As many of you will know 2016 is the 600th anniversary of the founding of Cambridge University Library. In 600 years we’ve gone from owning three books about law to over 8 million items in a huge variety of languages, and of all shapes and kinds from Chinese Oracle Bones to ladies’ fashion magazines, from concert programmes to the music that shapes the concerts. There are photographs and maps, and of course books…lots of books!
During the 600th anniversary year there have been a variety of events to complement our diverse collections: library staff have been roaming the county giving talks in community centres and libraries about the work of the UL; there was an e-luminate event when the iconic tower was lit up, curator talks, trails around the library including the Encoding Music event, which was very popular, and then there’s the latest exhibition “Curious objects” which shows some of the truly weird things that have ended up in the University Library (ectoplasm anyone?).
It seems fitting therefore for the Music Department to have an event that is also unusual in terms of what is usually done in the library. So next Monday there is going to be a free chamber concert and talk in the Milstein Rooms celebrating the life and work of the composer, William Alwyn, whose Archive is held here.
The concert featuring the Aurora Trio (Emma Halnan (Flute), Joe Bronstein (Viola), and Heather Wrighton (Harp)) and Lukas Hank (Violin) has a rather unusual combination of instruments. Alwyn’s musical life started when he picked up a piccolo aged eight. The flute was to become an important part of his life, providing some of his happiest memories, not least playing in a performance of The Dream of Gerontius at Worcester Cathedral, which was conducted by his musical hero, Sir Edward Elgar.
Much of his chamber music was composed with friends in mind, and some, such as the respected viola player, Watson Forbes (Joe Bronstein’s pedagogical lineage can be traced directly back to Forbes), also arranged Alwyn’s music for their own instruments.
Monday’s chamber concert spans Alwyn’s career featuring early works from the 1920’s to Naiades for flute and harp written in 1971. The majority of Alwyn’s early output was chamber music including 13 string quartets (confusingly they are numbered 0-12). Most of his music was well received and played frequently, so it’s rather surprising that around 1940, he disowned all his earlier works. Thankfully for the Archive and for contemporary audiences, though he disowned the works he didn’t destroy them, and so we are able to hear again pieces such as the Six Irish Tunes, which were to have an impact on later works.
As well as the concert there is a talk beforehand on William Alwyn and his archive, and a small display in which you can see Alwyn’s beloved flute (a Carte 1867 System flute), and have a quick peek into how film scores were recorded pre-digitisation. Entry is free, talk is at 12:45 on Monday 14th November in the Milstein Rooms (go through Exhibition Centre, and the door is in front of you) followed by the concert at 1:10. The Alwyn exhibition will be in the Milstein Room.