Nice things come your direction from unexpected ways while traveling down the road of history. In the process of collecting names of singers who sang under Eugene Jones, with the gracious help of Mary Borders (soprano), we learned of Barbara Lanier. Barbara sang under Eugene Jones and mentioned she had some photos, a t-shirt, and some tapes from the era; would we be interested?
A short while later, Barbara emails us that she had just had dinner with a former BCCO member who had a few original recordings from the Eugene Jones’ era. The Archives Committee was absolutely thrilled at the prospect of accessing the recordings and immediately went to work to track them down.
Thus we learned of John Fattaruso, brother of BCCO cellist Tom Fattaruso, who engineered the sound recordings of BCCO performances in the 1970’s and 1980’s. When we first contacted him, he indicated he wasn’t sure how many he had but he’d sort through them and let us know. Imagine our surprise and excitement when we learned he had every recording from 1974 to 1986, including recordings from BCCO’s first international tour to England!
John Fattaruso told us: “The story on these recordings is that when I was in the process of moving from Berkeley to Dallas in 1987, the BCCO was in what appeared to be a state of uncertain transition, with the retirement of Gene Jones and other factors. In fact, a number of us very long term BCCO members started singing in the Contra Costa Chorale during my last year in town. Since these recordings represented hundreds of hours of work over many years by my two close friends Paul [Bowman] and Alan [Deikman] and me, it seemed the safest to pack up the recordings and take them with me to ensure they were all kept together.”
Given that John protected the tapes over the course of decades, he was understandably reluctant to part with them. He offered to digitize them and send those to us but by then we were developing a relationship with the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library on the campus of UC Berkeley. John said if the library would be willing to take the recordings he’d be willing to release them to the Archives Committee for donation. He states: “if there is a permanent repository in the Bay Area that is equipped to carefully store recordings, that is probably where the original masters should be held.”
Not only did John donate the originals to BCCO for deposit in the Hargrove Library, he also spent hours digitizing the recordings so that chorus members and the public could access the material. Accompanying the original tapes was a spreadsheet listing the performances, including the year and location and the number of reels the recording took. As he digitized the recordings, John wrote: “Playing these recordings in the background here brings back a lot of memories for me, especially the 40-year old reel-to-reel tapes. I can count the number of times on this spreadsheet that Paul and Alan and I hauled recording equipment up and down the ladders to the ceiling box of the Berkeley Community Theater.”
In the fall of 2015, and with the involvement of Linda Morris, Kristin Vorhies, Christian Fritze, and Joanna Davenport and myself, BCCO signed a deed of agreement with the Hargrove Library and delivered both the originals and the digitized versions. After sending the good news to John, he responded: “It is good to know that the recordings that Paul Bowman, Alan Deikman and I worked on over a number of years are tucked away safely.”
These recordings are the first major donation delivered to the Jean Gray Hargrove Library. The Curator of Music Collections, John Shepard, has indicated an interest in more BCCO archival material.
Thus, what John Fattaruso started is the foundation for a permanent and ongoing collection of BCCO materials to be preserved for current and future generations. The Hargrove Library will eventually make the recordings available to the public. In the meantime, and over the course of the next few months, the recordings will become available on StoryChorus to all who are interested in BCCO’s early concerts.