Early sound recordings by the Corinthian Theatre Chorus

In November 1902, the Corinthian Theatre Chorus made some of the earliest recordings made in India. These were produced at the Corinthian Theatre in Kolkata and were part of a recording tour led by Frederick William Gaisberg and coordinated in Kolkata by John Watson Hawd. At the time, the Corinthian, located at 5 Dharamtala Street (now Lenin Street) was the most significant venue in the capital for Hindu, Urdu and Gujarati plays, as well as hosting classical music concerts.

They were recently catalogued by CHARM, the AHRC Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music. This was a joint project by Royal Holloway, University of London, King’s College London and the University of Sheffield.

WorkCatalogue Number
Khune Nahak: Gana Gana Gana14561
Dil Farosh: Arre Koi Aan Mile Ya Sajni14562
Haseen Chatra: Tajan Ke Raj Aaye14563
Haseen Chatra: Chand Mehtaab Doobi Gande Talab14564
Fair Chatra: Song14565
Fair Chatra: Song14566
Zun Moorid: Song [1st issue as Fair Chatra: Song]14567
Laila: Bharke Pilade Sharab Yaar Sakiya14568
Haseen Chatra: Koi Rab Ki Marzi Kya Jane14569
Khudadad: Song14570

Subsequent recordings were produced at the Corinthian in 1904 for John Watson Hawd.

India’s first Wurlitzer Organ

Organ music was regularly used to complement films of the silent era and Madan Theatres bought several Wurlitzers in the early 20th century. The article below, which comes to us courtesy of the Essex Organ Museum is almost certainly referring to the installation of an organ at the Corinthian Theatre. It was the first time the Wurlitzer installed one of its famous organs at a location on the subcontinent.

The Bioscope – Thursday 03 May 1928


The first Wurlitzer organ has been installed in India. Walter Pearce has just returned to this country after superintending the erection of a style 90 divided organ in J. J. Madan’s theatre, in Dharmatala Street, Calcutta.

The well-known Scottish contractors, Mclntosh and Burn, achieved quite a neat engineering feat when they erected the organ chambers, which are situated at balcony level and are practically suspended.
The organ itself was a great success. Byron Hopper came over specially from the United States to take up the post of organist. He reports that the organ “is behaving wonderfully and considering that the climatic conditions of the country (the temperature ranges from 97 to 120 degrees with 90 per cent. and 80 per cent. of humidity) put a very great strain on the organ”, this is high praise indeed. Mr Hopper also affirms that the attendance at the theatre has increased about 75 per cent., and that nearly three dozen people gather every morning to inspect the organ and ask questions concerning it.

Mr. Pearce is full of praise for Mr. Madan, whose enterprise, modern ideas and willingness to receive information that may lead to the improvement of his theatres have left a deep impression on him. We understand that Mr. Madan is delighted with this installation, and that Mr. Pearce is negotiating for further installations in Rangoon, Colombo and Bombay, in addition to a second in Calcutta.

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