By Paul Goldfinger, Editor at Blogfinger.net
Feb. 12, 2017. Theresa Deckenbach of Ocean Grove alerted us to an impressive and fascinating connection to tonight’s Grammy Awards. It seems that one of the nominees, a CD collection of historic performances called “Waxing the Gospel,” represents the culmination of some remarkable music history research that is based on recordings made from 1890-1900 on wax cylinders by an optician from New Y0rk who obtained many of his tracks in the Great Auditorium of Ocean Grove during the annual Camp Meeting week of 1897.
His name was Harry A. Heath and he created the wax cylinders at a time when that was the only technology possible for recording musical events. In this case, he documented early work by important pioneers of gospel music. The roots of the gospel genre are documented here, and it has gospel music lovers very excited. Many of the performers are known to historians, and now they can be heard, quite clearly, over 100 years later.
The result of some extraordinary research resulted in a 3 CD collection and a 400 page book of liner notes. The quality of the CD’s is said to have been enhanced to a significant degree by digital applications.
NJ.com reported on this story yesterday, February 11, 2017, and it is best if you read the article itself, linked below. You can also hear some recorded samples, so don’t miss looking at this NJ.com coup. The article is excellent, written by Bobby Olivier of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com.
In the piece, Olivier said, “As Heath bounced around the meeting, which also welcomed famed hymn writers and star evangelists, what he captured on his phonograph were among the earliest professional gospel recordings ever produced in the United States.”
He also says, “These recordings form a large portion of “Waxing The Gospel: Mass Evangelism and The Phonograph, 1890-1900,” which not only re-illuminates the most devoutly Christian community at the Jersey Shore at the height of its notoriety, but uncovers just how integral the neighborhood was to worldwide gospel music and the advent of its reproduction and distribution.
“It’s a project that has been greeted rapturously: “Waxing” is nominated for two Grammy Awards Sunday night, for Best Historical Album and Best Liner Notes.
“Heath’s recordings, “Waxing the Gospel” co-producer Richard Martin describes, are “the stuff that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.”
Regarding the Grammy situation, NJ.com says, “The project faces some stiff competition: “bootleg” recordings from Bob Dylan, the “Music of Morocco,” even the album notes for Kris Kristofferson’s complete Monument and Columbia albums collection. Still, none of these other nominees expose more wholly the beginnings of an entire genre: the drama and voluminous quality many associate with gospel music today was defined in part at the Ocean Grove meetings.”
BALDWIN’S CADET BAND with “Nearer, My God to Thee” from the Waxing the Gospel collection.
STEVE PORTER with “Yield Not to Temptation” from the Waxing the Gospel collection