Historic Sound Recordings

Divine Art founder Stephen Sutton has from the age of 14 been a collector of vintage recordings, though the “78” was obsolete well before then. The passion began with his parents’ small collection and, in 1968, with a gift of two edited highlights sets of Gilbert & Sullivan. The collection evolved into an archive over the years and has now grown to over 21,000 ”78s’, 30,000 Vinyl LPs and hundreds of Edison cylnders supported by generous donations of collections. A long held ambition, once digital sound restoration software became affordable, was to start a series of historic recording re-issues, and by pure coincidence, in early 2005, Stephen was contacted by Andrew Rose, an ex-BBC engineer who had relocated to France and was setting up his company Pristine Audio, with the aim of providing the best possible audio restorations. Andrew was looking for a home for some existing projects and so the Divine Art “Historic Sound” label was born.

Ten years later there have only been 11 releases – partly because of the enormous demands which running their respective companies have placed on Andrew and Stephen, but also because this label also shares the Divine Art ethos: to produce recordings which are not only of the highest possible quality but also of rare or unusual repertoire. Simply releasing multitudes of CDs with recordings already familiar is not an option, though this may occur when our restoration is of such a quality that it far surpasses previous offerings.

Praise from critics and customers has flowed in for every CD. The issue of the 1930 “Elijah” saw an award for “Best Choral CD of 2005” from Classic Record Collector Magazine and in 2006 the CD of Coates and Moeran Violin Concertos was a runner-up in the Concerto category.

Future releases will occur when projects of sufficient interest and quality present themselves. While the series is currently in suspense due to other work pressures, the vintage records collection has been transported to the USA and (when funds have been raised to erect shelving and archival storage units) will form part of the new phonograph and vintage radio exhibit established at the Suttons’ Compass Music and Arts Center, Brandon, Vermont.