Meet… Robert Leonard

MusiCB3: What has your road to librarianship been? 


Robert at a dance in St Andrews

I worked in Queens’ College library during the summer for several years when I was in school and worked in the library at the Isaac Newton Institute.

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Politically incorrect

Cads, bounders, and unbecoming women in opera and song: episode two – an unpalatable truth

Zazel in action at the Royal Aquarium in 1877.
Public Domain
Courtesy of the British Library.

Last week, Susi introduced the latest exhibition to take place in and around the Anderson Room : Cads, bounders, and unbecoming women. The genesis of the exhibition went back to a post on Trinity College Library’s blog earlier this year. I was particularly amused by a picture of Zazel, the human cannonball, one of Trinity alumnus, Arthur Munby’s “unbecoming women.” The blog post led to some banter around the (largely female) music office as to what exactly constituted an “unbecoming woman”? Within minutes this led on to what might be the male equivalent – perhaps a cad or a bounder; and the germ of a new exhibition was born.

It was a great deal of fun looking up instances of naughty ladies and gents from the world of music, but while browsing through a selection of 1920’s songs in our extensive collection of sheet music, looking for some further inspiration, I uncovered a rather darker side to the story.

Given the more serious nature of this post, we felt we should warn our readers in the way that the Library of Congress wisely does on its National Jukebox site – “These selections are presented as part of the record of the past. They are historical documents which reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. The Library of Congress does not endorse the views expressed in these recordings, which may contain content offensive to users”.  Continue reading

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Cads, bounders and unbecoming women in opera and song: episode one

Our latest exhibition at the UL Music Department, launched this week, explores the darker side of opera and song. We begin our mini-series of exhibition-related posts with a look at some of opera’s less-than-delightful characters.

Villains abound – think of Iago (Otello), Rocco (Fidelio), Scarpia (Tosca) and the eponymous Don Giovanni. Similarly ladies of less than respectable behaviour are the principal characters in, Carmen, Salome, and Lulu. I’m sure you can think of many more and are already sharpening your pen to add to the list. But then, opera – whether the reinterpretation of an existing literary work or not – often explores the darker aspects of life: jealousy, envy, prostitution, ambition, cruelty all feature in abundance.

We start our series with four works: The Beggar’s Opera, Don Giovanni, Lulu and Salome. Why those? Well, because it allows us to feature items from our many special collections – from Hans Keller (but I would include him, wouldn’t I?) to Alwyn, Frederick Booth and Coates/Powell Lloyd. Dear reader, you may need a stiff drink for this… Continue reading

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Sherlock Holmes’ music

Sherlock Holmes is approaching his 130th birthday. The first instalment of A Study in Scarlet, in which Holmes and Watson meet, was published in the 1887 edition of Beeton’s Christmas Annual. Since Conan Doyle’s violin-playing detective is often to be found attending recitals, visiting Covent Garden, writing scholarly monographs on early music, or outwitting his opponents with the help of Offenbach, I felt he deserved a chance to show off his musical accomplishments on MusiCB3 this week… 

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Music behind the wire

The UL – “skyscraper” of Cambridge.
Copyright Sarah Chapman.

Did you know that Cambridge University Library has a variety of collections under its roof? Regular users will know that as well as the University Library itself (the “skyscraper” of Cambridge), and the affiliate libraries which are separate geographically from the UL, but all come under the same UL umbrella (ULbrella?), there are many smaller collections that have become part of the UL’s fabric. There are collections that have been acquired by the University Library such as the Royal Commonwealth Society‘s collections, or units that work on specific collections such as the Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit or the Darwin Correspondence Project. Many of these collections have a digital presence on the Cambridge Digital Library. You can already find some music in the Digital Library including a collection of lute music, and transcriptions of Jewish liturgical music from the 12th century.

One of the latest collections to find its way on to the Digital Library is the Voices of Civilian Internment collection from World War II Singapore. As the Japanese army advanced into Malaya, Singapore and Indonesia many civilians were caught up in events, and ended up in internment camps in the region including Changi jail in Singapore. Music swiftly became an important part of life in the camps. Continue reading

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Songs of War: Passchendaele 1917

Château Wood near Hooge, 29 October 1917. Photo by Frank Hurley

This month, the University Library entrance hall display cases feature Basil Godfrey Quin, MC whose regiment, the Cambridgeshires, was involved in the Third Battle of Ypres (also known as Passchendaele) which took place between July and November 1917 and in which Quin distinguished himself with his bravery during the battle at Tower Hamlets Ridge on 26 September 1917.  We here at MusiCB3 thought that we would complement this display with a look at some of the music which Quin may have heard, or even sung himself, at the time. Continue reading

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Meet… Catherine Taylor

MusiCB3: What has your road to librarianship been?


Catherine in the UL Anderson Room

As part of my YTS Training Scheme, I was given a work placement in the library at Lion Yard. I also worked in the library of Cambridge College of Further Education (now Cambridge Regional College). That experience led on to working here in the UL.

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