In Concert

Get a flavour of the music collections of the Library of Birmingham – quirky, practical, historical, contemporary

Made in Birmingham 3 – the music of Albert Ketèlbey — January 7, 2021

Made in Birmingham 3 – the music of Albert Ketèlbey

Albert Ketèlbey was a phenomenally successful, Birmingham-born composer of the inter-war years of the twentieth century. Yet nowadays, his music is little known, only rarely getting live performances or broadcast time.

Albert Ketèlbey (1875 – 1959)

Albert Ketelbey
Ketelbey with a quote from ‘In a Persian market’.

Ketèlbey was something of a musical prodigy, joining the Birmingham and Midland Institute School of music (now the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire ) aged eleven. Then he took up a place at London’s Trinity College of Music at the age of thirteen, entering the college at the same time as Gustav Holst. Studying composition and piano, Ketèlbey was a successful student, but on graduation he didn’t take quite the career path we might now expect.

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Christmas post — December 15, 2020

Christmas post

Most of us have spent a lot of life online recently. At this time of year, I’ll look forward to getting Christmas cards through the post more than ever. It’s hard to make a display of e-cards and decorative emails – receiving the real physical thing makes such a difference. In this post, I’ll be looking at one of our Victorian songs celebrating  the postal service, and then sampling some of the Victorian Christmas cards which are part of the collections here in Birmingham.

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Northern Soul — November 30, 2020

Northern Soul

It’s a tribute to music’s power and diversity that this title could mean so many things. On this occasion, I’m looking at contemporary classical music from Scotland. No way can one single post do it justice, but hopefully I might entice you to try something new. 

Don’t forget, if you’re interested in exploring further, we have scores, books, and CDs which can be requested for collection from the Library of Birmingham when we’re open. Just check our online catalogue . Continue reading

Aftermath — November 11, 2020
Filling gaps – diversifying our collections — September 29, 2020

Filling gaps – diversifying our collections

In Classical music through a Caribbean lens , I looked at some current black British composers of classical music for a Windrush Day post. My research for that, together with a desire to broaden further our stock in the Music Library, led me to discover what was available out there to buy. 

Here at the start of Black History Month, let’s see what we’ve achieved so far. Continue reading

Copland away from the Rodeo — September 9, 2020

Copland away from the Rodeo

Looking through our study scores the other day, I was struck by how many works the American composer, Aaron Copland, composed which aren’t Rodeo, Appalachian Spring, or El Salon Mexico. Don’t get me wrong – those are great pieces which seem to distil visions of America into sound. Who could listen to the open, slow-changing harmonies of Appalachian Spring without seeing the wide-open spaces of the USA in their mind’s eye?

Let’s see what else Copland composed during his long life. I shall be learning along the way as much as anyone else. Continue reading

‘Look here’ – songs by Leon Rosselson — August 20, 2020

‘Look here’ – songs by Leon Rosselson

For the first time in ages, I’ve had the chance to choose something from our shelves as the basis for a post. The Library of Birmingham is gradually coming back to life. While it’s been great exploring all kinds of other musical topics, what our stock has to offer remains the backbone of this blog. (Information about the current services Birmingham’s libraries offer may be found on the library catalogue page.)

As is often the case, what I’ve chosen comes from our Folk section. It’s also led me on another fascinating journey. Continue reading

New music, Birmingham’s way — July 28, 2020

New music, Birmingham’s way

Commissioning new music costs money. Sometimes a lot of money. Given the everyday financial pressures on arts organisations, finding money for commissions can be difficult. New thinking required, perhaps?

I’m revisiting a post from two and a half years ago. Someone’s random view made me look at it again. The post needed an upgrade but it also fitted in with where I am right now. To save me rewriting most of the text, little account is taken of our current situation. Continue reading

Heavy metal? Brass bands and their music — July 15, 2020

Heavy metal? Brass bands and their music

We all have blind spots when it comes to music. That time when we stand listening to a friend or colleague wax lyrical about an artist or composer who leaves us cold. For me, Wagner and Delius are two such. It’s also possible to dislike whole genres. I plead guilty in this respect and point to brass bands. Daft really, because I’ve heard little of what they can do. Join me on a short exploration of British brass bands and their music. Will it change my mind? Continue reading

Classical music through a Caribbean lens — June 22, 2020

Classical music through a Caribbean lens

Today (June 22) is Windrush day in the UK. It commemorates and celebrates those individuals who arrived on HMT Empire Windrush from the Caribbean in 1948 and their descendants.

HMT_Empire_Windrush_FL9448
HMT ‘Empire Windrush’ (photo from IWM via Wikipedia)

If you’re interested in discovering the musical legacy of those people who came to the UK for a new life, this short series of videos look good.

The British Library has a considerable number of informative and thoughtful essays on Windrush topics including this one on Calypso and the birth of British black music.

For this post though, I’ve decided to feature five contemporary, British – Caribbean composers who also all happen to be female. Continue reading

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