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“The Play of Daniel” in the National Recording Registry

A look at a special recording in the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress.

front of library of congress

Photo: Joe Hatfield

The Library of Congress (Thomas Jefferson Building), home to the National Recording Registry.

The National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 established the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress. In effect, it also created the National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB) to oversee the Registry, whose sole purpose is “to maintain and preserve sound recordings and collections of sound recordings that are culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant, and for other purposes.”

For the past seven years, the Librarian of Congress has compiled, with the help of the NRPB and nominations from the public, an extraordinarily special archive of sound recordings, radio broadcasts, and speeches. To date, 275 recordings have been included in the Registry.

As you might expect, the list reads like Who’s Who of American recording history since the inception of recorded sound (though not all of them are American). Among the many speeches and performances are a number of recordings which feature early music and only one, so far, is dedicated to historical performance.

“The Play of Daniel”

The most recent list to be issued in June of 2009 includes the sole historically informed recording—New York Pro Musica’s 1958 release “The Play of Daniel: A Twelfth-Century Drama.” In its announcement, the Library of Congress described the importance of New York Pro Musica, its founder, Noah Greenberg, and the recording:

“Determined to change contemporary attitudes towards early music, Noah Greenberg founded New York Pro Musica, a performing ensemble of singers and instrumentalists in 1952, and found great success with performances of medieval, Renaissance and baroque music. Pro Musica introduced audiences to relatively neglected genres of music and influenced many early-music ensembles. His 1958 recording of “The Play of Daniel,” a 12th century liturgical drama, exemplifies the best of his work. It is a joyful approach to the repertoire, early use of authentic instruments, and outstanding performances by the musicians under his direction.”

Well put.


You can find out more information regarding the Registry’s public nomination procedure and nomination form on the NRPB website.

The New York Pro Musica records (documents related to the ensemble’s history) are held at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (Music Division).

Anonymous: The Play of Daniel
New York Pro Musica/Noah Greenberg — The Play of Daniel/The Play of Herod (ACM, 1995)
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Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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