In Concert

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

A multitude of voices — March 10, 2021

A multitude of voices

Women composers have always had a raw deal in classical music. No more so than when it comes to having their compositions published. It’s no surprise then that a glorious array of choral music by female composers only made it to publication by resorting to crowdfunding. This Women’s History Month, let’s have a listen to (and learn about) some of the music included there.

Multitude of Voyces

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Website logo for Multitude of Voyces

Multitude of Voyces is a registered not-for-profit Community Interest Company set up by Louise Stewart. She and her husband, Andrew, volunteer their time and expertise as do many of the other people listed. That they’ve succeeded in publishing over 60 works by female composers (most not seen before) is astonishing. Continue reading

Musically Wilde — February 18, 2021

Musically Wilde

It’s LGBTQ history month here in the UK. Last year, we looked at Music and W.H. Auden – a taster. This time, how musicians have responded to Oscar Wilde and his writings is our subject. 

Wilde was a poet, playwright, and author. He is also a queer icon. A man who dared to live his own life in fin de siecle Victorian London. That he did so from a place of privilege was no protection when he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ and sentenced to hard labour in prison.

Wilde’s output ranged across a wide arena. If you know him only for society comedies such as Lady Windermere’s Fan, you may not know the children’s fables, poetry, or the decadence of The Picture of Dorian Gray. There’s also his writing from the period when his life fell apart.

Apart from the operatic reworking of his play, Salomé, I had no idea which of Wilde’s works might have made it into music. Here’s a selection of what I found. Continue reading

Time to try something new? — January 26, 2021

Time to try something new?

January is the classic time for change. Time to experiment and stretch the new you. Maybe though, we’ve had enough change over the last twelve months to last several decades. 

Whichever camp you fall into, spare a few minutes to explore with us some of the more unusual tuition books we stock. Online lessons are useful but if you’re trying to access them via a phone, you may find extra help from books welcome. Maybe you’ve tried the guitar or piano before. How about these instead? Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

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