But is it strong enough?

Ninety years ago, George Dorrington Cunningham, one of the most popular recital organists of his time, made a recording at Kingsway Hall, London. It was released as a 12-inch 78 rpm shellac record by His Master’s Voice. One copy, manufactured here in Australia, turned up in an op-shop in Geelong in 2016. I bought it, cleaned it up, and put it up for sale on Discogs. A man in Saint George, Utah bought it from me, with the following request:

Please package in a box with sufficient padding and protection so as to ensure no breakage occurs in transit. Thank you.

4030-cropped-and-invertedShellac discs are heavy and fragile, but I know what to do, and carefully packed it in a strong box. “But is it strong enough?” I wondered. What happened next is described in my message to the buyer.

I am really sorry – I was packaging your order, and gently testing the packaging to make sure it was sufficiently robust, when I heard a little click …. man, these things are so fragile. I will refund you immediately. I’m a bit upset – not with you, its just I love these old discs, and they will never be made again. Annoyed with myself 😦

The buyer was understanding, and on reflection, perhaps it was a good thing this happened. The disc broke like a potato crisp under the slightest pressure, so it must have been extremely fragile. I doubt it would have survived the journey to Utah. Better it happened at my end!

So, I now have a sad, broken shellac disc which will never play again.

I did record the disc before it broke, so at least we can still listen. This is the first movement of Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”, which one of those classics you know, if only from a movie scene in which a detective investigating a crime walks into an empty cathedral.

He confronts me: “Sir, I need to talk to you about the destruction of a ninety-year-old record …”

  • Artist: G.D. Cunningham, playing on the Organ of the Kingsway Hall, London
  • Title: Toccata And Fugue In D Minor  (J.S. Bach)
  • Format: 12” shellac disc, 78rpm
  • Label: His Master’s Voice
  • Catalogue: C. 1291
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1926

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs

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