In Concert

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

Filling more gaps — June 22, 2022

Filling more gaps

On Windrush Day, it is appropriate to revisit a post we wrote a couple of years ago. Filling gaps – diversifying our collections listed our aims to make our sheet music collections more representative of the city around us. That was at the start. Now is a good time to see what progress we’ve made in representing music by Black composers. Continue reading

Love story – music, women, and Shakespeare — April 23, 2022

Love story – music, women, and Shakespeare

What better way to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday than with some music?

Rather than rely on Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Arne, Verdi, and all the other classical music uses of Shakespeare themes, I’ve gone looking elsewhere. Another blog, Shakespeare in popular music was very useful in this regard. Although many of the links no longer work (for various reasons), the listings are fascinating. In some cases, the link with Shakespeare is clear; with others, it would need more digging. Continue reading

Pioneers — March 8, 2022
Derek Jarman: his films and their music — February 16, 2022

Derek Jarman: his films and their music

Derek Jarman’s films hold a special place in British queer cinema. Bold, experimental, unapologetic, and always following his own creative vision, they told of diverse lives at a time when those lives were hardly out of the shadows. The partial decriminalisation of homosexuality through The Sexual Offences Act only occurred in 1967. Then, in the 1980s and early 1990s, came the scourge of HIV/Aids and its attendant demonisations, accompanied by Margaret Thatcher’s Section 28 and its partial muzzling of queer expression.

Music plays an important part in Jarman’s work. In this post for LGBTQ History Month, let’s see what’s out there. Continue reading

What to choose? Buying our sheet music — January 20, 2022
The Sound of music – Christmas edition — December 15, 2021

The Sound of music – Christmas edition

If you think of the Trapp family at all, it’s probably in relation to The Sound of Music, movie or musical. In this post though, we’re looking at something which came from the Trapps’ real life as a singing group in America during the 1940s and 50s.

Wasner: The Trapp family book of Christmas songs (publ. 1950)

The Trapp (or, von Trapp) family spent most of the 1930s based in Austria and touring throughout Europe and the US. Once Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, they fled first to Italy and then to the US, where they stayed. Their local priest in Austria, Franz Wasner, remained the choir’s musical director and is the guiding hand behind our book of carols. Continue reading

‘Can’t get by without you’ – song sheets by Black artists — October 28, 2021

‘Can’t get by without you’ – song sheets by Black artists

As we near the end of Black History Month, I found time to raid our song sheet boxes in search of suitable exhibits. Was the choice overwhelming? No, but there are more examples than I perhaps expected. Let’s see what I uncovered.

You may also be interested in another, more historical BHM post we did a while back: Harriet Beecher Stowe in song . Continue reading

Enriching your musical learning — October 6, 2021

Enriching your musical learning

If you’re studying to be a musician or singer, it can be easy to focus only on your course requirements. Studying for exams, building up repertoire, or an apparent lack of time can all lead to a narrowing of your musical horizons.

The Library of Birmingham’s Music Library can help you explore further afield. With many thousands of scores, books on music, and performance sets, the Music Library is one of the largest local authority music libraries in the UK. We are now fully reopened and eager to welcome new and existing customers. Joining Birmingham Libraries is free and easy to do, and many services are free of charge.

Come with us on a short tour of the Music Library and discover what we have to offer you. Continue reading

Back to the (start of the) 80’s again — August 25, 2021

Back to the (start of the) 80’s again

A while back, we had a look at a random selection of song sheets from the early 1980s, Back to the (start of the) 80’s . In honour of Birmingham’s Gay Village and their ‘Back to the 80’s night’, here’s another, possibly even more random selection from the first half of the decade. Which songs do you know, or even remember from the first time around?

For all the Music Library mostly stopped buying single song sheets in the 1980’s, we still have an intriguing, though limited selection. Let’s start with this one:

Brian May & Queen  Save me  (publ. 1980)

Queen - Save me
Queen – Save me

The Game was Queen’s eighth studio album and is described either as ‘disco’ influenced, or when they turned towards pop rather than rock. The Wikipedia article quotes some responses to its original release. You’re left wondering whether they’re talking about the same music. Continue reading

Made in Birmingham 4 – Ruth Gipps — August 4, 2021

Made in Birmingham 4 – Ruth Gipps

CBSO concert from the Proms listing
CBSO concert from the BBC Proms listing

If you’re anything like me, Ruth Gipps will be little more than a name. Admittedly as a female composer, she stirs a little more interest than some of other composers of her time. What I didn’t realise is her connection to Birmingham and the CBSO. This month’s BBC Proms concert (see above) which includes her music set me looking.

Let’s explore that connection alongside her music. Continue reading

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