Don’t Dilly Dally on the Research

You may remember reading about the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection in our #musichallvareityday blog post. Today we’re going to delve a little deeper in to one part of this rich and impressive collection – the research files!

It goes without saying that Max was a great fan of music hall, and he was known by many for his specialist knowledge of the subject. But Max was also a diligent organiser and an avid researcher of music hall, and this is reflected in the research files within this collection.

Examples of the research files in Max’s collection.

Whilst working as the British Music Hall Society’s historian and archivist he would receive many queries from people all over the world. Max would always go the extra mile when responding to these queries, often carrying out a substantial amount of research on the enquirer’s behalf. He seemed to have a knack for knowing where to look for the most elusive of details, and his knowledge of obscure music hall songs was second to none. The outcomes of this research, alongside his own research for the various articles, publications and presentations he produced, was compiled into these files.

There are 183 files in the collection, on topics from individual performers, composers and historic events, through to animals, horse racing and trains. The majority of the contents is photocopied sheet music and songsheets, but they also contain biographies, published articles and newspaper cuttings, copies of photographs, print outs from the internet, and email correspondence, alongside some original examples of ephemera, songsheets and postcards.

So, what do we have here…?

Within the collection there are:

  • 115 files on specific performers, covering such well-known artists as Vesta Tilley, Gus Elen, Marie Lloyd and Dan Leno. Male performers make up almost 65% of this sub-series of files, whilst only 32% focus on female performers. There are also 3 files about double-acts and one about a performance group (The Co-Optimists).
  • 12 files on specific subjects, including racing, the Salvation Army, football, railways, the genealogy of music hall, and ballooning!
  • 5 files about specific theatres, which includes the Musical Comedy and Gaiety Theatre (London), the Palace and Middlesex music halls, The Windmill (London), and two about the Players Theatre (London).
  • 4 files about historic events; the Suffragette movement, the Jameson Raid, the Anglo-Zulu war, and the Princess Alice Paddle Steamer Disaster
  • 3 files about a specific show or production, two about the stage show ‘Trilby’, and one about the BBC radio show ‘Palace of Varieties’.
  • And 1 file about a historic figure (it’s Queen Victoria)

There are also 43 files on less specific topics, such as ‘Songwriters’ and ‘Artistes’, collations of print outs and requests from research institutions like the Bodleian Library, or alphabetised folders containing collated resources and songs.

The most frequent words to appear in the catalogue records of the research files in the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection.

Some highlights…

Now, files full of photocopies of published songsheets may not sound too exciting, however there are some real gems amongst the collection…

A songsheet for the song ‘Lambeth Walk’ which includes dance moves on the back

MWT/RES/166 – Lambeth Walk Songsheet, from ‘Me and My Girl’, with Lupino Lane, George Graves and Teddie St Denis, music by Noel Gay.

 

Photograph of the performer Chris Beeching looking very dapper in character as Champagne Charlie, for a production of a show performed at Wilton’s Music Hall in 2013.

MWT/RES/067 – Black and white photograph of Christopher Beeching dressed as Champagne Charlie for a 2013 production directed by Glyn Idris Jones. Photograph credited to Dan Savident.

Sheet music for a song about our local seaside town Margate, called ‘Merry Margate’.Check out an audio rendition here, performed by our very own Dan Harding from the Kent music department!

MWT/RES/167 – Photocopy of sheet music and lyrics for ‘Merry Margate’, written and composed by Lloyd G. Williams.

A souvenir folio from the first production of ‘Trilby’ on the stage in London, 30th Ocotber, 1895. Includes a cast list and photographic plates of the cast members in costume.

MWT/RES/008 – Small folio souvenier programme of Paul M. Potter’s ‘Trilby’, performed at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket on 30th October, 1895

That’s not to say all of the material within this collection is joyous and full of whimsy. The music hall tradition reflected societal norms of the day, and whilst many songs were intended to be satirical or comical, they did sometimes include racial stereotyping, blackface, stories of domestic abuse and/or offensive and outdated language. Whilst this can be upsetting and shocking to see, and to process and catalogue, it is important that we accurately record these terms and depictions in the interest of historical accuracy. Removing this material, censoring, or replacing these terms with modern equivalents, would risk falsifying the historical record and would in itself be problematic.

This collection has the potential to support some very interesting research projects. There is material here that could be used to research topics such as the representation of People of Colour in theatre, male and female impersonation around the turn of the century, or perhaps how humour was used to tell stories of poverty and depravation.

We’ve recently completed the cataloguing of the files, all of which you can now review on our online catalogue. If you’re interested in seeing anything in the files, just get in touch with us at specialcollections@kent.ac.uk!

Giles Family at 75: The Characters

GA5720: Front cover artwork for the 42nd Giles annual, 1988.

This is the second in our series of blog posts celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Giles Family, drawing on the riches of the Carl Giles Archive, which has been part of the British Cartoon Archive since 2005. This series is in lieu of a physical exhibition in our Gallery space, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In this post we’re going to tell you “Who’s Who” in the Giles Family! We’ve included lots of images here to give you a real taste of the characters. If it leaves you wanting more, just take a look through our archive online!!

GAP2013: The Giles Family Tree, Daily Express, 23 Nov 1951.

Grandma

Probably the most famous and prolific character, Grandma Giles is the hard-drinking, bet-placing, grumpy-looking star of the family.

GA3715: Published caption: “Know why I think this betting slip is a forgery? Because I can’t
remember giving anyone 500-1 against Manchester United and I don’t spell Cup Final with a K”, published by Sunday Express, 22 May 1977.

Grandma can usually be found wearing her trademark black coat up to the neck, fox stole, with her hat pulled down over her head and her trusty umbrella and handbag in hand. She was rarely given a voice in cartoons, but appeared in over 1400 of them over the years.

Left – GA5567: “Watch it! I can get you 2 1/2 years inside if you hit me just because I nicked your pension book”, published Sunday Express, 15 Nov 1987.
Right – GA5721: Back cover artwork for the 44th Giles annual, 1990.

Imagined to have been born as early as 1886, Grandma was a strict disciplinarian with extreme opinions; from being a royalist, to supporting hanging, to having a portrait of Lenin on her bedroom wall! Despite these… interesting… quirks of character, she is well-loved by fans of Giles’ work, and Giles was also incredibly fond of her. In fact, you could say there is some resemblance of Giles himself in Grandma…

Left – GAPH00136: Black and white photo of Giles in the snow at Hillbrow Farm holding packaged artwork being collected by helicopter, 1987.
Right – GAPA0004: Front cover of ‘Sunday Express Magazine’ advertising article ‘Giles: The man who gave birth to Grandma’, published by Sunday Express, 16 Feb 1986.

Giles did admit that he occasionally considered killing off Grandma over the years, but found that if he left her out of the cartoons for a few days he would receive complaints from Daily Express readers asking when she was going to reappear!

The last cartoon featuring Grandma that we have in the archive was published in the Sunday Express, on 2nd June, 1991. In this cartoon she is uncharacteristically dressed in a winter fur coat, scarf and woolly hat, a comment on the cold June of 1991.

GA5382: “Do you think his Lordship would mind if we put a match to it?”, published by Sunday Express, 02 Jun 1991.

Father

Considering himself the Head of the family (when we all know it’s actually Grandma!), Father was a mild and philosophical character.

GA3862: “St. George to Dragon – I give you ten seconds to get off my new
flower bed – over and out”, published by Sunday Express, 23 Apr 1978.

A firm favourite, appearing in over 1100 cartoons, Father had served in both World Wars and just wanted a quiet life where he could enjoy sports and relax. He was a working Dad, although we were never given an explanation of what exactly he did for a living!  His given name was also George Giles, but being that there are two other George’s in the family, he was always referred to as Father. He was imagined to be 60 years old, and was also, of course, a Grandfather.

Left – GA5389: “1914-18 found him winning his first war”, published by Daily Express, 05 Jan 1950.
Right – GAN1798: “And this comment from your music teacher – ‘I hope your boy enjoys his holiday as much as I’m going to enjoy mine’…”, published by Sunday Express, 21 Jul 1968.

In the early days of the Family cartoons Father was depicted wearing the typically working class garb of belt and braces. In later years though this changed with the times to a jumper and slacks.

Left – GA0420: “This really is a remarkable sight – the world’s most famous speed men racing neck and neck ……”, published by Daily Express, 20 Aug 1949.
Right – GA0282: [No caption], published by Daily Express, 31 May 1948.

The final cartoon featuring Father in the archive shows him in bed, barely visible, being woken up by Ernie. Ernie is breaking it to him that “Some people are here who say Grandma has rented the house to them for Wimbledon fortnight”. Alas, a quiet life was not to be had!

GA5383: “Some people are here who say Grandma has rented the house to them for Wimbledon fortnight”, published by Sunday Express, 23 Jun 1991.

Mother

Mother is the organised, cheerful, authoritative member of the family who appeared in over 950 of the Family cartoons.

GA5395: “and Mum -“, published by Daily Express, 28 Aug 1947.

We don’t know much about her, except that she should be considered as head of the family. She is matronly, but with a kind face, and can often be found doing the housework, herding the children or serving the tea.

Left – GAA253058: “In view of his team being knocked out of the Cup yesterday, for goodness sake let him win”, published by Sunday Express, 03 Jan 1971.
Right – GAA415132: “Grandma – explain to man’s best friend that Man has taken the day off to go to Wimbledon”, published by Daily Express, 23 Jun 1987.

 

Vera & George

George, the eldest son of Mother and Father, was married to Vera, and together they had a son, George Jr. In the early Family cartoons there was elder son, illustrated with an Eton collar and bowtie (seen behind Vera in the image below), but he had disappeared by the time the Family canon was established.

GA0226: “Ho! Mother was going to have a new hat, everybody was going to have new boots – if father’s cert had won the Cambridgeshire”, published by Daily Express, 26 Oct 1947.

George could usually be found smoking a pipe and reading a book. He rarely spoke, and was quite absent in the later Family cartoons, only featuring in around 400 in total. He could often be spotted in the background hunched over in a chair, dawdling behind the rest of the family, or with his back to the viewer not noticing the chaos around him.

Left – GA5398: “and our eldest son George and his baby”, published by Daily Express, 28 Aug 1947.
Middle – GA5118: [no caption], published by Sunday Express, 01 Nov 1987.
Right – GA5388: ” Before long a beautiful thing came into his life – his first son, George”, published by Daily Express, 05 Jan 1950.

Vera on the other hand, appearing in over 750 cartoons, was often found at Grandma’s side, looking rather ill and put upon. She was originally depicted as a bit of an intellectual, reading poetry alongside George, but as time wore on she became more meek and frail, frequently ill with a cold, constantly worrying, or clutching a bottle of aspirin!

Left – GA5778: “Now the war is over I assume you have decided to risk the perils of travel and give us a look”, published by Sunday Express, 03 Mar 1991.
Middle – GA5399: ” and his intellectual wife”, published by Daily Express, 28 Aug 1947.
Right – GA2070: “I’ve told you before not to give your tray to anyone in a uniform. They’re not all stewards”, published by Daily Express, 15 Jan 1964.

The kids: George Jr, the Twins and Ernie (and Stinker!)

It’s not tricky to spot the kids in the cartoons of the Giles Family; after all they appeared in over 900 of them! Miniscule in stature, the kids were the often chaotic, and always cheeky, element of the Family.

GA1378: “Fire Brigade? We wish to report we’ve just launched Sputnik 3”, published by Sunday Express, 10 Nov 1957.

The youngest child of Mother and Father, Ernie, was referred to by Giles as “the most dangerous element of the family”! He was often the centre of the chaos, with a weapon of some sort in his hand, and followed by his gang of tiny troublemakers. He was a reincarnation of an earlier Giles character of the same name, who appeared in a comic strip in the early 1940s. In looks, he is a miniature version of Father and he became less anarchic over time, with the chaotic torch being handed to his friend, Stinker, in later years.

GAA192287: “Mum, remember Grandma said if her pension went up she was going
to treat herself to something she always wanted?”, published by Daily Express, 12 Nov 1964.

Talking of Stinker…

With his trademark black hair, Stinker was not a relative of the family but was a strong presence, appearing in over 800 cartoons, even going on holiday with the family. Stinker was of course a nickname, his actual name being Larry Wilmott. He never spoke but was well loved by many fans, with even Giles speaking of him as “a favourite in a way”.

Left – GAPC0355: Giles cartoon on the cover of the Ipswich Sixth Form rag magazine (Volume 1, 1980), with caption: “We care – do you?”, published by Ipswich Sixth Form, 1980.
Right – GAPC0244: Part of cover cartoon in booklet ‘Safe hands on the Land’, published by The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, published by Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 1956.

The smallest of the grandchildren is George Jnr. Baby George often looks bewildered, is usually wearing a bib around his neck, and is seemingly without legs, having only little feet. In a number of images he appears to be staring out at the viewer, breaking “the 4th wall” of the cartoons. Perhaps he is pleading for aid, or maybe it’s his way of saying “Really?!?!”

GA1147: “This delegation wishes to register a strong protest about Father Christmases who come home late and forget to fill our socks”, published by Sunday Express, 25 Dec 1955.

The twins, Laurence and Ralph (arguably the cutest of the group), are always found together in their matching outfits, and were named after their mother Ann’s favourite actors, Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Ralph Richardson.

GAN1411: “Grandma – dad says we can’t wait any longer while you sit in there reading about Rhodesia. One plane ticket coming under the door”, published by Daily Express, 26 Oct 1965.

Other characters

The sisters

Ann (occasionally spelled ‘Anne’) is the eldest daughter of Mother and Father. Appearing in over 450 cartoons, she is mother to the twins, Laurence and Ralph. Being the eldest, Ann is the tallest of the daughters and can usually be spotted by her distinctive quaffed fringe.

Top – GA1668: “Flaming June”, published by Daily Express, 21 Jun 1960.
Bottom – GA0718: “And only last night Dad was saying whatever the Budget result things couldn’t get much worse”, published by Daily Express, 11 Mar 1952.

The father of Ann’s twins is absent, and also could be considered in dispute! A number of the Family cartoons suggest that he may have been an American G.I., however in the very early cartoons of 1947 we see what we could presume to be him, a tall man covering his eyes on the stairs…

GA0235: “If 4,298,700 tons of coal in one week isn’t a good enough exuse to celebrate and buy myself a new hat, what is?”, published by Daily Express, 11 Dec 1947.

Carol is the well behaved, often relaxed and smiling, middle daughter. She can usually be seen reading a magazine or lounging about the house.

Bridget is the youngest daughter of Mother and Father. Often wearing a gymslip or school uniform with her dark hair in a plait, she appeared in less than 600 cartoons. She is only slightly taller than her young nephews, but in comparison is incredibly gangly, as opposed to their bouncier, rounded stature.

Left – “Get in the queue if you want to take advantage of the new reduced telephone charges to the United States”, published by Daily Express, 02 Feb 1967.
Middle – GA5396: “the girls”, published by Daily Express, 28 Aug 1947.
Right – GA3602: “Thank goodness he didn’t win – we’d never have got him up on the top one”, published by Sunday Express, 25 Jul 1976.

It’s been noted that on at least two occasions Giles switched the names of Carol and Bridget, presumably accidentally, in the cartoons, such as in this example…

GA5777: “You’d better agree to a ‘cooling-off’ period before you meet Bridget’s latest boyfriend”, published by Sunday Express, 23 Apr 1972.

In the early days of the Family cartoons there was an appearance of an American daughter, seen in the cartoon below. It’s been suggested that she married an American GI and moved to America with him after the war.

GA0302: “Well, folks – when we arrived from England, Wally pointed out that there were other things in America besides skyscrapers”, published by Daily Express, 03 Aug 1948.

Chalkie

Chalkie the schoolmaster appeared in c.400 cartoons and was a sarcastic, skeletal looking figure. He was inspired by Giles’ real life school teacher, Mr Chalk, who Giles harassed along with his gang of friends whilst at Barnsbury Park School in London.

Left – GA2046: “Any Prime Minister who looks that much like Chalkie’s had my vote”, published by Daily Express, 24 Oct 1963.
Right – GA1742: “All this fuss about schoolchildren being compelled to wear uniforms would surely be solved if only the head and teachers had to wear the uniform as well.” – Reader’s letter, published by Daily Express, 09 Mar 1961.

The pets

The Giles Family had a number of pets over the years, there was Attila the Hun (the parrot), Butch and Rush (the dogs, an Airedale Terrier and Border Collie respectively), Natalie (the cat), and Randy (the fish).

GAA111405: “I’d show him who’s favourite in this house if they ever let him out for a fly round the room”, published by Daily Express, 15 Sep 1957.

Various crops from images refs GA3134, GA4247, GA5405, GAA091103, GACE00302, published by Express Newspapers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some images in this blog post have been cropped. Please see archive.cartoons.ac.uk and search for the reference number cited for the full image.

A little of what you fancy..!

To celebrate the inaugural #musichallvarietyday on Saturday 16th May, 2020, we thought we’d tell you a bit about one of our magnificent theatre collections, the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection!

In June 2018 Special Collections & Archives were lucky enough to receive the personal music hall memorabilia collection of Max Tyler.

Who was Max Tyler?

Max was the historian and archivist of the British Music Hall Society. A retired bank manager, Max looked after the society’s theatrical memorabilia and was an expert in the field, particularly in the subject of seaside entertainment and obscure music hall tunes!

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Photographs of Max Tyler. Left and right images courtesy of Alison Young, middle image from the Max Tyler Music Hall collection.

Max was often invited to speak at events all across the UK and frequently wrote articles for publications such as The Call Boy and The Stage, and was the editor of the journal Music Hall Studies. According to the Music Hall Studies website, it was Max’s belief that “if there were no other source relating to British social history for a long period around the turn of the nineteenth century, a study of music hall song would provide everything researchers were seeking”.

Max had been in talks with us for many years about his personal collection of music hall memorabilia and research, with him ultimately bequeathing it to the University. Sadly, Max passed away on 5th January 2018 after being in poor health for some time. In his obituary in The Call Boy, Roy Hudd said of Max, “Max Tyler, an old fashioned gentleman and an old fashioned gentle man”.

After his death we worked closely with the British Music Hall Society to transfer the collection to our archive.

Music Hall? What’s that!?

Music hall was an incredibly popular form of entertainment from the mid-19th through to the early 20th century. Originating in bars and public houses, it was a heady mixture of popular songs, comedy and variety entertainment.

Oxford Music Hall, 1875

From around 1850 specialist music halls began springing up all across the country as the genre became more and more popular. The patrons would smoke, eat and drink whilst enjoying the humorous (and often cheeky) performances from that night’s entertainers. These entertainers were the celebrities of the day, with the most successful ones, such as Marie Lloyd, performing both nationally and internationally. The songs they sang were often a comment on the working class social issues of the time, such as money troubles, overcrowded living, unfaithful or nagging spouses, and sometimes even true love!

As the 20th century progressed and World War loomed, music hall popularity dwindled. Then came radio, cinema, and later, television, firmly putting an end to its ubiquitous popularity.

The collection

The Max Tyler Music Hall Collection is chock-full of music hall material, spanning from the late 19th century through to the early 21st century. It includes original and copies of Music Hall song sheets, sheet music and scripts for musical comedies, music hall programmes, playbills, 20th century music hall and vaudeville magazines and periodicals, music hall audio recordings on cassette, CD, shellac discs, and reel-to-reel tapes, published books on music hall, and music hall performers, Max’s research notes, and even Max’s very own stage blazer and hat!

Max’s striped blazer and straw boater hat, from the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection.

We couldn’t possibly fit information about everything in the collection in to one blog post, so for today’s post we will focus on a couple of the larger elements of the collection.

Songsheets

There are at least 1500 songsheets in the Max Tyler collection. With elaborately illustrated covers, and whimsical titles such as “I wasn’t so drunk as all that” and “La-Didily-Idily-Umti-Umti-Ay!” these songsheets are an incredible glimpse in to the working classes of the day (albeit a satirised, playful one!) Performers such as T.E. Dunville, Vesta Tilley, Marie Lloyd and Gus Elen, amongst many others, are represented, as well as prolific composers such as Joseph Tabrar, Arthur Lloyd and George Le Brunn.

Just a few of the 1500+ songsheets in the collection.

Programmes

The collection boasts beautifully illustrated late 19th and early 20th century programmes from variety theatres of the day, through to bold and photographic programmes of the later 20th century. It includes examples from provincial towns as well as the larger cities. This part of the collection is incredibly complimentary to our other theatre collections, which you can find out more about on our website!

A selection of the earlier programmes available in the collection.

Research Notes

Max was a diligent organiser and avid researcher of music hall, the benefits of which can be seen in his collection. He would always go the extra mile when researching on behalf of the society or members of the public and seemed to have a knack for knowing where to look for the most elusive of details. There are over a hundred files in the collection, on topics from individual performers, composers and historic events, through to animals and trains; it if it was a theme in music hall then Max was bound to have researched it in some way!

Examples of the research files in Max’s collection.

Book collection

There are just under 550 books in Max’s collection. Again, the topics of these books vary from the specific to the peripheral when it comes to music hall. There are titles written by or about music hall performers, encyclopaedias and compendiums of music hall songs, stars and theatres, through to historical and literary texts.

Books in the Max Tyler Music Hall Collection

We are currently working on organising and cataloguing the collection. Material which has been catalogued can be found here if you’re looking for archival material, or here if you’re looking for items from Max’s book collection.

If you are interested in researching or simply viewing any material from this stunning collection, please do get in touch with us via specialcollections@kent.ac.uk.

World Digital Preservation Day 2019

Thursday 7th November is World Digital Preservation Day, an initiative launched by the Digital Preservation Coalition in 2017 with the aim to “create greater awareness of digital preservation that will translate into a wider understanding which permeates all aspects of society”.

Digital preservation in simple terms can be defined as a series of activities that are carried out in order to ensure objects (such as datasets, analogue and digital audio/video, images, text documents, etc) remain accessible and usable now and in future.

To celebrate this year we’ve decided to focus on the work we’ve been doing with the University Archive’s Open Lectures collection.

The Open Lectures were an early initiative of the University, first starting in 1967 as part of its commitment to the local community, and are still going strong today. To date there have been over 850 lectures. Lectures were (and remain) free to attend and covered a wide range of subjects, everything from the literature of the First World War to the Neapolitan mafia. The lectures have attracted many of the leading figures of politics, literature, journalism, philosophy and the arts as speakers, including Edmund Blunden, William Golding, Patrick Moore, Shirley Williams, Kate Adie and Antony Beevor. Up until recently these analogue audio recordings have only been available on cassette tape and are at risk of becoming inaccessible due to this format’s likelihood of obsolescence.

Over the last few months our Digital Imaging Assistant, Alex, has been busy digitising these tapes and has so far digitised 160 tapes from the collection. Digitisation can be a complicated process and involves a number of stages to complete.

Pre-digitisation the tapes must be inspected and evaluated to:

  • Check there are no signs of damage or degradation
  • Ensure the pressure pad within the cassette housing is present and positioned correctly
  • Determine if the tape winds slow or appears to be problematic in any way by ‘exercising’ it. This is done by fast forwarding/rewinding the tape several times.

Any issues discovered during this stage of the process will be addressed wherever possible before moving on to the next stage. Once we are satisfied that the tape is fit to process, we can move on to the actual digitisation. We use a specific combination of hardware and software to carry out the audio digitisation process. This is carried out in ‘real time’, meaning that it takes the same amount of time to digitise the tape as it would do to listen through it at normal speed. The digital recording is captured in a Broadcast Wave format (.wav) and metadata is embedded in to the resulting file. This metadata records information about the recorded content itself as well as the digitisation process and how it was performed.

Once the digitisation process is complete and we have a digital master copy of the recording, the cassette tape is returned to our archival storage facilities where it will remain. The digital master copy, alongside an mp3 access copy, will be saved in our secure digital storage space, and will be preserved to ensure that it can be accessed for information and research purposes for our future users.

This is a clip from “Art and politics: Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, a lecture given by Toni Del Renzio at the University of Kent in 1987. Toni was an artist and writer of Italian and Russian descent, who was also leader of the British Surrealist Group for some time. He met Picasso in 1938 whilst he was in Paris, and speaks about one of Picasso’s best known works, ‘Guernica’, in this lecture.

If you would like to have a look at what we have in our open lectures collection, just search for ‘open lecture’ on Librarysearch. To listen to any of the recordings please get in touch at specialcollections@kent.ac.uk.

Our thanks go to the Del Renzio family for granting permission to share this audio recording.