Last May, TBGB reported on the magnificent $350,000 grant that Baylor University professor Robert Darden (left), author of People Get Ready! A New History of Black Gospel Music, secured to identify, acquire, clean, digitize and catalogue black gospel recordings.
This month Darden told TBGB, “The Black Gospel Music Restoration Project is complete. The digitization equipment is in place and the engineers and cataloguers have been hired. What they've done so far with the disks they've received is wonderful. Our goal is to make one copy of every black gospel recording ever released."
Darden first voiced his passion for preserving black gospel music recordings in a February 2005 New York Times opinion piece. The piece attracted the attention of many, but especially Charles Royce, president and chief investment officer of Royce & Associates LLC, and president of The Royce Funds. Impressed by Darden’s zeal and his plan to undertake such a daunting task, Royce made the gift to Baylor on January 1, 2006. The Charles M. Royce Black Gospel Music Restoration Project was born.
In the intervening months, Darden has been building the infrastructure – systems, staff, and procedures – to do justice to a genre of music that has greatly influenced the sound and drive of American popular music and musicians for the past several decades.
Darden asks collectors of black gospel recordings to loan, sell, or donate their 78s, 45s, LPs, and cassettes to the Project for digitization and cataloguing. “[The Project] does not want to own the originals," he said. ”We want to digitize and return, if that's what the donor would like, every collection, no matter how large or small.”
Audio Engineer Anthony Tadey concurs. “We want to do as much as we can to provide our patrons with as much peace of mind as possible.” Tadey estimates a 1:3 time ratio for digital transfer (e.g., a 40 minute LP will take about two hours to transfer). Tadey has even adopted a special packing process to ensure safe transfer of fragile discs back to their respective collectors.
The Project will pay expenses for shipping and handing and insurance, and is not going to make the songs commercially available. “We just want to save this music forever,” Darden said.
To learn more about the Charles M. Royce Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, go to:
To loan, sell, or donate black gospel recordings, contact Prof. Robert Darden of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at 254/710-6353.