Master Ernest Lough    (Pearl 0145)
Item# V0289
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Master Ernest Lough    (Pearl 0145)
V0289. Master Ernest Lough: Songs by Schubert, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Davies, Wesley, etc.; Arias from Elijah, Hymn of Praise, St Paul & Messiah. (England) Pearl 0145, recorded 1927-28, partially Unpublished. Transfers by Roger Beardsley. Long out-of-print, Final copy! - 727031014522


“’Hear My Prayer’ and ‘O, For The Wings Of A Dove’ (Mendelssohn) sung by Master E Lough with the Choir of the Temple Church, London (organist: G Thalben-Ball), one of the most cherished of all early gramophone recordings, captured the beauty of a remarkable treble voice at its peak. When it was released in June 1927 it caused a sensation. In the first six months it sold 316,000 copies - extraordinary for those days (even the great Dame Clara Butt's ‘Abide With Me’ could only manage sales of 7,000 over the same period).

So successful was it that the masters of the original recording wore out and, nearly a year later, the same forces had to reconvene to make a near-carbon copy of the two sides. Within three years, ‘O, For The Wings Of A Dove’ in its double incarnation had sold over 712,000 copies. In 1962 it became the first classical single in HMV's history to become a million seller. Lough and Thalben-Ball received gold discs to mark the achievement. It has the rare distinction of having never been out of the catalogue of available recordings.

Characteristically modest, Ernest Lough, or ‘Fluff’ as he was invariably known, was always at pains to emphasize the contribution of others to his unexpected celebrity: Dr George Thalben-Ball, the organist and choirmaster of the Temple Church, selected him because, from the handful of other boys whose voices were in bloom, it was he who was in the best shape at the time of the recording.

But it was the unusually rich, even tone throughout Lough's register, his control, complete security of intonation and emotional involvement with the text that made the delivery of the solo part so distinctive and that captured the hearts and imagination of the public.

Queues stretching from the door of the church to Fleet Street meant that, for the next two years, tickets had to be issued for the Sunday services at the Temple, some in the congregation standing on seats to obtain a glimpse of the angelic Master Lough.

Compton Mackenzie, reviewing the disc in The Gramophone, was sure he had never before heard a boy's voice of such beauty, opining that ‘Master Lough, after his first performance, goes straight into the classic shelves and the company of singers like Caruso. Colonial papers please copy’, he added, ‘because here is an authentic piece of England’.

Born in Forest Gate, London, Lough sang on other Temple Church Choir recordings over the next 12 months, including ‘I Know That My Redeemer Liveth’ (Messiah), while ‘O Come Everyone That Thirsteth’ (Elijah) was a duet with fellow-chorister Ronald Mallett. Lough's own favourite was his solo recording of ‘Hear Ye, Israel’ (Elijah) which, with time to spare at the end of a session, he learned in half an hour from scratch before recording it on the spot with Thalben-Ball at the organ.

Lough was playing football outside the church when two elderly ladies approached him to ask where they might leave their donations to the Ernest Lough Memorial Fund. The record was a frequent request on the radio and, 40 years later, ‘Master Lough’ was still receiving gifts of sweets and comics from appreciative fans who were unaware of the age of the recording.

When he left the choir in 1928 - voices broke later in those days - he began a successful career in advertising, first with HMV, where he met his wife Julie. They married in 1938. During the war he served as a fire-fighter; he was on duty on the night in 1941 when his beloved Temple Church was destroyed. Subsequently he became an executive with Mather and Crowther (later Ogilvy and Mather).

The Loughs had three sons, all of whom became choristers: Peter at the Chapel Royal, Graham and Robin joining their father at the re-built Temple Church, to which Ernest had returned as a bass-baritone. He sang with Peter in the 1953 Coronation Service (the only father and son to do so) and in 1961 made a recording with Robin, remaining a member of the Temple Choir, still under the directorship of Thalben-Ball, until 1971. He sang next to Graham in the Bach Choir, from which he retired as recently as 1991, conducted by Sir David Willcocks, whose own distinguished choral career was first inspired by hearing ‘O, For The Wings Of A Dove’ as a small boy.

Gently spoken, a man of innate courtesy and uncomfortable in the limelight, Lough had a youthful sense of fun and a nice line in self-deprecating humour. These and Job-like patience helped him deal for more than 60 years with the endlessly repeated questions about that one day, 5 April, 1927, that unwittingly coloured the rest of his life."

- Jeremy Nicholas, The Guardian, 23 Feb., 2000