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

logo
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

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
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

Made in Birmingham – Part 1 — April 8, 2020

Made in Birmingham – Part 1

We’re back! It seems a long time since the last post, and it is – more than a month in fact. And hasn’t the landscape changed? Library staff are all now working from home and trying to find their way around the new normal.

This blog must also alter somewhat – I have no access to any of our stock now so the focus will change. Music will still be central of course.

A week or so ago, a BBC report caught my eye and got me thinking. The US Library of Congress hosts a National Recording Registry. Every year they select 25 recordings (music or speech) which they regard as ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant’ to life in the US. Continue reading

Sullivan without Gilbert — August 21, 2019

Sullivan without Gilbert

If you know anything of the composer, Arthur Sullivan, it will almost certainly be from his partnership with W.S. Gilbert. That series of 13 comedic, satirical operas the two men collaborated on still feature in the repertoire 150 years on. The Savoy operas’ combined commercial and artistic success has overshadowed the rest of Sullivan’s varied output for almost the same length of time.

Kenilworth – a masque of the days of Queen Elizabeth (first performed 1864)

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Kenilworth Castle (via WikiCommons)

As a student graduating from the Leipzig Conservatoire, his final work in 1861 was a suite of pieces for Shakespeare’s The Tempest. This calling card did him well; a performance the following year in the Crystal Palace marked him out as a composer to watch. From this came his first commission, Kenilworth. Continue reading

Voices In Concert — November 29, 2018

Voices In Concert

At the end of this special, memorial November, I’m taking the opportunity to revisit the concert we described at the start of the month. In this post, we hear from people involved in the performance, and what the concert meant to them. My thanks go to Jane Eminson for doing the hard work, and Jonathan Schöps, photographer with the Jena University Choir for allowing his images to be reproduced here. All photos used in this post are © 2018, Jonathan Schöps Fotografie.

balcony audience
The view from the balcony. (Jonathan Schoeps)

From the Audience:

What an amazingly wonderful event! The choirs were spectacular and seemed as if they’d been singing together forever, stunning pianissimos and magnificent high sopranos. Soloists very good quality (better than many Proms performances!). It must have been an enormous feat of organisation, persuasion and stamina. We are so glad we came and it was very moving to be surrounded by French and German nationals as well. We discussed everything from Brexit to War Remembrance, and the roots of World War 2 in the Versailles Treaty.
Liz and Robert Chalmers

Continue reading

Grant Us Peace! — November 15, 2018

Grant Us Peace!

Once again, we hand over the blog to another musical organisation. This time it’s Birmingham Festival Choral Society and their contribution to the Armistice commemorations. We met members of BFCS in an earlier post which talked about a weekend away rehearsing. As this post goes out, it falls between two concerts which BFCS and Nottinghamshire-based Ryton Chorale are presenting together on the theme of war and peace. The two works are Howard Goodall’s Eternal Light, and Ralph Vaughan William’s Dona Nobis Pacem.

Poppies in Flanders
Poppies flowering in Flanders

I know the VW well, having played in two performances, but I don’t know the Goodall. Both composers take ancient Latin texts from the church liturgy and add new words. In VW’s case, more poetry from his beloved Walt Whitman, and the Old Testament; and from various sources for Goodall’s work.

Here’s a piece from one of BFCS’ singers about her experience of performing in the first concert.

Continue reading

After The Guns Fell Silent — November 1, 2018

After The Guns Fell Silent

Frank_Boggs,_Armistice_Day,_Paris,_1918
Armistice Day, Paris, 1918 (Artist: Frank Boggs) Public domain image from Metropolitan Museum of Art.

By some quirk of the calendar, Remembrance Sunday this year here in the UK is actually the eleventh of November. How propitious that it occurs at the same time as the end of the World War I centenary commemorations? Many musical organisations are seeking to mark the conclusion of the Great War a century ago during this November. One such is Wolverhampton Symphony Orchestra. On this occasion, we hand over the blog to a guest writer (as we do every now and again). Here is Jane Eminson talking about the fruition of a great, multi-national, musical project.

St Matthew's Walsall
St Matthew’s Church, Walsall

If you hear the ‘Ode to Joy’ coming from a house near you over the next week, it’s probably one of nearly 400 participants in the Remembrance and Reconciliation concert doing their practice. Continue reading

‘So extraordinary a spectacle’ – the 1784 Handel commemoration — June 28, 2018

‘So extraordinary a spectacle’ – the 1784 Handel commemoration

Handel has always held an especially prominent position in British classical music. Yes, his fortune has fluctuated over the years, but The Messiah , if nothing else, has kept him in the public eye.

Burney - View of the orchestra and performers ...
The apparently vertiginous staging for the performers in Westminster Abbey.

In 1784, it was decided to hold a series of three commemorative concerts in April for the twenty-fifth anniversary of Handel’s death. What we’re going to be looking at is the record of the concerts produced by the music historian, Charles Burney which was published the following year. Continue reading

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