IT might just be some sort of, well...record.
Vincent Hale reckons he probably has more vinyl LPs featuring classical music than anyone else in Sheffield. He bought his first from a second hand shop in Meadow Street 75 years ago, and he’s been collecting them ever since.
Now, he is to give every single one away, along with a wind up gramophone dating back to the 1930s.
“How many do I have in all?” ponders the 82-year-old. “Well, let me show you round the house and you can make your own estimate...”
Thousands is the answer. Shelves and shelves worth. Rooms full. And an outhouse building too. Everywhere you lay your eyes there are records boasting symphonies, concertos and sonatas. There’s Beethoven and Bach, Mozart and Handel. There are about 35, alone, by the English tenor Heddle Nash; and another 20 by composer Thomas Beecham. The only concession to modern music is the odd Eartha Kitt (popular, 1950s).
“Rock and roll is junk,” he spits. “I don’t listen to junk, young man.”
Many of the LPs are so old they run at 78rpm - the common speed before the revolutionary 33s and 48s came into fashion in the 1940s. Hundreds come without anything so modern as photography or production details on the plain cardboard sleeves.
Mr Hale, a retired solicitor of Upperthorpe who was brought up in the St Vincent’s area of Sheffield, started his collection when he was seven. “I couldn’t tell you the first record I got,” he says. “But I will still have it. I don’t throw them away.”
His collection grew because his then unemployed father would clear the houses of the deceased, and would give his son the disks.
“Then when I was a young solicitor I did a house clearance myself,” he remembers. “There was a Victorian suite in the basement which ended up going to that second hand shop in Meadow Street. Well, the owner was so grateful, he called me in and said: ‘You’ve been buying records here for years, go in that back room there and take as many as you want’.
“I couldn’t believe it. I left with a van load. And I went back for more.”
He’s received some in a rather more morbid fashion too. “I have lots of friends,” he says. “And they’ve started doing this annoying thing: dying. And when they do, they leave their classical records to me.”
If you listened to his entire collection, he reckons, you’d still be there a year later. “But you’d have heard the most top class music ever made,” notes the great grandfather of five, grandfather of 16 and father of eight who is married to Pat. “I have always loved music. It is a passion. My dad was in a Territorial Army band and from the age of four I would walk with them.”
Now, though, Mr Hale has decided the time has come to let the collection go. He’s got much of the music on CD (he’d decided he won’t be bothering with iTunes) and he adds - rather cheerfully, as it goes - “I’m not likely to live much longer”.
He’s started giving the 33s and 45s to St Luke’s Hospice but there’s a snag with the 78s. Because they are so old, few people have the correct record player so most charity shops don’t take them.
“It means I’m looking to give them to a specialist shop or collector,” he says. “Otherwise I’ll simply have to throw them in the bin. They’ve bought me so much pleasure, though. I would like to see them go to a good home.”
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