New Research on Music Libraries

Many IAML (UK & Irl) members recently took part in a nationwide survey of music library staff, which was circulated alongside a widescale survey of music library service users. The survey was commissioned by the Music Libraries Trust, and carried out by Dr Michael Bonshor, a researcher from the University of Sheffield. The survey respondents generously provided detailed commentary on current services and resources, and some thoughtful suggestions about the potential for future developments.

Forty-five music library staff and 551 music library service users completed online surveys.  Music libraries were highly valued by service users, who largely appreciated the current cost-effectiveness, convenience, and quality of service. At the same time, there were concerns about recent reductions in services, such as the withdrawal of interlibrary loans and music library closures in some areas. A deterioration in the quality and quantity of some of the printed stock was also reported. Some users were apprehensive about technological developments, including the digitization of sheet music, and did not always adapt to using unfamiliar online systems.

Staff and service users also noted variations in local music library services, agreed that online catalogues and ordering systems need updating more frequently, and called for more co-ordination of resources on a national basis. Where a specialist music librarian was not available, music library staff expressed a desire for relevant musical and technological training. There was, however, a general awareness of current financial limitations, and an acknowledgment that action is needed to address this.

It is hoped that this research might be a useful tool for raising the profile of music libraries, and that some of the findings could be used to lobby for additional funding.

Watch out for news of a forthcoming webinar, in which you can find out more about the survey results and have an opportunity to discuss the implications. In the meantime, a summary report is now available on the Music Libraries Trust website: http://bit.ly/3c4JL1w

Dr Michael Bonshor

Dr Michael Bonshor, University of Sheffield

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Music, Home and Heritage – Uncovering historic house music collections

Towards the beginning of 2020, I was invited to assist a joint Royal College of Music-University of Southampton research team in their ongoing AHRC-funded project, “Music, Home and Heritage”. The project’s overarching aim is to explore “how listening to and performing music affected the construction of home and family life in Georgian Britain.” While this involved some in-depth case studies in particular historic houses – for example, Erddig and Boughton House – the part of the project which I was to be working on encompassed a wide-reaching survey of music collections in British historic houses, from all time periods.

Having been started in 2017, the survey was well underway by the time I joined the team. My brief was to join Dr Katrina Faulds (University of Southampton) in gathering information on music collections in historic houses and summarising the contents of these collections into a handful of descriptive paragraphs. The vehicle for communicating the results of our survey was Cecilia, a database which IAML blog readers will doubtless be familiar with. Cecilia’s focus on summary descriptions of collections, as opposed to item-level listings, suited to project’s aims perfectly.

Chatsworth, in Derbyshire, was found to have a fascinating and diverse collection of musical items

What, then, is a “historic house”? While no one would dispute that a grand country estate such as Chatsworth qualifies as a historic house, our survey also included townhouses such as Apsley House and Carlyle’s House; cottages such as T. E. Lawrence’s Clouds Hill; and even rather modern properties such as The Homewood and 2 Willow Road. Broadening the scope of the survey in this way not only allowed for comparisons to be made between lavish and more modest properties, but also for tracing the changing roles of domestic music-making through the centuries. While we found plenty of evidence of music functioning as polite drawing room entertainment in high society, the other stories of music-making which were unearthed as a result of this project are as varied as the properties themselves: from Handel himself playing the organ at Adlington Hall, to eccentric bachelors tinkering with gramophones at Erddig; from the staging of operettas in the Music Room at Gunby Hall, to the diligent recorder playing of George Bernard Shaw’s secretary; from Samuel Hellier’s insistence that his servants join his orchestra, to a mother’s grief that her only son, killed in battle, can no longer perform with her. The survey of historic houses has lifted the lid on the many functions of music in the home and provided much stimulus for further research into this field.

An Edison phonograph – one of the many such items to be found at Erddig

Information about a property’s collections came from many sources. In-person site visits are, of course, often very fruitful, and I myself was delighted to have the opportunity to view the previously-unexamined sheet music collection of Alec Cobbe at Hatchlands Park. Sadly, the unexpected coronavirus-related lockdown not only suspended the possibility of further site visits, but also led to many of the on-site staff at these properties being furloughed, meaning some enquiries about music collections could not be answered. Fortunately, for properties in public ownership, such as those belonging to the National Trust or English Heritage, these organisations have something of an obligation to make the publicly-owned collections accessible, and already have some online databases open to all. Taking the National Trust as an example, many of the Trust’s books are now catalogued on Library Hub Discover (formerly COPAC), while a separate database aims to list all items in the National Trust, from pipe organs down to manuscript fragments. If you have not yet visited National Trust Collections, I strongly recommend browsing its over one million items – there will certainly be something of interest to everyone. Using resources such as these, as well as in-house documents kindly provided by staff at the National Trust and English Heritage, we were able to write most of our summary descriptions remotely.

Manuscript lute tablature – some of the only surviving music at Canons Ashby

For privately-owned or council-run houses, with no obligation to make known any of their contents, the gathering of data was naturally more difficult, as our final tally of properties surveyed reveals: 194 publicly-owned properties, versus just 19 private or council-run properties. While for some, complete (Boughton House) or partial (Longleat) catalogues are available, others, such as Powderham Castle, had not made details of music collections available prior to this project. For the vast majority of these properties, we relied on the self-reporting of on-the-ground staff, using a mixture of questionnaires and direct enquiries, with mixed success. In other instances we were assisted by local experts with first-hand experience of the music collections, with special thanks owed to Jane Troughton for her help with Yorkshire houses, and Roger Williams for writing all of National Trust for Scotland’s entries.

While we are thrilled that the project has brought to light and made available on Cecilia details of some previously neglected musical treasures – the oldest surviving English grand piano, for example, or a unique Mendelssohn source – perhaps even more valuable is how having this wealth of information about Britain’s historic house music collections brought together into one database allows for direct comparison and the emergence of patterns. Some of Cecilia’s analytical tools return interesting statistics about these properties, such as Broadwood being by far the most well-represented piano manufacturer, or Handel being the most frequently-named composer. Other patterns are simply spotted anecdotally. One which stuck out to me, working through so many of these Cecilia entries, was just how popular Edward Light’s instrument the “harp-lute” was, never having heard of it myself prior to this project, but finding it to be in at least five (and probably more) of the houses surveyed.

A harp-lute – one of three at Snowshill Manor

While printed and manuscript music, books about music and instruments were obvious candidates for inclusion in the Cecilia records, we made special effort to include other, less obvious “musical items”. These included paintings with musical subjects; practical music-making items such as music stands or metronomes; ephemeral items such as concert programmes; musical boxes and automatons; and even architectural features such as music rooms. All of the above were considered potential sources of information about a house’s musical history, and in some circumstances offered more evidence than the sheet music or instruments: Seaton Delaval Hall, for example, contains no sheet music or instruments, yet does hold two portraits of former residents of the house partaking in musical activities. In fact, the survey brought to light many of these “other” musical objects, all inviting questions about how they came to be there or what musical activities were taking place at the house. These include Arthur Sullivan’s eyeglass; a lock of Mozart’s hair; a musical notation board for the blind; rejected Robert Adam designs for an organ; a mechanical device for turning over the pages of music; printing plates for a Haydn first edition; and a Handel autograph letter.

Sophia Anne Delaval (1755-1793) – evidence of music-making at Seaton Delaval Hall?

We are proud to have created what we believe is a unique resource in the study of historic house music collections. While some of the data presented on Cecilia was available elsewhere, the work undertaken over the last few years has processed this data into a far more “digestible” format. The numerous sources consulted in the creation of these Cecilia records included public databases, internal spreadsheets and handlists, union catalogues, instrument and art directories, and journal articles. By bringing together information from all these sources into one resource, the Cecilia records serve either as a starting point for those who wish to perform in-depth study on a single house’s collections, or a platform on which comparisons may be made across any number of similar properties. 

With over 200 properties surveyed, the visibility of historic house collections on Cecilia has been hugely improved, although many more could be added: I was stunned to learn that there are still over 1,500 privately-owned country house estates in Britain. Who knows what musical treasures lie behind these closed doors? It is certainly our hope that this project may provide stimuli for further research into Britain’s domestic musical heritage.

Jonathan Frank, Assistant Librarian, Royal College of Music

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Learning more about music library staff and users

In summer 2020, Dr Michael Bonshor of the University of Sheffield was commissioned by the Music Libraries Trust [MLT] to carry out a survey of music library staff and users. MLT funded the bulk of the research, with additional funds for analysis of the survey data coming from the Postlethwaite Music Foundation. An Executive Summary of the project was published last December, and early in 2021 Peter Baxter (an MLT Trustee, and very well known in IAML circles) suggested that the UK & Ireland Branch might like to help organise a joint webinar with MLT at which Dr Bonshor could present his results. The webinar took place on Friday 19 March, and the number of attendees – 35, from a variety of public and academic libraries – was proof of the high level of interest aroused by the survey. It also proved once again that, while Zoom has its shortcomings, it does enable attendance by librarians who might not normally be able to travel to a face-to-face presentation.

45 music library staff members, and 551 music library users, responded to the survey, which covered both academic and public libraries. There are too many interesting results to summarise here, but the Executive Summary is easy to find, at https://tinyurl.com/BonshorWebinar. Broad conclusions are that music librarians and the services they offer are consistently highly valued by their customers; that some library users are concerned about actual, or potential, cuts in services; and that libraries sometimes need to do better in promoting some of the services they offer – Inter-Library Loan being one such, with few users claiming to know about Encore21, the union catalogue of performance sets. We also learned that, if users have their way, print resources won’t be going away anytime soon!

A page from Dr Michael Bonshor’s presentation, showing the range of concerns expressed by those surveyed.

John Wagstaff
Cambridge

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VASE21, Branch Vacancies and New Blog Supervisor

VASE21 (Virtual Annual Study Event 2021)

A Grecian vase, with a decoration depicting women playing instruments
Music VASE.

As many of you will probably already know or have guessed, the Annual Study Weekend will be a bit different this year. Firstly, it will be held mid-week (13th-15th April) and will consist of online presentations and activities over Zoom. We are calling the event VASE21 (Virtual Annual Study Event) because it will be a different experience and isn’t being held on a weekend. It is completely free and will take place during work hours – so we’re expecting you can just dip in and out of what is interesting and relevant to you. Since everything is online this year, it should limit the need to claim time or travel expenses, and we hope this will make it easier for people to participate. VASE21 might therefore be able to attract even more attendees than the normal ASW.

The theme for VASE21 is “Music happens in performance”. The programme is still being finalised, and we will post it once it is complete, but here is a taster of some of the items you can expect:

We have some exciting key speakers lined up. Kenneth Crookston, the executive officer of Brass Bands England, will talk about brass band development and resources. Lizzy Buckle, who is studying a PhD with the RHUL and Foundling Museum, will present her research on the networks of musicians in 18th-century charity concerts. Almut Boehme from the National Library of Scotland will talk about using performance to bring the music in library collections to life. Roy Stanley from Trinity College Dublin will talk about the process of bringing the archive of Ina Boyle compositions to performance. And there’s more still to be confirmed.

Beyond that there will be some ‘Roundtable’ group discussions. We will explore diversifying and decolonising music collections, look at several case study examples of libraries being used as a performance space, and discuss the way forward for academic and public music libraries.

There will also be a quiz on the opening evening, which should be fun! We hope to see you at some (or all!) of the events.

Branch Vacancies

IAML (UK & Irl) has a few vacancies which are currently being advertised: General Secretary, Membership Secretary and Communications Officer. If you’re interested in any of these positions, click here for more info.

Meet Your New Blog Supervisor

Finally, I’d like to introduce myself, if that’s okay. Hi! I’m Kirsty Morgan and I’m excited to be taking over the role of blog supervisor from Margaret Jones. I just recently moved from Scotland to Manchester to be the new Head Librarian at Chetham’s School of Music – which I am very much enjoying. If I’m lucky, some of you may vaguely recognise me from the ASW 2019 or through the Music Libraries Trust, where I volunteer as Bursaries Administrator. Or possibly from the most recent Brio magazine, where I wrote an article about Linked Data and the David Fanshawe World Music Archive. More likely, though, I’ll be a completely new face to most of you, but hopefully that can change! Please do get in touch if you have any ideas or would like to contribute in any way to the blog – or just to say hi. I look forward to working with you all.

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Wanted: Encore 21 Migration Manager

IAML (UK & Irl) is looking for an Encore21 Migration Manager. Could it be you? Read on for further information.

Position: Self-employed migration manager

Organisation: International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres (UK & Ireland Branch)

Closing date: 24th January 2021

Job Type: Contract

Contract Type: Freelance

Dates: 15 Feb 2021 to 12 November 2021

Fee: £10,800 for part-time contract (0.2 FTE) lasting 9 months

The successful candidate will be responsible for making sure their tax is calculated correctly and paid on time to HMRC.

Background:

Encore21, a project of IAML (UK & Irl), is a union catalogue of sets of performance music in UK libraries. It is currently hosted by Bibliotekenes IT Senter (BIBITS) of Oslo, Norway, through its British subsidiary, Mikromarc UK Ltd. The bibliographic data is in MARC21 format. There is now a requirement for Encore21 to be migrated to a new system. Please see the job description for further details.

How to apply

Please provide an up to date CV and record of recent work with a covering letter explaining why you are interested.

Provide contact details for at least two referees who can comment on your relevant experience for this role.

Please send your application via e-mail by 24 January 2021 to documentation@iaml-uk-irl.org

Please contact Caroline Shaw at documentation@iaml-uk-irl.org with any queries about the post.

Migration manager job description

Role purpose

To migrate the IAML (UK & Irl) Encore21 catalogue to a new library management system, and make arrangements for its hosting and maintenance, in line with the timeline and budget specified by the Executive Committee.

Key duties

  1. Finalise a list of requirements for the replacement system and hosting and maintenance solution for Encore21
  2. Lead on the selection of a new system and hosting and maintenance solution, ensuring that key requirements are met
  3. Lead on the migration of the data and customisation of the interface to meet the requirements of the full range of Encore users (library professionals and performing musicians)
  4. Work within the Encore21 Migration Project Working Group
  5. Take overall responsibility for management of the Encore21 Migration Project budget
  6. Liaise with the IAML (UK & Irl) President and Treasurer on the administration of the project
  7. Provide regular progress updates to the Documentation Committee
  8. Document the migration process
  9. Provide training on the new system to the library community

Skills and experience

  1. Knowledge and experience of library management systems, and how well they might be hospitable to Encore21 data. Knowledge of system administration and data migration
  2. Understanding of performance sets, including how they are made available and used, and their bibliographical description
  3. Understanding of bibliographic data structures (e.g. MARC21) and mappings
  4. Ability to communicate with a wide range of project stakeholders, including potential suppliers, library and information professionals and users
  5. Experience of remote file sharing and collaborative working practices
  6. Presentation and report-writing skills

Specific tasks

With support from the Encore21 Migration Project Working Group, the Encore21 Migration Manager will:

  1. Work with the supplier to produce a detailed project budget and migration plan
  2. Clarify what arrangements would be for testing and sign off
  3. Discuss maintenance contract and service level agreement
  4. Check arrangements for a redirect from the current site to the new site
  5. Clarify the copyright status of the data and ensure that this is documented and communicated to all contributors and users of Encore21
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The Gerald Coke Handel Collection at the Foundling Museum

The Gerald Coke Handel Collection at the Foundling Museum comprises over 12,000 items from the eighteenth century to the present, and is a major research resource for the study of Handel and his contemporaries. Handel was a major benefactor of the Foundling Hospital, a home for children founded in 1739 by Thomas Coram, which counted William Hogarth among its supporters. The Museum tells the story of the Hospital and also displays an art collection donated by artists from the eighteenth century to the present day. Handel gave benefit concerts for the Hospital, paid for the first organ in the Hospital Chapel, and composed the Foundling Hospital Anthem especially for his first fundraising concert there. His Foundling Hospital performances of Messiah brought his oratorio from relative obscurity to the central place it now occupies in British musical performances.

The Court Room, the Foundling Museum.
Photographer Peter Dazeley. Copyright Foundling Museum.

The Handel Collection includes manuscript and printed music and documents, books, journals, libretti, sound recordings, artworks and artefacts, and an important collection of performance ephemera relating to Handel and his circle, and to music printing and publishing in London in the eighteenth century. Handel’s singers, patrons, friends and working environments are well represented, making the collection a rich resource for eighteenth-century musical studies. There are periodicals and collected editions, together with modern scores and literature, and the large collection of ephemera comprises concert tickets, playbills, newspaper cuttings, programmes and advertisements from the eighteenth century to the present day.

The earliest complete surviving manuscript of Handel’s opera Teseo copied in 1712

Manuscripts include autograph letters from Handel, his librettist Charles Jennens, and others, as well as the earliest surviving score of his opera Teseo and numerous contemporary manuscript scores, including a significant collection formerly belonging to the Earl of Shaftesbury. There are many items relating to the earliest performances of Handel’s most famous oratorio, the Messiah, including wordbooks for the first performance and the first published score of songs from the Messiah. A highlight of the collection is Handel’s autograph will; written in 1750, it was later supplemented by four codicils, including one dated 4 August 1757 which includes his bequest to the Foundling Hospital of ‘a fair copy of the Score and all Parts of my oratorio called The Messiah’; this score and the 28 performance parts are now in the library. A previously unpublished collection of letters from Jennens to the classical scholar Edward Holdsworth has now been included with full transcriptions in the online catalogue; these document Holdsworth’s travels across Europe on the Grand Tour, as well as including many references to Handel performances. There is also an unpublished manuscript account by the Frenchman Fougeroux describing his travels around England, which includes interesting details of everyday life and habits seen through the eyes of a foreign visitor.

Handel’s will from 1750 is unconventional in listing his servant Peter le Blond as the first beneficiary

Major art works include oil paintings of Handel, Charles Jennens, the singers Richard Leveridge, Anna Maria Strada and John Beard, and Zoffany’s portrait of John Christopher Smith the younger. There are hundreds of prints and engravings of contemporary composers and performers, including watercolours by Rowlandson, as well as ceramic and bronze busts of Handel and a terracotta modello by Roubiliac for the monument to the composer in Westminster Abbey. Smaller items include a porcelain model of the singer Kitty Clive and numerous medals, tokens and memorabilia issued for various festivals from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

Vauxhall engraved by Robert Pollard after a drawing by Rowlandson 1785

Gerald Coke was a meticulous collector and regarded every issue of a printed volume as distinct, allowing scholars to discover a wealth of detail about printing and publishing of music in the eighteenth century.  Thus the collection has multiple issues of some editions, distinguished by perhaps as little as a single re-engraved plate, as well as copies annotated by significant former owners. There are many original book bindings among the volumes, from finely tooled covers to makeshift wrappers, and a wonderful collection of marbled boards on the bound volumes.

Gerald Coke (1907-1990) was a businessman who created his collection over sixty years. He also collected porcelain decorated in the studio of James Giles, and this collection is now in the Museum of Royal Worcester. Coke’s Handel collection was bequeathed to the State in lieu of tax by his widow in 1995, and formally allocated to the Foundling Museum in 2008. As well as the Collection itself, the bequest included an endowment which allows for further purchases or modern and antiquarian materials, and the Collection continues to grow. A reading room provides access to scholars, students and the public for research.

The online catalogue includes detailed lists of contents of anthologies as well as digitised images of most of the manuscripts, taken from microfilms, and digitised images of the artworks, playbills and some other material. As about half the regular users of the Collection live overseas, we have tried to include as much detail as possible in the records. Most of our concert programmes are included on the Concert Programmes Project database and most of our manuscripts are described in further detail with music incipits and scoring details on the international RISM database of music manuscripts (Répertoire International des Sources Musicales)

The Foundling Museum Handel Gallery with musical chairs. Photo GG Archard Copyright Foundling Museum

The Handel Gallery in the museum is open to the public during normal museum hours and displays a range of material from the Collection, as well as providing popular ‘musical chairs’ where visitors can sit in comfort and listen to hours of Handel’s music. The Gerald Coke Handel Collection reading room is normally open Wednesday – Friday for research by appointment. For all enquiries call +44 (0)20 7841 3606 or email handel@foundlingmuseum.org.uk. Visitors can also get in touch to request general or bespoke tours of the museum and/or the Handel Collection, and there are frequent concerts, talks and other events in the museum inspired by the museum’s stories of art, social history and music. For further details see the website www.foundlingmuseum.org.uk

Inside the Reading Room, Gerald Coke Handel Collection

Katharine Hogg
Librarian

Re-blogged from JISC Library Services.

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ASWs Past and Future: a personal reflection

My diary tells me that Friday 17th April should have been the first day of the 2020 Annual Study Weekend in Leeds. Planning for the conference had taken more than a year and at the last Conference Committee meeting held on March 11th most of the final details were in place and the committee was anticipating another stimulating and informative ASW ahead.

Sadly, as we all know, within a week events had overtaken careful planning and the 2020 ASW had to be postponed for a year due to Covid-19 lockdown measures. We are very grateful, as a committee, for the understanding of our venue at Weetwood Hall Leeds and for their willingness to rebook the Annual Study Weekend for 9-11 April 2021. We look forward to welcoming many of you there in what we trust are more settled times.

However, looking at my crossed-through diary entry for the ASW has prompted me to think about highlights from ASWs past and I thought it would be appropriate to share these with my IAML (UK & Irl) colleagues at this ASW time of year!

The first ASW I attended was back in 1994 at Queen’s University, Belfast. I was, at that time, music librarian at the Royal National Institute for the Blind working in a fairly specialized environment and was looking forward to sharing experiences with music librarians in other sectors and expanding my knowledge of the field. I am afraid my memory fails in recalling any of the presentations from the Belfast ASW but the event obviously made a positive and valued impression as I have since attended 17 ASWs – by no means a record I am sure. I wonder who among my IAML (UK & Irl) colleagues has attended the most ASWs?

As I moved into working as a music librarian within the public library sector I valued the ASWs as a continuing opportunity to learn from music library colleagues in other library sectors and adapt ideas and trends to my own working environment bringing back new resource suggestions, ideas for changing working practices and an awareness of wider developments impacting music libraries.

There have been a number of threads which have run through successive ASWs enabling me to keep abreast of emerging sector-specific developments. A regular focus on the minefield which is copyright as it relates to music resources has been extremely useful and much valued by my employer. An ongoing focus on the ever-increasing wealth of new digital resources available to music libraries has always proved valuable and more recently to consider the challenges these pose as we approach a tipping point perhaps between print and digital. My musical knowledge has been broadened by presentations focused on specific music genres of which I knew little (hymnology, jazz, folk traditions and world music come to mind), composer specific presentations, and presentations from speakers outside the field of music librarianship – from local government, music performance and education – highlighting external trends impacting music librarianship.

Looking back over 26 years (!) of attending ASWs if not every year then certainly on a regular basis I can honestly say that they have enormously enriched my working life. The opportunity to network with colleagues in a wide variety of music library sectors enabled me to find colleagues outside my immediate working environment with whom I could share challenges and seek solutions. The invitation to be share in the work of IAML (UK & Irl) committees – Courses and Education, Copyright, Conference, Excellence and Executive – has also been immensely rewarding and enabled me to again bring back broad best practice into my own field of music librarianship.

Some personal stand-out memories of ASWs include helping to lead the very last midnight walk during the 1998 Canterbury ASW when I acted as local rep (we even managed to follow the track of a disused railway – another old IAML tradition now long abandoned). There have been some wonderful Saturday evening participatory choral highlights and first performances – in 2014 at Cambridge delegates joined in a mass performance of a Cambridge catch performed for the first time since the early 1800s and the 2016 Manchester ASW had the unusual Saturday evening highlight of a specially composed partsong – Hail Mancunia Fair – composed by IAML (UK & Irl)’s Geoff Thomason and given its first impromptu performance by the massed voices of the 2016 conference. Finally, at the 2018 Edinburgh ASW we enjoyed James Beaton from the National Piping Centre magnificently piping delegates into the Saturday evening Annual Dinner.

I know that many ASW delegates will have their own highlights of past ASWs and it would be wonderful to share these sometime. In the meantime, I do, indeed, look forward to seeing many of you in Leeds for the postponed ASW in April 2021!

Frances Allott
IAML (UK & Irl) Conference Committee

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Preserving our heritage, celebrating our history

Margaret Jones, blog editor for IAML (UK&Irl), asked me some time ago to write a little about the role of IAML Historian, a post to which I was appointed early in 2020. Of course I’m happy to do so. I should point out straightaway, just to avoid any confusion, that this is a role within “big” IAML, i.e. the international body, rather than a UK & Ireland position.

Continue reading

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“Music for the Terrified” in Galway!

One of the best things about the “Irl” in our Branch’s name is the opportunity that it gives us to meet our Irish colleagues. So it was with great pleasure that Geoff Thomason and I recently travelled across the Irish sea to offer Courses & Education Committee’s “Music for the Terrified” at the National University of Ireland in Galway. Come to think of it, these were probably the final sessions to be requested from Courses & Education before it combined recently with the Branch’s Conference Committee (we’re still trying to come up with a name for the combined Committee, by the way; suggestions are welcome).

Monica Crump, the energetic, enthusiastic and efficient Head of Collections at the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway, first got in touch back in autumn 2019. The immediate reason for seeking training from IAML was that Galway has been offering a four-year BA course in music only since September 2018. This has meant that library enquiry staff are beginning to get music questions from students, so it’s important that they understand music, and music-related issues, on at least a basic level. It’s also led to Galway spending an impressive amount of money on building a collection of music scores, and books on music, from scratch; from what Geoff and I saw at the library, I’d say that they have made an excellent start (we both left Monica with some further suggestions for additions to the stock). It would be wonderful if Galway joined Cork and Dublin as an important centre for musical study in Ireland.

Monica, Geoff and some impressive heating ductwork at
the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway
Part of NUI Galway’s music books and scores collection
 

Because of the level of interest in the training, and the number of staff who required it, we actually offered the same course on two successive days (5th and 6th of March, from 10 to 4.30 on the first day, and 9 to 3.30 on the second). This sounds as if it should have been tiring, but the enthusiasm of the participants made it a pleasant training experience for us, and judging from much of the feedback the sessions were seen as useful by those who attended. We trained 14 attendees on the first day and 11 on the second, an excellent result. In between, of course, there was some sightseeing time, and spending just an hour or so in the centre of Galway city in the evening helped us to see why it has been named European Capital of Culture for 2020 — such a pity that the corona virus will probably reduce the number of events, and the number of visitors, to this beautiful and lively city.

“Music for the Terrified” remains the Branch’s most-requested course, and it’s clear that there are still plenty of library staff who find themselves having to deal with what many will perceive as a “difficult”, even mysterious, subject. The terminology of classical music, and the sheer variety of different manifestations of a single piece of music in score form, can be baffling, and combined with titles in foreign languages, musicians’ exacting requirements in terms of a particular edition of a score, words like “Urtext”, and so on, it’s all too easy to see why non-musicians, even if some of them aren’t quite “terrified”, definitely look a bit worried when faced with a musical question. After all, how would we feel if we were suddenly thrown in at the deep end in a law library or a medical library? Scared, probably. As Mark Twain once said, “Be careful about reading medical books: you might die of a misprint”.

A view from inside the beautiful
and impressive Galway cathedral,
built on the site of a former prison
and begun in 1958.

Geoff and I returned to the UK with, I think, a feeling of a job well done, and of satisfaction that we had been able to help so many NUI staff get to grips with music. We promised them some “after-sales service”, and hope they will take us up on it, especially if it involves a return visit! Our trip will surely stay long in the memory.

John Wagstaff, Cambridge

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IAML Annual Study Weekend, April 17-19, 2020, postponed to 2021

As a result of COVID-19 precautions the IAML (UK & Irl) Conference Committee regrets to announce that the 2020 Annual Study Weekend has had to be postponed. It will now take place from 9th – 11th April 2021, at the same venue: Weetwood Hall, a Grade II listed building, and part of the University of Leeds’ conference facilities. A full statement is available here.

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