Jam, Jerusalem, and musical innovations

The very first branch of the Women’s Institute in the United Kingdom was formed 104 years ago this week in a small village with a very long name, Llanfair PG, on Anglesey. Originally formed in Canada in 1897, the WI arrived in the UK in the middle of the First World War, where it came under the auspices of the Board of Agriculture, as the movement was seen essentially as a way of getting women in rural areas to engage in providing more food for the wartime table. Post-war it swiftly moved away from its roots in the Board, federations began to be set up, and in 1919, it essentially became the movement that we know today.

Llanfair PG. UK founding home of the Women’s Institute.
Creative Commons.

A few years ago, a local branch of the WI came to the University Library to have a look at some of our collections, and I was involved in finding music items of interest to show our visitors. As well as our usual musical suspects (guaranteed to delight just about anybody!), I had a look for Women’s Institute related items, and was surprised to find the important part that music had played, particularly in the early days of the movement.

An Open Day exhibition in the Anderson Room
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Wood at the Proms

2019 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Sir Henry Wood. The British conductor’s name is inextricably linked with that of the Proms – probably the most famous music festival in the world. Although there had been promenade concerts in London since the 18th century, it was impresario Robert Newman’s new series that would inspire generations with a love of music.

A selection of Proms programmes from the 1920s to the 21st century.
Part of the Anderson Room’s mini-Proms exhibition celebrating Sir Henry Wood and the Promenade concerts.

Newman was experienced in organising concerts, having previously run a similar series at His Majesty’s Theatre. What made the new series magical though, was the input of young conductor, Henry Wood.

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Hans Keller on…Schoenberg

Cover of the 1961 Edinburgh Festival programme book

The start of a new series, this, where I give over my pen to Hans Keller and present some of the exquisite pieces which have surfaced from the dustier corners of his archive. This first, on Schoenberg, of whom Keller was a great champion, was published in the 1961 Edinburgh Festival programme book and presents the most insightful setting of the composer’s genius not only in the context of his own times, but in that of other great composers. Keller also provided individual notes for ten of the fifteen works by Schoenberg performed during the Festival. It was, incidentally, the first Festival under the direction of Lord Harewood. Continue reading

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Whatever happened to Baby Spice?

What is wrong with this picture?


Yes, that’s right – no Baby Spice (now I come to think of it, the title of this post might have been something of a giveaway…).

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To celebrate, to commemorate: A long weekend

It’s not as though music festivals are a new thing. The Proms will celebrate their 125th birthday in their current form next year, while the Bayreuth Festival is even earlier dating back to 1876.

A programme for the “Dr. Who” Proms, July 2013 — Bruno Walter accompanies Kathleen Ferrier at the Edinburgh International Festival, 1948. Portrayed by Milein Cosman. Courtesy of the Cosman Keller Art and Music Trust — Bayreuth Festspielhaus 1882. Wikipedia. Public Domain.

Following the Second World War a number of new classical music festivals sprang into being, from the Edinburgh International, which was set up in 1947 to “provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit” (for some romance at the Festival see our recent Instagram post), to the Aldeburgh Festival, which began in the following year.

Festivals dedicated to popular music are generally more recent. The grand-daddy of jazz festivals, the Newport Jazz Festival, held in Newport, Rhode Island, started in 1954, and a few years later, its counterpart, the Newport Folk Festival began.

From the beginning the American Festivals were very different to their European counterparts. Most notably they were much shorter, running over just two or three days (the classical festivals could span a week or even months). They would lead to changes in the way that people would think about music festivals.

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The happy pianist and assorted oddities

Kate has been working recently on a selection of books that were donated initially to the Pendlebury Library. Not quite suitable for their collection, they came over here to the Pen’s sister library, the UL’s Music Department.

One of the items – Commonsense in Pianoforte Playing by Cuthbert Whitemore – was a real find. It had never arrived under the Legal Deposit Act, and so filled a gap in our collections, joining other music literature published in 1926 after a long delay. Many of the other items in the donation had been published abroad so were also new additions to the UL. There were a few duplicates, but leafing through these proved to be a source of delight and surprise to the Anderson Room staff, revealing as much about the spirit of the age in which they were written, as they did about music education.

So courtesy of MusiCB3, meet the happy pianist, the commonsense musician, and the young person about to go to their very first concert.

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Hunting for dragons, cam(e)ls, and musical lions in Krakow

The morning commute to the IAML Congress along the bank of the Vistula.

I’ve just returned from a delightful fortnight in Krakow, part business, part holiday. The business part, thanks to Cambridge University Library, and the Music Libraries Trust, was spent at IAML (pronounced Yam-Ull)’s annual congress. Having been involved with IAML (UK & Ireland) for some years on various committees, I, along with the rest of the UL and Pendlebury team, have attended a few of their Annual Study Weekends, but this was my first opportunity to meet the worldwide community of, what is popularly known as “Big” IAML.

So one thundery day in July, music librarians and archivists from all over the world assembled at the Jagellonian University‘s Auditorium Maximum. They came from all over Europe, with a huge contingent this year from Eastern Europe, from the United States and Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. From national libraries, universities, conservatoires, museums, and specialist collections. Some were retired, but delighted in returning each year to meet old friends, while some, like myself, were first-timers. All had a shared passion for music collections.

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