This is the opening blog in our mini-series about the concert programme collections at the UL.
A concert programme is not simply a record of a particular event giving information about the works performed and the performers. It is also a window onto a wider world, giving a fascinating snapshot of the times: typography and design, photographs, advertisements, sponsors, music in favour at the time all help to build a picture of the social context of the event. Concert programmes are important historical documents allowing us to trace first performances, the careers of performers and conductors, and the changing fashions in musical taste.
The Music Department here at the UL has a wide range of collections of concert programmes stretching from the late 18th century to the present day. Broadly speaking the material is associated either with the University, its Colleges and Cambridge City, with other UK venues such as the Queen’s Hall, or with individual musicians and composers whose archives are deposited with the Library. Much of the material has now been documented and records made available on the Concert Programmes Project website www.concert-programmes.org.uk.
Programmes associated with the University include those of the University Madrigal Society under whose auspices the world-famous “Singing on the River” summer madrigal concerts were inaugurated. Begun by Boris Ord (then Director of Music at King’s College) in 1928 under the bridge at King’s College, they moved upriver to Trinity in the 1960s when Raymond Leppard became the Society’s conductor. There are also programmes for the Cambridge University Musical Society and Music Club (the complete archives for these societies are held in the University Archives. See http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk )
The archives of William Alwyn, Sir Arthur Bliss, Alfredo Campoli, Edith Coates and Harold Powell-Lloyd, Deryck Cooke, Roberto Gerhard, Hans Keller and Robin Orr are all to be found at the UL and all contain significant collections of concert programmes. It is fascinating to be able to trace the lives of these musicians through these documents and to see how some events involve a number of them: Bliss wrote his violin concerto for Campoli, Keller wrote the programme note for Alwyn’s Third Symphony, and so on.
Later entries in this blog will look in more depth at each of the collections, and so a few words must suffice for now.