The most helpful people on earth: 60 years of IAML (UK & Ireland)

So wrote Imogen Holst of music librarians in her article Gustav Holst’s manuscripts in Brio vol. 4 no. 1. As true now as it was back in 1967.

IAML 60This year, the United Kingdom and Ireland Branch of the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres (to give it its full name) celebrates its Diamond Jubilee and here at the University Library we have assembled an exhibition exploring the people who founded the Branch and its work supporting music librarians. In this first post, we’ll concentrate on its founding fathers.

An inaugural meeting to establish the Branch was held on March 23rd 1953 at Chaucer House in London, then the headquarters of the Library Association (now CILIP). Following the necessary formal business, and a cup of tea to celebrate, Eric Blom gave a talk, chaired by Cecil Oldman Keeper of Printed Books at the British Museum, on the editing of the new (i.e. fifth) Grove’s Dictionary.

The triumvirate at the heart of the new Branch was composed of three of the most respected music librarians of their generation. First and foremost, Alec Hyatt King who was Branch President for its first 15 years. King, a noted Mozart scholar spent his entire working life at the British Museum latterly as Deputy Keeper in the Department of Printed Books. He found time outside this post not only to undertake his research on Mozart but also to maintain an active role in IAML, the Royal Musical Association, the Royal Philharmonic Society and the [then] British Institute of Recorded Sound. Speaking of those early days of IAML at a conference in Brighton in 1993 he remembers that “there was a total blank. Music librarians there were indeed, but most of them seldom met each other and the idea of coming together under the aegis of an international body was something quite unimaginable”.

Minutes of the first Branch meeting

Minutes of the first Branch meeting

Taking on the joint roles of Branch Secretary and Treasurer was Walter Stock, Librarian at the Royal Academy of Music from 1927 until his retirement in 1970. It was Stock who suggested that the Branch should have its own journal, resulting in 1964 in the publication of the first issue of Brio. In many ways, the Branch and Stock’s lives were almost umbilically tethered, and Brian Redfern describes him as “IAML’s nuts-and-bolts man”, the practical foil for King’s strategic vision, always smartly dressed and always, when outdoors, carrying a neatly-furled umbrella lest the English waether should do its worst.

Chairman of the newly-established Branch was John H. Davies, Librarian at the BBC. His work there began in the hey-day of the Third Programme during which time he devoted his energies to the production of the BBC Music Catalogue, still an important reference work today. A much-travelled man in the cause of music librarianship, he undertook two world tours visiting key libraries in the USA, Europe and the Far East in the late 1960’s. He was, in many ways, the Branch ideas man and by all accounts as a Chairman incisive, quick to understand the issues, unselfconsciously witty and always able to deal with difficult situations. He was also, according to King “a useful player first on the oboe and then bassoon”.

The first issue of the Branch journal, Brio.

The first issue of the Branch journal, Brio.

We’re rapidly running out of space here, but no MusiCB3 posting on this topic would be complete without a mention of Charles Cudworth, Pendlebury Librarian from 1946 until his retirement in 1973, who served on the inaugural Branch Committee. His great gift was his ability to communicate his enthusiasm to all kinds of people with both wit and clarity. A specialist in English music of the eighteenth century, he is probably best-known as the man who solved the issue of attribution of the “Trumpet Voluntary” and as a regular voice on Record Review.

More will follow on the remarkable range of activities undertaken by the Branch to support the music library community in the UK and Ireland.


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2 Responses to The most helpful people on earth: 60 years of IAML (UK & Ireland)

  1. Pingback: Tracking down Mary, and others | MusiCB3 Blog

  2. Pingback: President’s Report | IAML (UK & Irl)

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