Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The sounds of Belloc

Many of you have likely heard the diminutive examples of Gilbert's voice that have somehow made their way onto the internet. It has a good, solid quality to it, even if it does seem curiously high for such an immense man. It's a voice pleasant and refined, with almost the sound of music to it. A kind voice. It's appropriate.

With a hat-tip to Nancy Brown for bringing it to our attention, and to Meredith at For Keats' Sake for further direction, and finally to Karl Keating of Catholic Answers, we are happy to announce that the only known recording of Hilaire Belloc's voice is now available online for your enjoyment (link at end of post).

During the course of a Catholic Answers Live radio broadcast dedicated to the life and works of Belloc, Mr. Keating plays a number of tracks from an old recording of Belloc singing some of the poems and songs for which he was justly celebrated. He himself sings "Ha'nacker Mill" and "The Winged Horse," as well as two others that are less well-known. There are further recordings of a Scottish singer performing some other Belloc masterpieces (including "His Hide is Covered with Hair" and the infamous "Sailor's Carol"), and they are equally worth your time.

Belloc's voice is even more startling than Gilbert's. The mental image I've always had of Belloc is much in keeping with his nickname (earned as early as boyhood), "Old Thunder." The hard, strong face, shoulders hunched and head thrust forward pugnaciously, hands at the ready to clap a shoulder or strike a blow. And the voice was like the growling of a bear; a very similar voice to the faux mental voice I have for Samuel Johnson.

However, this is about as far from the truth as can be. His voice is light and high; almost airy, really. Meredith notes that his "R's" are French, and one can hear this on occasion while he's singing. It's likely that these recordings were made when he was somewhat advanced in years (though likely before the stroke; in any event, the radio show says when, I just don't remember), which could account for the somewhat elderly strain to the voice. He's also not much of a singer, but that hardly matters to us, after all. There's a lot of feeling there, particularly in "The Winged Horse," and it's frankly infectious.

To listen to and/or download the radio show, just go here and check near the bottom of the page.


Anonymous said...

What is the copyright status of those recordings and/or that radio broadcast? I would love to excerpt the Belloc recordings and make them available online, but not if doing so would break laws.

Joe said...

Not sure, Hebdo. That's a great idea. Try contacting Catholic Answers. Here is their contact page:


Anonymous said...

the recordings are beautiful - I've just finished listening to them.