Two carols

78 rpm, 10 inch record, November 1928

Exeter Cathedral Choir - Armstrong directing

Directed by Thomas Armstrong (1898-1994), later Sir Thomas, and Principal of the Royal Academy of Music 1955-68.

From 1928 to 1933 he was organist of Exeter Cathedral, a post he held in tandem with the directorship of music at the University College of the South West.

The photograph of the choir above shows Armstrong's choir. The exact date of the photo is uncertain, so it may or may not be the members who made the recording. (photo: Exeter Cathedral Archive)

With thanks to Tony Goldsworthy, who provided this information in January 2020:

One of the trebles on these recordings is likely to have been Robert Knill Goldsworthy (b. 1914), Tony's father. He was a chorister from, Tony believes, 1920 to 1928. He had said that he was in the choir when they made a recording of carols. He died in 2010 at the age of 96 yrs.

The recording of O Little Town of Bethlehem features the classic Armstrong descant, well-known from Carols for Choirs etc. The version here, though, has a different ending. This may be the earliest recording of the descant. It suggests Armstrong may have written the descant while in Exeter.

First known recording by the choir. Columbia record catalogue date of November 1928 (

Columbia Records 5057 (A7642). 10 inch record.

With thanks to Colin Brownlee of the Archive of Recorded Church Music for providing a sound copy of the recording.

Photos of record: Mike Dobson (record in his collection)

Side 1

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Side 2

This Joyful Eastertide. Arranged Wood.

Click on the images to see larger versions