Decca – A Storied Record Label with Eight Decades of History

Decca Records pic
Decca Records


Christopher “Chris” Roberts is a music-industry pioneer who served as president of Universal Music Group’s classics and jazz division and kept the company positioned competitively during an era of protracted market contraction. Christopher Roberts’ responsibilities at the head of Universal Music Group included oversight of premier labels such as Philips, Deutsche Grammophon, Verve, and Decca.

Established in 1929 in the United Kingdom, Decca Records quickly catapulted to prominence with the addition of major stars such as Al Jolson and Bing Crosby. With a U.S. imprint of the label launched in 1934, the roster continuously expanded through the 1940s and included Jimmy Dorsey, the Andrews Sisters, and Louis Armstrong. The label’s high-water mark came with the 1942 release of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, which has stood the test of time as the world’s best-selling single.

With the name Decca giving way in the United States to MCA Records in the early 1970s, Polydor Records acquired the label’s British pop catalogue in 1980. The Decca name was briefly revived in the early 1990s as part of MCA Nashville Records, and it subsequently became part of Universal Music Group in the late 1990s, with a focus on classical music. Today, Decca stands as a leading classical and Broadway label that encompasses the U.S.-based Decca Label Group and the UK-based Decca Music Group. Among the acts that have been part of the recent Decca roster are Andrea Bocelli, Boyz II Men, and Clay Aiken.


The Early History of Deutsche Grammophon

Deutsche Grammophon pic
Deutsche Grammophon

As president of Universal Music Group International’s Classics & Jazz division, Christopher “Chris” Roberts revitalized several of the firm’s labels to make a significant impact on the modern recording industry. In addition to establishing Universal Music businesses for both film soundtracks and Broadway cast albums, Christopher Roberts also helped to reestablish Deutsche Grammophon as one of the world’s leading classical recording labels.

As the oldest operating recording company in the world, Deutsche Grammophon‘s history dates back to the very advent of recording. Founded by brothers Emile and Joseph Berliner in Hanover, Germany in June 1898, the company’s inception marked the launch of the first gramophone and record manufacturing facilities.

Emile Berliner had already garnered a reputation in the United States as the inventor of both the record disk and gramophone player. For over a decade, he and his brother directed the production of shellac records for the London-based Gramophone Company.

While William Barry Owen, an associate of Emile’s, led the operations of the Gramophone Company, their American business partner Fred Gaisberg oversaw the acquisition of new recording artists that would attract wide audiences.

In 1902, Deutsche Grammophon began producing the first records of established artists, including Enrico Caruso, Alessandro Moreschi, Elena Gerhardt, and Mary Garden.

At the same time, Deutsche Grammophon helped to launch the careers of artists such as Feodor Chaliapin. The company had the honor of signing Nellie Melba in 1904, and recorded the work of Adelina Patti just a year later.

By 1907, Deutsche Grammaphon had earned recognition from the royal households of both Great Britain and Spain, and its 200-machine manufacturing center had begun to press the world’s first two-sided records.

The Gilmore Keyboard Festival

Gilmore Keyboard Festival pic
Gilmore Keyboard Festival

Christopher Roberts has over 30 years of experience in the music industry, primarily with Universal Music Group. Most recently, Christopher “Chris” Roberts headed the Universal Music Classics and Jazz division. Chris Roberts has also served on the Artistic Advisory Committee for the Gilmore.

A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Gilmore strives to enhance keyboarding artistry and inspire musicians and audiences. The organization fulfills its mission in part through the biennial Gilmore Keyboard Festival.

Held in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the three-week Irving S. Gilmore Keyboard Festival is next scheduled to begin April 27, 2018. It offers more than 100 events that feature both established and emerging keyboard artists across a range of musical genres. The events of the festival include solo performances and musical theater, which is a theatrical style that features dramatic acting and dialogue in addition to music. Set in the beautiful West Michigan countryside near orchards and Lake Michigan, attendees also can patronize local wineries, art galleries, and other area attractions. For additional information, visit

Hélène Grimaud – A Pioneering Career in Classical Music and Beyond

Helene Grimaud pic
Helene Grimaud

As Universal Music Group’s classics and jazz division president, Christopher (Chris) Roberts spearheaded efforts to increase the relevance of classical music to a contemporary audience. Christopher Roberts’ role with Universal Music Group included managing a roster of popular Deutsche Grammophon artists, such as Elina Garanca and Hélène Grimaud.

Known for her bold interpretive approach to piano, Hélène Grimaud was originally from Aix-en-Provence in France and entered the Conservatoire de Paris at age 13. She had her debut recital in Tokyo in the late 1980s and debuted with the Claudio Abbado-directed Berliner Philharmoniker in 1995. Her recordings over the years have challenged listeners, with her well-received 2010 release Resonances featuring the works of composers such as Béla Bartók and Alban Berg.

Grimaud’s 2016 live recording Water broke new ground in featuring nine diverse composers, from Claude Debussy to Toru Takemitsu. The recording was produced by UK-based Nitin Sawhney, who composed seven short transitional pieces placed between the classical songs. One of the aspects of Grimaud that appeals to listeners is her multifaceted approach to art. Her activities encompasses several authored books and a role as founder of the nonprofit Wolf Conservation Center.