In Concert

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

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.

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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

Singing the score at home — June 3, 2020

Singing the score at home

Whether you’re a singer or instrumentalist, opportunities for making music are still limited. Lockdown may have eased, but in this, little has changed. You can practise on your own of course, (subject to your neighbours) but that soon palls. If other people in your household are also musicians, that’s good. However it’s a fortunate home that has a perfect line-up and sufficient material. Continue reading

Beyond the Pastoral – other music by Vaughan Williams — May 20, 2020

Beyond the Pastoral – other music by Vaughan Williams

The Lark Ascending has topped Classic FM’s ‘Hall of Fame’ nine times. It is a rapturous piece of music, wedded to the English outdoors and well suited to listening on long, lazy summer days. How many people though, don’t explore what else Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote in his 60 plus years of composing? I can only scrape the surface in this post. Here are three of his symphonies, all different and pointing to other facets of the composer’s music. Continue reading

Do you remember the Humline? — May 6, 2020

Do you remember the Humline?

This is going to read like the start to a fairy tale…  Once upon a time there were hardly any mobile phones, the fax machine represented high tech, and there was no publicly accessible internet. Remember?

That meant no Siri, Alexa, or Google to answer your every question. So what were you to do if an earworm drove you mad? Or music for a funeral had to be found, or a half-remembered theme from a film bugged you.

One option was to visit your nearest music library. Continue reading

Made in Birmingham 2 – new listening edition — April 22, 2020

Made in Birmingham 2 – new listening edition

If social media is to be believed, this enforced stay-at-home time should be used to broaden your horizons or learn something new, rather than just surviving. In this spirit, I decided to wander off and see what Birmingham indie rock bands old and new are out there, waiting to be discovered. Usually, the library’s stock takes me on all kinds of journeys; now, of course, I have no access. My classical music bias hangs a little heavy sometimes, so this exploration should be a breath of fresh air.

Join me in this experiment. Maybe you’ll discover someone new, or perhaps you’ll just roll your eyes at my choices. Continue reading

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