The shipping forecast

Here in the Music Department, we were discussing Christmas traditions – Kate, who has spent time in Holland told us about Sinterklaas, Anna, originally from Belgium, then expanded on that. Sinterklaas traditionally arrives on a ship, along with his helpers Zwarte Pieten (now an object of some controversy especially in Holland), from Spain bearing gifts.

The companions have different names depending on where you’re celebrating the holidays in Europe. In Germany, for example, he depends on Knecht Ruprecht, whose name may be distinctly familiar to anyone who’s sat a piano exam…

The tradition of the ship travelling from afar probably has its roots in the “original” Sinterklaas, St. Nicholas. Born in Asia Minor in 270, Nicholas later became bishop of Myra. Myra had been an important port (both the apostle St. Paul and St. Luke the Evangelist had changed ships there en route to Rome), and this may have influenced the later idea of Sinterklaas’ arrival on a ship. Although the tradition seems to have begun in the Low Countries, it was popular in other nations which bordered the sea; with a particular fondness for the saint in Russia.

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‘An experienced traitor’: Hans Keller and the English language

Hans Keller in the 1950s. Milein Cosman. Published with the kind permission of the Cosman Keller Art and Music Trust.

Nothing to do with music for once, this week – or not directly anyway (or is it?). No-one who reads anything written by Hans Keller – whether it be a concert review for Music Review, a piece for the Listener, an in-depth article for one of the many other journals to which he contributed, the script of a talk (although he generally spoke extempore), or indeed one of the many thousands of letters he wrote during his lifetime – can fail to be impressed, intrigued and delighted by his obvious enjoyment of his ‘second’ language and his keen interest in its correct usage. Fowler [C201.d.8912] and the OED can never have been far from his side. In fact, I’m already feeling his sharp intake of breath as his spirit leans over my keyboard as I type, watching the hopeless spray of clauses and sub-clauses and the liberal over-use of commas…

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Still discovering iDiscover?

The Farewell to Voyager post a few weeks ago prompted some further comments about iDiscover. So here’s a quick follow-up post about iDiscover, which, in the best Darwinian tradition, is constantly evolving. Continue reading

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Shirley we can’t be serious… New films at the Pendlebury

Thanks to a new course on film music beginning in January, we have added lots of new DVDs to Pendlebury stock in the last few weeks. Scroll down for a taster!

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Doctor Who – the Cambridge connection

A few days ago I heard the news that Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001) had been posthumously awarded an honorary PhD from Coventry University. I’d known her name for many years, but hadn’t realised that she was a Cambridge alumna, attending Girton College in the 1950’s.

I was a small child in the late ’60’s, and Derbyshire was an important part of my life. Her eerie arrangement of Ron Grainer’s theme tune to Doctor Who still reminds me of the thrill of hiding behind a sofa, hoping that the Autons, who I found particularly terrifying were not going to be in this episode. (Along with many ’60’s children, I was a fan of the Daleks, cheering when they finally made their way up a flight of stairs in a more recent incarnation of the Doctor). Ron Grainer, like Derbyshire, was equally interested in both music and mathematics, so it’s perhaps not surprising that the two worked so well together.

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What did Voyager do for us?


In January librarians across Cambridge will be using a different Library Management System. Voyager has been a (generally!) faithful servant for the last 15 years, and it’s time to move on to a new system that’s better able to cope with the demands of a swiftly changing digital world. Helen will be telling you all about Alma, our new system in due course, but in the meantime, if you notice lines of librarians skulking off to training rooms clutching folders, you’ll know what they’re up to.

Voyager itself will be switched off in its entirety over the holiday period, as the transition to Alma begins. Generally the change should have little noticeable effect on reader usage. Even during the downtime of the Library Management System most things will work as usual. Library collections will still be searchable via iDiscover .  Do remember that most music scores are on the card catalogue, which is not affected by IT hiccups! At long last the card catalogue comes into its own. Continue reading

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Luther 500: some musical aspects

Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Today, Friday 10th November is Martin Luther’s 534th birthday and last week marked the 500th anniversary of the day he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg, precipitating what David Starkey in his BBC programme of 21 October described as ‘seismic changes’ across Europe. The rapid promulgation of his ideas was made possible by the recent invention of the printing press which today – again according to Starkey – could be likened to a Twitter Storm. The Reformation had arrived. So how did this act of what Hans Keller would have called truth-seeking affect our musical lives? Continue reading

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