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Christmas 1904 brought back to life digitally

Friday, December 21, 2012 - 02:46

Dec 21 - The earliest known Christmas home recordings have been brought back to life. Using state-of-the-art sound restoration technology, experts at the Museum of London have managed to resurrect Christmas Carols performed and recorded by an affluent English family more than a century ago. Jim Drury reports.

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UPSOT: 'WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS' This Christmas carol rendition might sound faint, but then it is more than a century old. UPSOT: 'WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS' The song was recorded by Cromwell Wall back in 1902.. as his family gathered around the table for Christmas. It's believed to be the oldest Christmas recording ever uncovered... Wall made the recording using a phonograph and wax cylinders. Museum of London's Bill Lowry says the fact that the cylinders have survived all these years.. is hard to believe. Lowry and a team of digital sound restorers have spent months carefully digitising these recordings and bringing them back to life. SOUNDBITE (English) BILL LOWRY, DIGITAL COLLECTIONS MANAGER FOR THE MUSEUM OF LONDON, SAYING: "I've taken the digitised recordings and used current technology to try and reduce the surface noise, but I haven't wanted to go too far because if you take away the crackle and the other noises that come away they you reduce the authenticity of the recording." UPSOT: PIANO PLAYING The fragile cylinders' individual grooves were first carefully cleaned with a fine brush before the audio was digitised. Lowry then used sound restoration technology to delete and repair glitches - attempting to re-create how the recording would have sounded when they were made. UPSOT: CROMWELL WALL SPEAKING That is Cromwell Wall addressing his family on Christmas day 108 years ago. Museum curator Julia Hoffbrand says 24 of these century old recordings were successfully resurrected. She has her favourite. UPSOT: CHURCH BELLS PEALING SOUNDBITE (English) JULIA HOFFBRAND, SOCIAL AND WORKING HISTORY CURATOR AT THE MUSEUM OF LONDON, SAYING: "There's an amazing recording of the bells of Old Southgate church pealing in the New Year 1904. Cromwell apparently wheeled up the phonograph in his children's pram over a mile at midnight to record the sound of the bells." Wall family descendant David Brown donated the recordings to the museum in 2008. When they were finally converted, Brown's relatives gathered to hear the unique blast from the past. SOUNDBITE (English) JULIA HOFFBRAND, SOCIAL AND WORKING HISTORY CURATOR AT THE MUSEUM OF LONDON, SAYING: "Oh, they were very excited. Some of them hadn't heard their grandfathers speak before and it was quite emotional. They were very thrilled." And as they gather for this year's Christmas turkey the current Wall clan will raise a glass to their ancestors - thanking them for providing a such a memorable window into the past. UPSOT: WALL FAMILY MEMBERS SHOUTING 'HIP HIP HOORAY'

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Christmas 1904 brought back to life digitally

Friday, December 21, 2012 - 02:46

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