“I was unbelievably lucky to acquire this record” ~ James Keller.
A long-lost original recording of the New Mexico State song, O, Fair New Mexico, by Elizabeth Garrett in 1924 has been found! The historic recording was played for the public for the first time since being lost at the opening celebration of the New Mexico History Museum
’s 2018 exhibition The Land That Enchants Me So: Picturing Popular Songs of New Mexico.
Elizabeth Garrett (1885-1947) was the daughter of New Mexico lawman Pat Garrett (who is famous for shooting Billy the Kid) and his wife, Apolonaria Gutierrez Garrett. In 1915, three years after New Mexico was admitted to the United States of America as the 47th state, Garrett wrote O Fair New Mexico. Written in the form of a tango, the legislature officially adopted it as New Mexico’s state song in 1917. Elizabeth Garrett made the recording in 1924 at Chicago’s Marsh Laboratories. At the time, Marsh Laboratories was part of a pioneering a method of “electronic recording.”
O, Fair New Mexico Original Recording Found
The story on how the song was discovered is told, as follows, by James Keller, who discovered the recording and co-curated the exhibition with Meredith Davidson.
“Several years ago, I ran across an online auction catalog from a dealer in Germany who specialized in rare 78-rpm records,” says Keller. “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.”
“I was unbelievably lucky to acquire this record,” relates Keller.
He also talks about how incredible it was to hear the original recording once the record arrived.
“I found it thrilling,” says Keller. “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.”
Keller isn’t the only one excited about the discovery of the original recording of O, Fair New Mexico.
“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.”
Who is Elizabeth Garrett?
Born on a southern New Mexico ranch, the blind Elizabeth Garrett excelled in music, becoming an accomplished pianist. Garrett traveled to Chicago to study voice and 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 New Mexico’s musical community until her death in 1947. She died on October 16, 1947, after a fall on a city street in Roswell.
O, Fair New Mexico Lyrics:
Under a sky of azure, where balmy breezes blow,
Kissed by the golden sunshine, is Nuevo México.
Home of the Montezuma, with fiery hearts a glow ,
State of the deeds historic, is Nuevo México.
O fair New Mexico, we love, we love you so
Our hearts with pride o’erflow , no matter where we go,
O fair New Mexico, we love, we love you so,
The grandest state to know, New Mexico.
Rugged and high sierras, with deep canyons below;
Dotted with fertile valleys, is Nuevo México.
Fields full of sweet alfalfa, richest perfumes bestow,
State of the apple blossoms, is Nuevo México.
Days that are full of heart-dreams, nights when the moon hangs low;
Beaming its benediction, o’er Nuevo México.
Land with its bright mañana, coming through weal and woe;
State of our esperanza, is Nuevo México.