FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 07, 2018
(Santa Fe, NM) — During the opening celebration of its new exhibition The Land That Enchants Me So: Picturing Popular Songs of New Mexico, the New Mexico History Museum will unveil a long-lost original recording of New Mexico’s state song, O, Fair New Mexico, sung by its author, Elizabeth Garrett.
This exhibition celebrates the Land of Enchantment through commercial popular songs of an earlier era as they live on in sheet music, period recordings, and other musical memorabilia, from the mid-19th century through the mid-20th century. All these songs relate to the rich history, geography, diversity, and surprising curiosities of New Mexico. Some of the most heartwarming popular music pieces in this show were written and published by New Mexicans, often exalting the very communities in which they lived.
Elizabeth Garrett (1885-1947) was the daughter of New Mexico lawman Pat Garrett (the Lincoln County sheriff famous for shooting Billy the Kid) and his wife, Apolonaria Gutierrez Garrett. She made the recording in 1924 at Marsh Laboratories in Chicago. The company was a pioneer in the new method of electrical recording.
“We were thrilled when James Keller shared his discovery of this incredible piece of New Mexico history with our museum,” said Andrew Wulf, the New Mexico History Museum director. “We are honored to be able to share this one-of-a-kind recording of the woman who wrote our state song performing it herself.”
The public is welcome to come to the New Mexico History Museum to listen as the recording is played for the first time in any public venue. The evening’s activities will also feature a performance of the state song sung by the musicians of the Santa Fe Opera’s Young Voices program ( https://www.santafeopera.org/discover/youth/high-school-mastery-programs#young-voices). The audience will also be invited to participate in a sing-along.
The Land That Enchants Me So: Picturing Popular Songs of New Mexico opening ceremony is from 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., Friday, March 2 in the atrium lobby of the New Mexico History Museum:
Born on a ranch in southern New Mexico, blind nearly from birth, Elizabeth Garrett excelled in music, and became an accomplished pianist. She traveled to Chicago to study voice, spent time in New York, where she cultivated a close friendship with Helen Keller. Garrett was one of the first people to employ a seeing-eye dog. She moved back to New Mexico where she remained a valued member of the state’s musical community until her death in 1947.
"I was unbelievably lucky to acquire this record,” said James Keller, who discovered the recording and co-curated the exhibition with Meredith Davidson of the Museum’s curatorial staff. “Several years ago, I ran across an online auction catalog from a dealer in Germany who specialized in rare 78-rpm records. It listed “O, Fair New Mexico” on the Autograph label, which I recognized as a division of Marsh Laboratories, all of whose releases are scarce and highly collectible. But the auction had taken place almost a year before Nevertheless, I sent an email to the dealer asking if he remembered any details about this record. He wrote back to say that, in fact, someone had bought the record in that auction, but he never received payment and therefore still had the record in his possession. He offered to sell it to me if I wanted it—which I did! Not until it arrived did I see the label, which identifies the performer as Elizabeth Garrett. This was a find of immeasurable importance for the musical history of New Mexico.”
In describing the first time he heard the recording, Keller said, “I found it thrilling. To hear the voice of this woman singing nearly a century ago was a deeply moving experience. She never achieved a national career as a singer, but she was very accomplished. She had a well-trained voice produced in the manner of an opera singer. In New Mexico, she was constantly in demand as a recitalist, and it is easy to understand why."
About the New Mexico History Museum and Palace of the Governors National Historic Landmark: http://www.nmhistorymuseum.org - Opened in May 2009, as the state system’s newest museum, the New Mexico History Museum is attached to the Palace of the Governors National Historic Landmark, a distinctive emblem of U.S. history and the original seat of New Mexico government. The History Museum serves as an anchor of the campus that includes Palace of the Governors, the Palace Press, the Fray Angelico Chavez History Library, and Photo Archives. The Museum presents exhibitions and public programs that interpret historical events and reflect on the wide range of New Mexico historical experiences and serves as a history center for research, education and lifelong learning, delivering quality programs that encourage knowledge, understanding and appreciation of New Mexico’s diverse cultures. A division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. 113 Lincoln Ave. in Santa Fe, NM 87501. (505) 476-5200. Hours: 10 am to 5 pm daily, May through October; closed Mondays November through April. Events, news releases and images about activities at the History Museum and other divisions in the Department of Cultural Affairs can be accessed at media.newmexicoculture.org.