“A Sensible New Year’s Present”: advertisements in the St James’s Hall Saturday Popular Concerts programmes.

This week, I have been hopelessly distracted – and not just by the Keller Archive. Whilst searching through some of our St James’s Hall programmes for a reader, I found myself more absorbed by the delightful advertisements than the information I was supposed to be looking for. I gave in and sat down to browse contentedly through them. What fun! Herewith for your pleasure a vignette, a taster, a trip back in time… Continue reading

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Why “Not worth a mention”?

You may have wondered why our latest exhibition, in and around the Anderson Room, celebrating the work of female composers has the odd title of “Not worth a mention“. The idea for the exhibition came about through a chance conversation with a music librarian at another Legal Deposit library. Looking for some music that had been entered at Stationer’s Hall to show a researcher, the first score he plucked from the shelf had a piece by a little known nineteenth century composer, a Miss Heward. Researcher was delighted and wondered if the library had anything else by her. Librarian went confidently to the catalogue, and was puzzled to discover that there was NOTHING by Miss Heward, not even the piece he held in his hand. Perhaps it had been missed out of the electronic catalogue during the migration from cards? But no, there was no evidence of it in the card catalogue either, though it did turn up in the accessions registers.


Miss Heward makes it to Cambridge.
Item no. 12 in volume MUS.25.19.

The only conclusion was that if music received under the Act pre-the mid-nineteenth century was not deemed suitable for academic research, it was considered to be “Not worth a mention” even in the library’s catalogues. This was a huge surprise to the current librarian, who hadn’t realised that this had happened in the library’s past. Indeed there was no documentation to suggest that this had happened, though it clearly had. Intrigued, he did a little more research and found more composers who were also not mentioned in the catalogues. There were many men, but more women were excluded from the catalogues along with Miss Heward.

It’s a librarian’s worst nightmare. So what happened in Cambridge?

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A (insert collective noun here) of music librarians

I spent part of the Easter holidays in beautiful Edinburgh attending the annual IAML (pronounced Yam-ull, rhymes with camel) Annual Study Weekend. The UK and Ireland branch of the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres (Archives and Documentation Centres were added to make the title more inclusive in 1980, hence the earlier abbreviated acronym) has run conferences along with its AGM on an occasional basis as early as 1956, with the ASWs becoming a regular fixture since at least 1972.

So what do music librarians talk about when they get together? Here are a few of the highlights.

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Not worth a mention? The wealth of women composers

Fashionably rather late for Women’s History Month, the Anderson Room cases are now exhibiting works by some of the female composers represented in the University Library’s collections.

Working in roughly chronological order from the cases in the Anderson Room foyer to the cases inside the reading room, we start with a facsimile of music by Hildegard of Bingen. Leaping a few centuries, we then have facsimiles of pieces by Barbara Strozzi and Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre. It was cheering that, as we reached the nineteenth century, there were many more works by female composers in the collection to choose from, and more reassuring still to see the number of composers grow quite significantly as we got to the 20th century. By the time we reached the present day we were faced with having to leave out very many composers that we would have liked to include in the exhibition!

Read on for a taster of the exhibition…

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The Eclecticism of…Hans Keller’s Library*

Some of the items in Hans Keller’s library

“Goodness”, I thought to myself as I was wrestling the books in Hans Keller’s library into something resembling a coherent order with which I could work, “this is an eclectic collection”. But then I though – actually, SW, so is everyone’s, reflecting their interests, work and gifts – the Venn diagram between the three will be different for each of us. Heaven knows what the casual observer would make of mine!  But, more to the point, what do we make of Keller’s?

* I make no apology for the title – those familiar with Keller’s output will recognise its source…

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Preparing for Easter

Italian (Sienese) School – Crucifixion
The Fitzwilliam Museum
Creative Commons

Passion music has a long history. As far back as the 4th century, readings of the Passion were commented on by pilgrims visiting Jerusalem. By the 10th century the Passion was no longer just read, it was sung as well. The Gospel according to Matthew soon came to be sung or read on Palm Sunday, with St. Luke added in to the Tuesday of Holy Week, St. Mark for the Wednesday, and St. John on Good Friday.

Which gospels were used when differed according to different rites, and some rites used depictions of the Passion more extensively than others. They were usually sung by just a single singer, with more than one voice unusual until the 13th century. There was an element of drama though even at this early stage, which would soon be developed further.

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Debussy centenary

Claude Debussy

Photograph of Claude Debussy, c. 1908, by Félix Nadar. Wikimedia Commons.

Debussy died in Paris on 25th March 1918. The musical world loves a centenary, and there are plenty of events springing up around this one: BBC Radio 3 are commemorating the anniversary with their series ‘Debussy’s Paris‘. The Sage Gateshead played host to a day-long Debussy marathon.  As Susi mentioned a couple of months ago, the LSO are celebrating with a concert series. The CBSO and Birmingham Conservatoire are teaming up for ‘Debussy Festival 2018‘. Glyndebourne are performing Pelléas et Mélisande as part of their 2018 festival.

This seems like a good time to show off a few of the Debussy-related items in the MusiCB3 collections…

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