Thursday, December 08, 2011

Part Six: The story of William MacEwan / McEwan of Glasgow (1871 - 1943) the 'World's Sweetest Gospel Singer'


Introduction: The story below has been assembled from a variety of online sources - newspapers, censuses, marriage certificates and ships passenger lists. If any readers know of errors here I would be pleased to hear from you. This is one of a series of posts to coincide with the 100th anniversary of William McEwan's first recording session in London in November 1911.


Part Six: 32 more recordings in the 1920s

William MacEwan was soon bound once again for Britain, for his fourth recording session for Columbia which took place in London in August 1927. Just before he left the USA, the 19 April 1927 edition of The Clearfield Progress (Pennsylvania) printed this article:

Farewell to Wm MacEwan

During the special Easter season services held at Trinity Methodist Church, the pastor, Dr E R Heckman was assisted by Mr William MacEwan, the Scottish Gospel tenor. He conducted the singing and introduced many catchy hymns from the hymnal ‘Faith Inspiring Songs’. Mr MacEwan enjoys a wide reputation having toured the British Isles and the Continent and America with all the great evangelists for the last twenty years. His solo work was most favorably received too.

Last evening the service took the nature of a farewell to this noted singer and the church was filled to express its appreciation of his work and its admiration for him. He sang two solos with much feeling and expression – 'My Ain Countree' and 'Annie Laurie'. He accompanied one of his own records on the Victrola, 'My Mother’s Prayers', and had the audience weeping. Mr Albert Adams rendered two very beautiful solos on the violin, which were very heartily received. The Booster Chorus, a band of boys and girls of the Sunday school, whom Mr MacEwan trained during his stay, sang two of his popular choruses. The children’s work met with great appreciation and showed the effect of the director’s good training.

To add colour to the evening, Mr MacEwan was dressed in his native Scotch kilts and he certainly looked the Scotchman that he was.

He leaves today for Richmond, Virginia, and then after his engagement in that southern city will make a tour of Scotland and Wales. Come again Mr MacEwan, Clearfield will always extend to you the welcome hand.

The Fourth Recording Session, August 1927
On 3rd June 1927 he boarded the SS Caronia in New York, bound for Plymouth. Presumably he completed his intended tour of Scotland and Wales during the summer before going back into the studio in London in August. The list of 18 hymns he recorded was:

• Tell it Wherever You Go
(words by Johnson Oatman Jr, music by William Edie Marks, published 1907)

• Will the Circle be Unbroken? (remake)
(Habershon / Gabriel - written 1907)

• God Will Take Care of You (remake)
(Martin / Martin - written 1905)

• My Father Knows
(words and music by Sarepta M I Henry, published 1909)

• Softly and Tenderly (remake)
(Will L Thompson - written 1880)

• Carry Your Cross with a Smile
(words by Ina D Ogdon, music by C H Gabriel, published 1916)

• Gospel Bells (remake)
(Martin / Sankey - written 1895)

• Mother’s Prayers have Followed Me
(words by Lizzie De Armond, music by Bentley D Ackley, published 1912)

• Only a Sinner (remake)
(Gray / Towner - written 1905)

• Angels Song (labeled “a Christmas number”)
(words and music by Robert Lowry; date of publication unknown)

• My Mother’s Prayer (remake)
(J.W. Van de Venter - written 1895)

• Crown Him King of Kings (labeled “a Christmas number”)
(words and music by Eben E Rexford, published 1912)

• Thou Remainest (remake)
(Whittle / McGranahan - written 1884)

• His Eye is On the Sparrow (remake)
(Martin / Gabriel - written 1905)

• He Lifted Me (remake)
(Gabriel - written 1905)

• Broken Heart (remake)
(Dennis / McKinney - written early 1900s)

• Sweeter as the Years Go By
(words and music by Leila N Morris, published 1912)

• All Hail Immanuel
(words by D R Van Sickle, music by C H Gabriel, published 1910)

#alttext#The Fifth Recording Session, October 1928
Just over a year later he was back in London. In October 1928 he completed his fifth recording session - this time in a church rather than a recording studio - at Christ Church, Lambeth (shown left). It was then a Congregational chapel, but just 12 years later it would be very badly damaged during the blitz of WW2; today only the spire remains. Accompanied by a pipe organ and violin he recorded this selection of hymns, two of which were remakes:

• By and By
(words by Fanny Crosby, music by Bentley D Ackley, published 1915)

• I Need Jesus
(words by George Webster, music by CH Gabriel, published 1924)

• Behold I Stand at the Door
(author and date unknown)

• Your Best Friend is Always Near (remake)
(words by Isabel Allam, music by Edwin Excell, published 1916)

• In My Heart there Rings a Melody
(words and music by Elton Roth, published 1924)

• I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say
(words by Horatius Bonar, published 1846)

• Satisfied
(words and music by Alfred H Ackley, published 1910)

• Lead Me to Calvary
(words by Jennie Hussey, music by W J Kirkpatrick, published 1921)

• Sail On
(words and music by C H Gabriel, published 1908)

• Wonderful Story (remake)
(words and music by C H Gabriel, published 1897)

William McEwan, now aged 56, headed back to his family in America. He sailed onboard the SS Leviathan from Southampton on 14 December 1928 and arrived in New York on 20 December, just in time for Christmas. The passenger records give his address as 938 East 31st Street Brooklyn.

His Atlantic-hopping continued; he made a quick return to Britain, and on June 19th 1929 William MacEwan once again sailed back to America, from Southampton to New York on the SS Olympic, arriving on June 25th. The passenger list gives his address as 119 Schermerham St Brooklyn NY.

The Sixth Recording Session, December 1929
His sixth recording session was just six months later, in December 1929 in New York, accompanied by a harmonium and violin:

• He Must Reign
(words and music by C Austin Miles, published 1926)

• March On
(words by Elsie D Yale, music by J Lincoln Hall, published 1917)

• I Walk With the King
(words by James Rowe, music by Bentley D Ackley, published 1913)

A fourth piece was recorded, but its title is unknown as it was never released as a record. As the 1920s drew to a close, William MacEwan was approaching 60 years of age. He was at the prime of his career and was one of the world’s most accomplished recording artists.