To celebrate, to commemorate: 2017 anniversaries from ballet to jazz via a rocket.

Portrait of Monteverdi by Bernardo Strozzi

Portrait of Claudio Monteverdi (1567 – 1643) by Bernardo Strozzi

But first, may I on behalf of us all here at MusiCB3 wish all our readers a safe, happy and fulfilling 2017.  We will be here each week as always with a few words to delight and divert, exploring the extraordinary riches we have tucked away in unexpected corners of this magnificent building. Now then, to business: I know you cannot wait to see who/what I have chosen from the many, many musical anniversaries which fall this year. Continue reading

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To celebrate, to commemorate: 2016

Here we are with our annual recap to commemorate a selection of relevant musicians who passed away in 2016, and some listening suggestions to remember them by.

2016 has been a sad year, marked by the loss of important figures of the contemporary music scene, not only linked to the classical or jazz world. Among them for example – just in the UK – how can we not remember David Bowie (died at 69 on 10th January), Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, members of the band Emerson, Lake & Palmer (died on 10th March and 7th December respectively) and George Michael, who sadly died on Christmas Day? All the items mentioned below can be found at the Pendlebury Library of Music. Continue reading

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Odd bedfellows

I came across a thread on a Facebook group recently which threw up a fascinating story quite unexpectedly. One of the members of the group was looking for alternative settings of hymns and canticles to unexpected tunes. One of my particular favourites was a setting of O Jesus I have promised to the theme tune of  The Muppet Show (I have a very vague recollection of singing this at secondary school!), and apparently there’s a setting of the Te Deum to When the foeman bares his steel from The Pirates of Penzance (try it and see). I’m sure that MusiCB3 regulars can come up with lots of other suggestions.

I mentioned that some years ago, I had used the tune of On Ilkley Moor baht ‘at for While Shepherds Watched. It had proved to be surprisingly popular both with the choir and the congregation. I’ve known On Ilkley Moor since I was a small child. My grandfather, who could be rather gruesome, used to sing it with great relish, especially the more grisly sections; and I was confident that it was a well established Yorkshire folk-song. The truth however turned out to be rather different….

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Hans Keller, Haydn and Marion Scott

Joseph Haydn by Thomas Hardy, 1791

Joseph Haydn by Thomas Hardy, 1791

Bear with me, gentle reader – there is a connection…somewhere…

I have just spent most of a day reassembling the jigsaw of the manuscript of Hans Keller‘s book The Great Haydn Quartets [M668.c.95.53] – no easy task when one’s knowledge of the works is but the dimmest of glimmers when compared to Keller’s laser-like beam of intensity (OK, OK, I do actually know my fair share and love and admire them intensely). Gradually, rather like the opening of Op.76 no.4, the sun came out and we now have (nearly) all the pages in (nearly) the right order [pace Eric Morecambe].  Continue reading

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Set in Stone: Victorian Lithographers

On MusiCB3 we often post about our Victorian sheet music collection. The most interesting thing about these items is often the illustrated title page, rather than then actual sheet music that it covers. As last week’s blog post mentioned, these illustrations are interesting for many different reasons and can be helpful in researching many different things, including family history research, social history, even architectural history. The printing technique that we have to thank for many of these illustrations is lithography. For the next few weeks, the exhibition cases in the UL music department will showcase illustrations by some of the most well-known Victorian lithographers.

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The spitting image

Mr. W.J. Hill in costume for Song of the Onion (A1882.932)

Mr. W.J. Hill in costume for Song of the Onion (A1882.932)

Why do people use music collections? The reasons may be a lot more varied than you might imagine. Most want to use them for the standard reasons – musical research or performance; but increasingly they’re also used across other subject areas.

If you’re interested in social history, for example, the covers of popular music publications can provide a snapshot of fashion and other preoccupations of the period from sport to the latest health obsessions.

But what of the more unusual uses? Some years ago a reader appeared who was fascinated by Victorian songs which had been performed by a specific artist. Many songs published during the Victorian era not only give details of the composer and lyricist, but also of the music hall artist who popularised them. For example – “Song of the onion : humorous song from the popular comic opera of ‘Manola’ (Le jour et la nuit). Written by H.B. Farnie ; composed by Ch. Lecocq. As sung by Mr. W.J. Hill”, [A1882.932], and there, on the front cover, is a colourful illustration of Mr. W.J. Hill in costume for his role in the operetta.

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Curious music objects

Curious objects exhibition

Cambridge University Library: Curious objects exhibition

On the occasion of Cambridge University Library’s 600th anniversary exhibition on curious objects, I would like to introduce you to some of the music objects in our collections. As objects they may perhaps be not quite as unusual as some of the items on display in the exhibition, but each one of them comes with its own fascinating history and adds to the depth and variety of the music collections. The objects teach us about music, composition, performance, art, cultural and social history and the relations between the objects, music and the wider world. Continue reading

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