songs. Happily, for me, all of this comes alive again in his music.'[62]

Recordings

Private

Selection Artists Format Matrix Stamper Date Location Label cat. no. Country
Spoken instruction to tune playback machine
Carpenter Skyscrapers,
unpublished piano reduction
– start; Nos.1 to 6(?)
John Alden Carpenter (piano, voice),
anon. (speaker)
10" / 25 cm
lateral disc
Ⓦ81672-1
unknown
27 November 1925
Columbia studio,
New York City(?)
private, unnumbered? USA
(NB side-break unclear)
Nos.7(?) to 11
John Alden Carpenter (piano, voice, whistling),
anon. (speaker)
10" / 25 cm
lateral disc
Ⓦ81673-1
unknown
27 November 1925
Columbia studio,
New York City(?)
private, unnumbered? USA
Nos.12 to 22 John Alden Carpenter (piano, voice),
anon. (speaker)
10" / 25 cm
lateral disc
Ⓦ81674-1
unknown
27 November 1925
Columbia studio,
New York City(?)
private, unnumbered? USA
Nos.23 to 32 John Alden Carpenter (piano, voice),
anon. (speaker)
10" / 25 cm
lateral disc
Ⓦ81675-1
unknown
27 November 1925
Columbia studio,
New York City(?)
private, unnumbered? USA
Nos.33 to 38 John Alden Carpenter (piano, voice),
anon. (speaker)
10" / 25 cm
lateral disc
Ⓦ81676-1
unknown
27 November 1925
Columbia studio,
New York City(?)
private, unnumbered? USA
Nos.39 to 42 John Alden Carpenter (piano, voice),
anon. (speaker)
10" / 25 cm
lateral disc
Ⓦ81677-1
unknown
27 November 1925
Columbia studio,
New York City(?)
private, unnumbered? USA
Nos.43 to 46 John Alden Carpenter (piano, voice),
anon. (speaker)
10" / 25 cm
lateral disc
Ⓦ81678-1
unknown
27 November 1925
Columbia studio,
New York City(?)
private, unnumbered? USA
Nos.47 to 50
(NB No.51 not called)
John Alden Carpenter (piano, voice),
anon. (speaker)
10" / 25 cm
lateral disc
Ⓦ81679-1
unknown
27 November 1925
Columbia studio,
New York City(?)
private, unnumbered? USA
Nos.52 to 57; end John Alden Carpenter (piano, voice),
anon. (speaker)
10" / 25 cm
lateral disc
Ⓦ81680-1
unknown
27 November 1925
Columbia studio,
New York City(?)
private, unnumbered? USA

System Western Electric, under licence to Columbia Phonograph Co., as denoted by the logo Ⓦ preceding matrix numbers.

Notes Made, presumably, in the studios of Columbia's 'Personal Record' Department in New York, the above recording is attributed in an unknown private source to the Chicago Gramophone Society.[63] This is highly unlikely. The Society was not officially founded until just under a year later. Not only were there no members to pay for such a project, a set of nine sides (or ten, with a filler) would have been beyond the future Society's means, not to mention an impractical proposition.[64] Moreover, this recording was clearly meant not for public audition but as an aid to the ballet's first production at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where the world premiere was given two months later, on 19 February 1926.[65] The ballet's genesis had already cost Carpenter considerable effort, as was revealed in an interview between its designer, Robert Edmond Jones, and the founding editor of Modern Music, Minna Lederman:

'To discover what stimulus music rather than drama gives the painter, we casually asked [Mr. Jones] whether he worked from the score or the libretto. His unexpected replies led us to the story of the making of this ballet, the details of which are given here to record a pioneer effort from which an art-form emerged [...] Skyscrapers originally, it appears, had no libretto, no plot, no dance designs, not even a locale. In the beginning there was only the music and it is directly from this that the production has been built — built by the composer and the designer of scenes without the traditional choreographer. [...] A reversal of the usual routine, which is to start with the story, then proceed to the music and the stage picture, was therefore in order. Mr. Carpenter played the score repeatedly and from the music itself Mr. Jones evolved the scenes [...] Retreating to a farmhouse in Vermont they took the music and the scene designs and set to without story, plan or dancer. Their procedure is described by Mr. Jones: "Carpenter would play the music giving me an impression of the changing orchestration. He played each passage over and over again for hours. This would give me certain ideas of movement for which I drew tentative designs, to be discussed with him. Countless series of patterns were made during six months of gruelling, unremitting labor."'[66]

(The 'farmhouse in Vermont' was probably Carpenter's 'summer place' in Charlotte[67]). Even then, Carpenter's work was not done, according to a review of the first night:

'The opera stage management and Mr. Carpenter himself had worked three weeks drilling the large company in the scenes of "Work, Play, and Work Again," which formed what plot the ballet offered.'[68]

This brief account leaves unclear exactly what happened behind the scenes at the Met. Presumably, repetiteurs were available, but perhaps the score, strongly reminiscent of the epoch-making ballets of Stravinsky and Prokofiev, was considered difficult enough for dancers that the composer's help was required. But Carpenter can hardly have been expected to put himself through three more weeks of arduous keyboard work; his records would have been an excellent substitute, with the composer playing mainly the score's rhythmic skeleton, as one would for dancers, while singing and even whistling the salient melodic lines. The discs could also have served as an interpretative guide to the conductor of the first run, Louis Hasselmans. It is not known how the sides were pressed, whether in 'automatic' couplings to facilitate continuous playback on one machine, in the conventional 'manual' sequence, or even 'single-faced'.

This recording is a remarkable document: it preserves not only some 27½ minutes of Carpenter's piano-playing, singing and whistling, but also a slightly different version of the score from that published by Schirmer in 1927. At the very start, an uncredited male voice instructs the listener to 'Adjust or tune your phonograph to this A'; someone, presumably Carpenter, sounds A above middle C three times on the piano. The music starts almost immediately, unannounced, but then the voice which gave the preliminary instruction calls out rehearsal cues, 'Number One', 'Number Two' etc. These usually correspond in placing to the figures (starting at 1) printed in the published score, but soon diverge in numbering: an interpolated 'Number 7a' ushers in a slightly different version of Scene III, so that when 'Number 8' is called it corresponds to published figure 9, and so on until another discrepant section after 'Number 43' / fig.44, which widens the gap yet further. Carpenter presumably sight-read his composing score as he played, or a reworking of it which emerged after the weeks closeted with Jones in Vermont.[69] Not the least remarkable aspect of the recording is the verve of Carpenter's performance, which conjures up an image of the two hammering out the ballet's scenario at the farmhouse's piano. The facts that all sides are pressed from take -1, and are free of fluffs and restarts, suggest the music was still very fresh in the composer's mind and well under his fingers, although this may also have been an economy measure; to record 9 ten-inch sides and press three copies of each, Columbia charged something in the region of $450.[70] Carpenter's infectious projection of the score's essence must have helped to motivate the dancers and players for the first run at the Met. Although an ostensibly 'functional' run-through, it is vivid and involving, and deserves to be more widely heard and investigated further.

In addition to the above factory-pressed discs, Carpenter is named as pianist in one of many recordings (78 rpm and 33⅓ rpm discs, substrates and systems mostly unknown, and audio tapes) held at the Newberry Library in Chicago alongside the Mina Hager Papers. As no pianists are credited for the majority of these, it is possible that the collection includes further recordings of Carpenter as pianist.

Selection Artists Format Date Location Hager Papers ID Note
Carpenter(?) Unspecified composition(s) Mina Hager (mezzo-soprano),
John Alden Carpenter (piano)
12" / 30 cm
'aluminum disc'
unknown
unknown
Box 8 Folder 76 Contents 'Miscellaneous, partially identified';
no composer named but highly likely to be Carpenter

Commercial

Selection Artists Format Matrix Stamper Date Location Label cat. no. Country
Carpenter Water-Colors
(i) On a Screen
(ii) The Odalisque
Mina Hager (mezzo-soprano),
John Alden Carpenter (piano)
12" / 30 cm
lateral disc
Ⓦ91733-2
2-A-2
5 December 1927
Columbia studio,
New York City(?)
Chicago Gramophone Society 50019-P USA
(iii) Highwaymen
(iv) To a Young Gentleman
Mina Hager (mezzo-soprano),
John Alden Carpenter (piano)
12" / 30 cm
lateral disc
Ⓦ91734-2
2-A-1
5 December 1927
Columbia studio,
New York City(?)
Chicago Gramophone Society 50019-P USA
Carpenter Song of Faith – Part 4 (of 4)
(short-play edition)
John Alden Carpenter (narrator),
Chicago a Cappella Choir,
anonymous (organ),
Philadelphia Orchestra,
Noble Cain (conductor)
10" / 25 cm
lateral disc
unknown
10 April 1932
Studio 2,
Church Building,
Camden, New Jersey
Victor 1560-B USA
Carpenter Song of Faith – Part 2 (of 2)
(long-play edition)
John Alden Carpenter (narrator),
Chicago a Cappella Choir,
anonymous (organ),
Philadelphia Orchestra,
Noble Cain (conductor)
12" / 30 cm
33⅓ rpm lateral disc
unknown
10 April 1932
Studio 2,
Church Building,
Camden, New Jersey
Victor L-11608-B USA

System Western Electric, under licence to Columbia Phonograph Co., as denoted by the logo Ⓦ preceding matrix numbers, and to Victor, as denoted by the letters VE in matrix prefixes.

Cuts Water-Colors: none.

Song of Faith: presumed none (auditioned without score).

Notes The single disc which Carpenter made for the Chicago Gramophone Society is his only known commercial recording as a pianist. No transfer to another medium is currently available. For more detailed information see relevant page.

The 'Parts' of Song of Faith listed above do not necessarily correspond to divisions in the score, but to sides of the records. Carpenter appears only in the last 'Part' of both the short- and long-play editions. The complete work takes up four short-play sides, issued on Victor 1559 and 1560, and two long-play sides, issued on Victor L-11608. Multiple transfers of the short-play edition are available for audition and download from archive.org (Parts 1 and 2; Parts 3 and 4).

Acknowledgements

I am extremely grateful to Don Tait of Chicago for his invaluable help in researching the content of this page.

References

Note The Phonograph Monthly Review underwent various name changes, detailed here, but on this page and elsewhere on this site, the magazine is referred to in the text and footnotes as The Phonograph Monthly Review or, where appropriate, the Review.

  1. Pollack, Howard John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Composer, Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2001 (revised edition of Pollack, Howard Skyscraper Lullaby, Washington & London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995)
  2. Four compositions by John Alden Carpenter are currently known to have been issued on commercial records before 1926, all in the USA: Two compositions are currently known to have been recorded but not issued:
    • Three Songs for a Medium Voice - (i) The Lawd is smilin’ through the do’, Sophie Braslau (contralto), Francis Lapitino (harp), orchestra, Josef Pasternack, Victor matrix B-25795 (10-inch / 25 cm), rec. 7 December 1921, Camden, New Jersey, unissued
    • The Home Road, Mina Hager (soprano) [sic], LeRoy Shield (piano), second(?) part of Victor unnumbered 'trial' (10-inch / 25 cm), rec. 26 May 1924, New York City, unissued; NB Carpenter is not credited but is almost certain to have been the composer
  3. O'Connor, Joan John Alden Carpenter: A Bio-Bibliography, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994
    Pollack, Howard Skyscraper Lullaby: The Life and Music of John Alden Carpenter, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995, revised as John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Composer, Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2001
  4. Fisher, Vories 'Chicago Phonograph Society', in 'Phonograph Society Reports', The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.1 No.1, October 1926, pp.32-34 (on p.32)
  5. [Fisher,] Vories 'Recorded Remnants', The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.2 No.1, October 1927, pp.9-10 (on p.10)
  6. Johnson, Axel B. 'General Review', The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.2 No.2, November 1927, pp.[41]-45 (on p.44)
  7. All details of Columbia recording sessions for the Chicago Gramophone Society were ascertained, from original Columbia matrix cards now held by Sony Music Entertainment in New York, by Michael H. Gray, whose kind help is gratefully acknowledged; personal communication, 30 September 2015
  8. 'The Chicago Gramophone Society hereby announces (...)' (notice), in 'Phonograph Society Reports', The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.2 No.4, January 1928, pp.146-47 (on p.146); Pollak, Robert 'Current Records', The Chicagoan, Vol.4 No.8, 14 January 1928, p.26
  9. 'Radanovits Studio', Music News, Vol.7 No.18, 30 April 1915, p.37
  10. Hager, Mina '"Speak for Yourself, John Alden Carpenter!"', Music Journal, Vol.28 No.3 (March 1970), pp.66-67
  11. Buzzell, Francis The Great Lakes Naval Training Station. A History, Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, n.d. [c.1919], pp.147-48; Pollack, Howard John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Composer, Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2001, p.158
  12. 'Inspiration of Song Is Stressed in Plans For Training Camps', Arkansas Democrat [Little Rock, Arkansas], 17 November 1917, p.4
  13. e.g. 'Sousa Coming To Teach Music At Great Lakes', Chicago Daily Tribune, Wednesday 23 May 1917, p.[1]; 'Song Leaders To Visit The Camps', Decatur Herald [Decatur, Illinois], Sunday 9 December 1917, 'Christmas Edition' section, p.6
  14. '’Tis Songs Of The Heart That Uncle Sam's Nephews Sing', The Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram [Richmond, Indiana], Saturday 4 August 1917, p.10, also published as 'Singing School Held to Train Rookies' Voices', The Statesman [Austin, Texas], Thursday 9 August 1917, p.2
  15. 'Cordon Will Give an Old Fashioned Dance for Jackies', Chicago Daily Tribune, Tuesday 23 October 1917, p.19; 'Great Lakes Ball Adds $5,000 to the Navy Relief Fund', ibid., Thursday 29 November 1917, p.22
    NB This hypothesis appears to be contradicted by a contemporary report stating that only men were allowed to take part in entertainments held in training camps, see 'Dr. Grace Whitford Tells Of War Work By Chicago Women', The Tampa Daily Times [Tampa, Florida], Saturday 8 September 1917, p.5; in researching this page, no attempt was made to locate or consult records of the Great Lakes Training Station, but it is hoped that they survive and may throw light on this matter
  16. 'Matters of Music', Chicago Sunday Tribune, 1 October 1916, Part 8, p.2; Pollack, Howard John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Composer, Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2001, p.148
  17. Donaghey, Frederick 'Saturday To Monday In Music', and 'Cinderella' 'Counting the Stars on the 100 Per Cent Flags Inspiring', Chicago Daily Tribune, Monday 31 December 1917, p.9
    Pollack, Howard John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Composer, Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2001, p.148, states that Carpenter orchestrated Water-Colors in early 1918, without citing a source; clearly, this cannot be correct
  18. Pollack, Howard Skyscraper Lullaby, Washington & London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995, p.148
  19. 'Hager-Carpenter Musicale at the Arts Club Sunday', Chicago Daily Tribune, Thursday 27 March 1919, p.15; 'Offices of "Children of the Frontier" Now in Powers Building', ibid., Saturday 29 March 1919, p.15
  20. Cox, Jeannette (of the Musical Courier, New York) 'Second Day with State Music Teachers' Meeting', The Pantagraph [Bloomington, Illinois], Thursday 9 May 1918, p.3
  21. 'Mme. X.' 'Great Loan Drive Takes First Place in All Activities', Chicago Sunday Tribune, 14 April 1918, Section 7, pp.4-5, 9 (on p.5)
  22. 'Civic Music Forces Join for Concert', Chicago Daily Tribune, Monday 3 June 1918, p.15
  23. 'Englewood Happenings', The Englewood Times [Chicago, Illinois], Friday 2 January 1920, pp.1, 8 (on p.8); 'Englewood Woman's Club', ibid., Friday 9 January 1920, Section Two, p.10
  24. 'Two Popular Airs Are Included in Symphony Program Tomorrow', Minneapolis Morning Tribune [Minneapolis, Minnesota], Saturday 20 November 1920, p.31; 'Mina Hager, Chicago Singer, to Be Soloist With Symphony at Popular Concert Today', Minneapolis Sunday Tribune [Minneapolis, Minnesota], 21 November 1920, p.8
  25. 'Miss Hager Heard in Pleasing Song Recital Program', New York Tribune, Tuesday 11 October 1921, p.7
  26. McHenry, Izetta May 'American Concert Field', The Billboard, Vol.33 No.42, 15 October 1921, p.28
  27. 'Brief Local Mention', Queen City Mail [Spearfish, South Dakota], Wednesday 28 December 1921, p.4
  28. 'Music This Week', The Times, Monday 9 June 1924, p.16; Westermeyer, Karl 'Minna [sic] Hager', in 'Aus Berlin', Signale für die musikalische Welt, No.28, 9 July 1924, pp.1109-11 (on p.1109)
  29. The Home Road Mina Hager (mezzo-soprano), LeRoy Shield (piano), unnumbered trial, recorded 26 May 1924, Victor studios, New York; for more information about this tentatively identified selection, see here
  30. Pollack, Howard John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Composer, Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2001, p.249-50
  31. 'Miss Hager Heard in Pleasing Song Recital Program', New York Tribune, Tuesday 11 October 1921, p.7; Moore, Edward 'Chief Sparkle Put in "Lakme" by Tito Schipa', Chicago Daily Tribune, Friday 12 December 1924, Section Two, p.1; 'Radio Programs', The Citizen [Ottawa, Canada], Tuesday 17 November 1925, p.7; 'Cecelia Club Excellent In Its Concert', Hartford Daily Courant [Hartford, Connecticut], Thursday 14 April 1927, p.4; N.D.D. 'Music', The Staunton News-Leader [Staunton, Virginia], Thursday 20 October 1927, p.3; 'Music and Musicians', Oakland Tribune [Oakland, California], Sunday 22 July 1928, p.5-S(?)
  32. 'Bowl Soloist Has European Reputation', Los Angeles Times, Sunday 20 May 1928, Part III, p.13
  33. 'Subsidy For Public Ballet', The Sun [Baltimore, Maryland], Sunday 8 June 1924, p.2; 'Music Notes That Will Interest Musicians', The Daily Pantagraph [Bloomington, Illinois], Saturday 21 June 1924, p.12
  34. 'Mme X.' 'Tonight's The Night We Greet World Flyers', Chicago Sunday Tribune, 9 November 1924, Part 10, pp.[1]-2 (on p.2); Moore, Edward 'Of New Things in Ballet and Music', ibid., 23 November 1924, Part 8, pp.[1], 8; 'Latest Thing In Fine Arts', The City Club Bulletin, Vol.XVII No.38, Monday 22 December 1924, p.154
  35. Moore, Edward 'Another Allied Arts Program', Chicago Sunday Tribune, 12 December 1926, Part 9 Drama, p.[1]
  36. Moore, Edward 'Allied Arts Reveal New Ballet, Music', Chicago Daily Tribune, Friday 2 January 1925, [Section Two,] p.15; id. 'Allied Arts Is Feat of Season', Chicago Sunday Tribune, 4 January, Part 7, pp.[1], 5, and 'Mme X.' 'Allied Arts Production', ibid., Part 8, p.2
  37. Pollak, Robert 'Musical Notes', The Chicagoan, Vol.1 No.1, 14 June 1926, p.22
  38. 'Chicago Allied Arts, Inc. [...]' (advertisement), Chicago Sunday Tribune, 2 January 1927, Part 7, p.2; Carpenter was reported to have prepared a new orchestration of Water-Colors, but this has not been verified, and it may have been the version Hager premiered in 1917; see Moore, Edward 'Another Allied Arts Program', Chicago Sunday Tribune, 12 December 1926, Part 9 Drama, p.[1]; id. 'Stellar Event to Mark Holiday Week', ibid., 26 December 1926, Part 7 Drama, p.[1]; 'Nancy R.' 'Allied Arts to Open Series of Programs Week from Sunday', Chicago Daily Tribune, Saturday 18 December 1926, p.17
  39. 'Activities of Allied Arts to Be Suspended', Chicago Daily Tribune, Tuesday 26 July 1927, p.23
  40. Pollak, Robert 'Musical Notes', The Chicagoan, Vol.3 No.11, 13 August 1927, p.30
  41. The Mina Hager Papers, held by the Newberry Library in Chicago, preserve no correspondence with the Chicago Gramophone Society or other pertinent material; they do include correspondence with John Alden Carpenter, but it has no bearing on their joint recording
    An application for a Short-Term Fellowship at the Newberry, which would have enabled a careful search and study of the Hager Papers, was submitted in December 2017 and rejected in April 2018. I am extremely grateful to Bill Anderson of Chicago for kindly visiting the Newberry Library, consulting them on my behalf, and confirming the above lacunae; personal e-mail, 11 August 2018
  42. 'The Chicago Gramophone Society hereby announces (...)' (notice), in 'Phonograph Society Reports', The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.2 No.4, January 1928, pp.146-47 (on p.146)
  43. Schoenberg himself conducted the first recording of Pierrot lunaire in Los Angeles on 24 September 1940, with Erika Stiedry-Wagner as the vocal soloist, for Columbia; see the entry in the online version of R. Wayne Shoaf's discography of Schoenberg
  44. [Fisher,] Vories 'Recorded Remnants', The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.1 No.6, March 1927, p.274
  45. [Fisher,] Vories 'Recorded Remnants', The Phonograph Monthly Review, Vol.1 No.8, May 1927, p.341
  46. Pollak, Robert 'Musical Notes', The Chicagoan, Vol.1 No.1, 14 June 1926, p.22
  47. Pollak, Robert 'Musical Notes', The Chicagoan, Vol.2 No.5, 15 November 1926, pp.16-17
  48. It has not been possible to consult the John Alden Carpenter Papers held by the Newberry Library in Chicago (an application for a Short-Term Fellowship at the Newberry, submitted in December 2017, was rejected in April 2018), or the John Alden Carpenter Collection held at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. These libraries' online inventories, while detailed, are not exhaustive: the Newberry's online inventory of the Carpenter Papers lists no known Chicago Gramophone Society officers or members as named correspondents, while four letters from Mina Hager date from two decades after their involvement with the Society
  49. N.D.D. 'Music', The Staunton News-Leader [Staunton, Virginia], Thursday 20 October 1927, p.3
  50. 'Special', in 'Analytical Notes and Reviews', ibid., Vol.2 No.8, May 1928, pp.306-15 (on p.308)
  51. Once again, my thanks to Bill Anderson for confirming in person what is implied by the inventory of Mina Hager's sound recordings held at the Newberry Library
  52. In September 1927, the National Gramophonic Society issued the first compete recording of Maurice Ravel's String Quartet in F major, in whose production the composer had a hand, as a 'version de l'auteur', and in March 1928 it would issue Arnold Bax's Moy Mell for two pianos, also a gramophone premiere, as a 'Composer's Edition'; on the N.G.S.'s pursuit and use of the imprimaturs of these and other composers, see Morgan, Nick The National Gramophonic Society, Sheffield: CRQ Editions, 2016, §6.3, pp.202-07
  53. 'Special', in 'Analytical Notes and Reviews', ibid., Vol.2 No.8, May 1928, pp.306-15 (on p.308); like much of the magazine's content, this unsigned review was probably written by Robert D. Darrell (1903-88), see Darrell, R.D. 'O Pioneer (A Half Century Later)', ARSC Journal, Vol.19 No.1, 1987, pp.4-10 (on p.5)
  54. 'Miss Hager Heard in Pleasing Song Recital Program', New York Tribune, Tuesday 11 October 1921, p.7
  55. 'Mina Hager Concert Tuesday Afternoon Of Wide Interest to Music Devotees', Miami Daily News [Miami, Florida], Sunday 27 March 1932, Society Section, p.2
  56. Hager, Mina '"Speak for Yourself, John Alden Carpenter!"', Music Journal, Vol.28 No.3 (March 1970), pp.66-67
  57. 'Recorded Music', The Minneapolis Star [Minneapolis, Minnesota], Saturday 3 July 1937, Travel-Radio Music-Books Society, p.9; Simon, Robert A. 'Musical Events', The New Yorker, 10 July 1937, pp.50-53; Pakenham, Compton 'Recent Recordings', New York Times, Sunday 25 July 1937, p.136; Yeiser, Frederick 'Trade Paper', The Cincinnati Enquirer, Sunday 22 August 1937, Section Four Cinema Stage Music, p.[1]; 'Vocal', The New Records, Vol.5 No.7, September 1937, p.7; A[lec].R[obertson]., 'Musicraft', in 'Analytical Notes and First Reviews', The Gramophone, Vol.XV No.173, October 1937, pp.197-206 (on pp.203-04)
  58. Cass, Judith 'President and Party invited to Attend Paris Ball at Fair', Chicago Daily Tribune, Friday 5 May 1933, pp.19, 23
  59. 'Cousin Eve' 'Church Filled to Hear Dean Beekman Preach', Chicago Sunday Tribune, 27 October 1940, Part 8, p.2
  60. Carpenter, John Alden Letter to Virgil Thomson, 2 May 1941, Thomson Collection, Yale University, quoted in Pollack, Howard Skyscraper Lullaby, Washington & London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995, p.149
  61. Page, Eleanor 'J.A. Carpenter Memorial to Be Dedicated', Chicago Daily Tribune, Wednesday 23 July 1952, Part 2, p.3; 'Music Stage Dedicated', New York Times, Monday 28 July 1952, p.12; Wickham, Ina 'Catching The Beat In Music World Today', Democrat And Times [Davenport, Iowa], Sunday 10 August 1952, p.38
  62. Hager, Mina '"Speak for Yourself, John Alden Carpenter!"', Music Journal, Vol.28 No.3 (March 1970), pp.66-67
  63. The recording has been auditioned from a digital copy of a good transfer, in which all sides have been edited together, once or twice obscuring the exact locations of side-breaks; other than the matrix and take numbers and recording date, no further details, or images of the original disc labels, were available
  64. The first issued commercial recording of Skyscrapers, made by Victor on 1 May 1932 and conducted by Nathaniel Shilkret, was laid out, in line with contemporary commercial practice for such works, on six 12-inch (30 cm) 78 rpm sides (in Victor Album M-130, 'manual'-coupled discs 11250>52, Album AM-130, 'automatic'-coupled discs 11253>55, and Album DM-130, 'drop automatic'-coupled discs 13227>29), as well as on three 12-inch 33⅓ rpm long-playing sides (on Victor long-playing 'manual'-coupled discs L-11618>19 and 'automatic'-coupled discs L-11691>92)
  65. 'The Musical Go-Getter', The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Saturday 20 February 1926, p.6; Cushing, Edward 'Music of the Day', ibid.
  66. M[inna].L[ederman]. 'Skyscrapers, an Experiment in Design: An Interview with Robert Edmond Jones', Modern Music, Vol.3 No.2, January-February 1926, pp.21-26
  67. Among many press references to the Carpenters' 'summer place', see e.g. R.—, Nancy 'John Alden Carpenter House in Rush Street Is Taken by Paepckes', Chicago Daily Tribune, Tuesday 17 August 1926, p.29; 'Miss Carpenter to Be Married In Charlotte', Burlington Free Press and Times [Burlington, Vermont], Tuesday 29 May 1928, p.7
  68. 'Carpenter Jazz Ballet Gives New York Kick', Chicago Daily Tribune, Saturday 20 February 1926, p.15
  69. No piano reduction of Skyscrapers appears to have been published. One or more manuscript piano scores were given to Serge Diaghilev, who commissioned the work for his Ballets russes but did not mount it; see Watts, Carolyn America in the Transatlantic Imagination: The Ballets Russes and John Alden Carpenter's Skyscrapers (MA thesis), School of Music, University of Ottawa, 2015, pp.55, 58-59; the fate of these MSS has not been ascertained
  70. Thanks to research carried out by Tim Brooks, Columbia's 'Personal Record' rates for 1917-18 are documented, and are summarized in Brooks, Tim Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919 (first paperback edition), University of Illinois Press, 2005, pp.442-43; it is not known if, or how much, the rates had changed by 1927