A Tribute to George Baker

This 1970 disc features recordings by the great George Baker, who never appeared on stage with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, but who nevertheless appeared on more G&S complete sets in the 78rpm era than any other singer. Baker was favored for his superb diction, which was perfectly suited to the then-primitive recording technology. This recording gives an excellent idea of his art. Selections include:

Side 1Side 2
  1. The Sorcerer: "My Name is John Wellington Wells" (orch. cond. Godfrey; mat. 0B5073; rec. 9/33; HMV B8056)
  2. The Pirates of Penzance: "I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" (chorus & orch. cond. Sargent; mat. Cc15909; rec. 2/29; HMV D1682)
  3. Patience: "Am I Alone and Unobserved" (orch. cond. Sargent; mat. Cc19763, rec. 9/30; HMV D1912)
  4. Iolanthe: "When I Went to the Bar" (orch. cond. Sargent; mat. Cc18054; rec. 10/29; HMV D1789)
  5. Iolanthe: "Nightmare Song" (orch. cond. Sargent; mat. Cc17381; rec. 9/29; HMV D1794)
  6. Ruddigore: "I know a youth" (w/Muriel Dickson; orch. cond. Sargent; mat. 2B1466; rec. 9/31; HMV DB4007)
  7. Ruddigore: "My boy, you may take it from me" (w/Derek Oldham; orch. cond. Sargent; mat. 2B1455; rec. 9/31; HMV DB4008)
  8. The Yeomen of the Guard: "I've jibe and joke" (orch. cond. Sargent; mat. Cc14709; rec. 10/28; HMV D1552)
  9. The Yeomen of the Guard: "Oh! A private buffoon" (orch. cond. Sargent; mat. Cc14713; rec. 10/28; HMV D1556)
  10. The Gondoliers: "Rising early in the morning" (orch. cond. Norris; mat. Cc11394; rec. 9/27; HMV D1342)
  11. Ivanhoe: "Ho! Jolly Jenkin" (w/ orch.; mat. Bb8785; rec. 9/26; HMV B2396)
  1. Lehmann, In a Persian Garden, "Myself when young" (Madam Adami, piano; mat. H02815; rec. 9/16; HMV E181)
  2. Quilter, Three Shakespeare Songs, Op. 6: "Come away death"; "O Mistress Mine"; "Blow, blow thou Winter Wind" (Gerald Moore, piano; mats. Bb7225, Bb7224; rec. 9/25; HMV B2500)
  3. Fraser-Simpson, Alice in Wonderland: "Now doth the little crocodile"; "Fury said to a mouse"; "'Tis the voice of the lobster"; "They told me you had been to her"; "You are old Father William"; "Speak roughly to your little boy"; "Will you walk a little faster" (Gerald Moore, piano; mats. OB4424-7, 5-6; rec. 10/32; HMV B4326-7)
  4. Fraser-Simpson, The Hums of Pooh: "Isn't it funny"; "How sweet to be a cloud"; "It's very, very funny"; "Cottleston Pie"; "Lines written by a bear"; "Sing Ho! for the life of a bear" (Gerald Moore, piano; mats. Bb18833-4; rec. 2/30; HMV B3386)
  5. Stuart, Floradora: "In the Shade of the Palm" (w/ orch.; mat. Bb18013; rec. 10/29; HMV B3546)
Issue History
1970 EMI LP HQM 1200

[THE GRAMOPHONE, February 1970, (Vol. XLVII); pg. 1326]

George Baker's recording career covers well over half a century. It is sixty years since he made his first record and only seven since he made his last, and even his 1962 Gilbert and Sullivan recording did not end his active career as a singer. On June 11th, 1966, when he was 81, he took part in a costume performance of Trial by Jury given in the Royal Festival Hall and which was broadcast. The last time I saw and spoke to him was at the Gerald Moore 70th birthday party, when he was in splendid form.

It may be doubted if there has ever been a more versatile singer. He was one of the principals in the first English recordings of the Choral Symphony of Beethoven, Parsifal and Hiawatha, he has recorded innumerable Gilbert and Sullivan roles, some of them several times, he sang in opera and was a musical comedy star, and his appearances on the platform and on records in English songs simply cannot be counted. He was also the immensely popular "Uncle George" in a group of early records for children. One of the secrets of his versatility is, as he said to me only three or four years ago, that to him there are only two kinds of music, good and bad. In his excellent sleeve-note, Peter Gammond lists eight pseudonyms under which Mr. Baker made records and I doubt whether even the singer himself is quite sure that this is the full total.

The recordings here range from 1916 to 1933. With any other singer one would say that being between 31 and 48 they reveal him in his prime, but George Baker would seem to have reached his prime before 1916 and certainly continued in it until long after 1933. Indeed, if put to the test I doubt if he is past it even now! Choice of songs in such an anthology as this must inevitably be a very personal matter. All the songs chosen here are thoroughly worthy of inclusion but I myself should have preferred a little less of Sullivan to make room for more of the other songs which he sings so well. But I do not complain. The rich, ripe voice, sensitive artistry, and above all impeccable diction are as I remember them from the very early days of his career. More than forty years ago (July 1929) he wrote an article on diction for The Gramophone. Many of today's singers would do well to read it, as they would also his book, This Singing Business, of about 20 years later.

I hope that on February 10th many will raise a glass in their own homes and drink to the continued health and happiness of a great singer and a great man, who was for long the Honorary Secretary of the Savage Club and one time Honorary Treasurer and later Chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society.