In Concert

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

CBSO: a hundred years of music-making — October 23, 2019

CBSO: a hundred years of music-making

Forward

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its centenary this season. As a contribution to the celebrations, journalist and music critic Richard Bratby spent a large slice of his recent life researching the CBSO’s history. Writing a book is hard work, even more so when it’s not fiction. Give this post a read to understand why.

We will add the book to our stock in due course.

Is it that long? — April 4, 2019

Is it that long?

This blog is coming up to its second birthday! It doesn’t seem that long since I wrote our first anniversary post. While I’ve felt more relaxed about the topics featured, there have still been some distinct threads. Let’s have a look at some of the themes and popular posts over the past year.

Participation

all performers
All the performers (Jonathan Schoeps)

November saw a flurry of posts. 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

French Impressions — August 18, 2018

French Impressions

In lieu of last week’s absent offering, here’s a couple of links to posts which coincidentally both take a look at French romantic / impressionistic music. Enjoy.

Prom 44 – CBSO Choruses & Orchestra / Ludovic Morlot – Debussy, Ravel & Lili Boulanger

The CBSO and their choruses are of course one of Birmingham’s musical jewels, and this is a review of their performance at the BBC Proms. Also I have a very soft spot for the music of Lili Boulanger.

https://musicb3.wordpress.com/2018/08/17/creating-a-general-impression-debussy-and-lapres-midi-dun-faune/

This is the blog of Cambridge University Library’s impressive music collections.

The blog will return to normal next Thursday. See you then!

‘Magic mushrooms’ and other singing tips — June 14, 2018

‘Magic mushrooms’ and other singing tips

The music’s live! again, and this time we’re in the company of a local choir, the Birmingham Festival Choral Society (BFCS, for short).

A Bit of history

BFCS has a long history, stretching way back into the nineteenth century. Its history is intertwined with that of the Birmingham Triennial Music Festivals. The Festivals were held every three years to raise money for the Birmingham General Hospital. As the nineteenth century progressed, the Festival administrators spent a lot of time and effort attracting the best musical talent to compose and perform new choral music. These commissions composed by Mendelssohn, Dvorak, Sullivan, Gounod, Stanford, and later, Elgar, represented some of the best music of the time, and the BFCS was there, right at the centre. BFCS singers formed the core of each chorus used at the Festivals.

Continue reading

New music, the Birmingham way — February 22, 2018

New music, the Birmingham 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?

This is going to be rather a different post from usual, focussing as it will do on contemporary and avant-garde classical music. And that includes our part in helping people to realise that classical music doesn’t stop somewhere in the early C20, but is a living, breathing art form with much to offer.

Most live contemporary music performances in the city come from Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG).

bcmg logo
BCMG’s logo

BCMG has been a fixture on the Birmingham musical scene for over thirty years. From its start as an off-shoot of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), it has become one of the premier medium-sized ensembles in the UK. As an ensemble specialising in ‘new’ music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, it could possibly have constructed all of its programmes from available, known music. Instead, it has made a name for itself by giving first performances of over 160 pieces of music, and counting.

Some seventy of these pieces were commissioned by BCMG. Which brings me back to my opening paragraph – how to fund these new pieces of music? Back in the 1990s, BCMG came up with a new, innovative scheme to involve ordinary music-lovers in the creation of particular works. Sound Investment is a cleverly-named scheme which invites individuals to donate money towards a particular composer’s work. Their investment allows new sounds to be created and performed. Without it, BCMG would have struggled to commission anything like that number of new pieces.

So, what has this got to do with Music Library? Continue reading

The music’s live! — November 30, 2017
Handel’s ‘Messiah’ – a C19 facsimile — October 19, 2017

Handel’s ‘Messiah’ – a C19 facsimile

Handel’s oratorio the Messiah occupies a very special place in British musical life. He wrote plenty of other dramatic, supremely tuneful choral works, but none of them have had the lasting impact of Messiah. Ever since the Dublin first performance in 1742, this oratorio has always featured in the repertoire. The nineteenth century saw most of Handel’s music falling into disuse, but performances of Messiah continued on. Some of them on a truly stupendous scale, particularly those in the Crystal Palace. In fact, the idolisation of this particular work does strike me as being a little bizarre, however wonderful it is. Even more so, the fascination with the Hallelujah Chorus.

Continue reading

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