Christmas in Paddington Library

Dressing the tree at the Paddington Library Christmas Fun Day, December 2014My my, doesn’t time fly… ? It seems like only yesterday that we were narrating Halloween stories to primary school classes and before we know it, Christmas is nearly upon us!
Here at Paddington Library we like to hold popular events which involve the local community.

We have been running a Christmas Community Fun Day for several years and in time-honoured tradition we invited the choir from the nearby Westbourne Park Baptist Church to have a seasonal singalong by our Christmas Tree.

Carol singing at the Paddington Library Christmas Fun Day, December 2014

We were also very pleased to welcome back Tim Killick who ran an armchair yoga session, and Aitor performed some magic Christmas card tricks for children.

Chair yoga at the Paddington Library Christmas Fun Day, December 2014Many participants were pleasantly surprised by the events and everyone (well, the adults!) enjoyed the delicious mulled wine made by Paola.


Take Three Girls

Aisha Meade at Westminster Music Library, December 2014 Sue Yieng Lee at Westminster Music Library, December 2014 Aurelia Apanavičiūtė at Westminster Music Library, December 2014

When a talented flautist, pianist and soprano with a shared passion for classical music all found themselves studying together for music degrees at Middlesex University, it seemed like a golden opportunity to combine forces and form themselves into a musical trio. So why not go a step further and share your passion with an audience? We in Westminster Music Library like to think that we’re helping young new talent by offering them a chance to play to the public. OK we’re not The Wigmore Hall, but in order to progress in the highly competitive world of music performance, you have to get that first step into the public domain, and finding venues for chamber groups is not always an easy task.

So it was that a packed Westminster Music Library welcomed Aisha, Aurelia and Sue last Thursday evening, and sat back to enjoy a varied and delightful programme of music ranging from baroque to the present day.

Concert flautist Aisha Meade has performed in such exalted venues as Cadogan Hall, The Barbican and The Royal Festival Hall; soprano Aurelia Apanavičiūtė, although originally a pianist from the age of four, was recently discovered to have “something of a voice”, and pianist Sue Yieng Lee, having already achieved one music degree, is now studying hard for another in performance at Goldsmith’s University.  A multi-talented trio if ever there was one.

Their programme opened with Poulenc’s Sonata for flute and piano; this sonata is as typical of Poulenc as anything he ever wrote, combining elegant charm and sophistication, conjuring up an image of fashionable Parisian boulevard cafés. Although titled ‘sonata’, none of the three movements is in sonata form, and the flute is definitely the star, with the piano cast only in a supporting role. A challenging piece to perform and one which Aisha appears to have mastered with ease.

We were then treated to four works in which the whole trio could showcase their talents: Le Rossignol by Delibes, Caccini’s Ave Maria, the famous song by Schubert – An Silvia, and Pie Jesu from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem.  Le Rossignol (the nightingale), a romantic piece written for flute, voice and piano, features a “call and answer” motif between the flute and soprano, mimicking the song of the nightingale, it transported us from a cold and gloomy winter night in London to a warm, summer evening in the French countryside.

After two dazzling piano solos from Sue – a Schubert  impromptu and an intermezzo by Mexican composer Manuel Ponce –  the concert drew to a close with Sunstreams, a piece for flute and piano by British flautist and composer Ian Clarke, a beautiful piece with a melody that soars up to the very top of the flute.

Aisha Meade, Sue Yieng Lee and Aurelia Apanavičiūtė at Westminster Music Library, December 2014

A memorable evening of relaxing and enjoyable music, played confidently by three girls who are sure to be going places, a sentiment with which our audience seemed to agree:

“It’s lovely to hear such beautiful music and allow students to showcase their talents.”

“Delightful! Most promising young musicians.”

“Most enjoyable – three delightful performers.”







Christmas books? We’ve got them covered

Christmas comes but once a year, as they say… It is a time for family gatherings and celebration, for feasting and relaxing. A time when many people will give and receive books as presents (many of which may be destined never to get read!).

Christmas book lists

Click on the image above or go to to get a flavour of what you can find in your library this Christmas season – there are fiction, non-fiction and children’s selections available, with more titles being added all the time.

There is a selection of new stories and other books set around a theme of Christmas time. There are family stories of course, but also many murder mysteries. A game of Cluedo may go down well after the Christmas dinner, but by Boxing Day evening the presence of in-laws may be pushing some people’s patience towards committing the ultimate crime – at least that’s how the plot traditionally goes!

Festive in death, by JD RobbFor instance – How about this from the blurb for Festive in Death by JD Robb:

“The kitchen knife jammed into his cold heart pinned a cardboard sign to his well-toned chest. It read: Santa Says You’ve Been Bad!!!”

A New York Christmas by Anne PerryCrime writer Anne Perry has been producing a Christmas crime story each year for the last few years. Her latest is  called A New York Christmas.

Many ‘chick-lit’ and family saga writers are increasingly tapping into this market with seasonally-set stories. Some of the authors featured in our list will have stories from previous years also in stock.

For lovers of romantic stories, Mills & Boon always publish a selection of seasonal romances around Christmas time.

So settle down with a book, a glass and a mince pie and enjoy finding out how these fictional characters past and present cope with the festive season.

A very pirate Christmas by Timothy Knapman- Look on the Christmas display shelves and stands in your local library for these and other seasonal books, such as ideas for Christmas cooking, crafts and decorations, Christmas customs and history.
– Look also for Christmas carols – both as songbooks and recordings on CD.
– Look in the children’s library for Christmassy picture books, stories, craft activities, and books about Christmas time.


May the force be with you: Six things you might not know about film composer John Williams

John Williams with the Boston Pops OrchestraJohn Williams has written some of the most unforgettable film themes of our generation; his iconic music has lit up the silver screen in films like Star Wars, Jaws and E.T. In an industry shifting away from large orchestral scores, John Williams is the last one standing among traditional film composers.

Here are six facts about the man and his music you might not know…

  1. He doesn’t own a computer.

In his small bungalow on the Universal Studio lot, John Williams composes using pencil and paper on a small writing desk next to his 90-year-old Steinway piano. He’s never owned a computer. Why not? He’s probably been too busy composing to ever learn to use one.

  1. He’s really busy.

He’s written over 120 film scores, a symphony, 12 concertos and numerous other symphonic and chamber works. He doesn’t let a day go by without writing something, and although his pace has slowed slightly, he shows no signs of ever stopping.

  1. Only one person has more Academy Award nominations.

And that’s Walt Disney. John Williams has received a total of 47 Academy Award nominations, but he’s only won five.

  1. He started as a jazz pianist.

You can hear him in Henry Mancini’s 1958 Peter Gunn theme playing the famous main riff:

  1. He’s scored all but one of Steven Spielberg’s feature films.

Their forty-year partnership started in 1972. Since then, they have had one of the most important film collaborations in history. Spielberg calls Williams a “chameleon of a composer” because of his ability to match the tone of any theme or subject matter. And the one he didn’t score? The Colour Purple, which was scored by Quincy Jones.

  1. We have recently added a number of John Williams’ orchestral scores to the Westminster Music Library collection!

Including: Music from Star Wars, March from Superman, the theme from Warhorse, March from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone and if you’re feeling ambitious and fancy performing a John Williams medley with your orchestra, we have a set of parts featuring music from Star Wars, Jaws, Superman, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and E.T.

John Williams scores in Westminster Music Library

No orchestra? Then why not try The very best of John Williams arranged for piano solo. Realise the power of the Dark Side…


Tea and textiles at Church Street Library

'Tea & Textiles' at Church Street Library - group photo at Kew Gardens 2014The ‘Tea and Textiles’ project at Church Street Library, in conjunction with the Westminster Cultural Partnerships Officer and Westminster Adult Education Service, is going really well, with the quilt going on show next week.

The aim of the project is to create a quilt merging a map of the Church Street area (where the participants live) with images of plants and flowers that originate in their home countries. At the same time, the idea is to make a way for this diverse community to exercise their creative talents and a path through which they may be able to go further and start enterprises to sell their handmade crafts in future.

The  project started back in the summer of 2014 with a few taster sessions. The group then went on a visit to Kew Gardens to seek out inspiration from the beauty of the flowers and plants cultivated there.

'Tea & Textiles' at Church Street Library - first map drawing workshop 2014  'Tea & Textiles' at Church Street Library - workshop following Kew Gardens trip 2014

Currently the group has a total of 20 participants from around Church Street, who come from a total of fifteen different national backgrounds – tea growing is a key element of many of these nations. During the trip to Kew Gardens, the participants looked for at least three plants or flowers from the country of their origin, which would later form part of the embroidery work on the quilt.

'Tea & Textiles' at Church Street Library - quilt workshop in progress, 2014

The finished quilt will be exhibited at an event at the Showroom Gallery on 17 December, from 3.30 – 5.30pm.


For the love of opera

Nico Castel - complete set of opera libretti at Westminster Music LibraryBorn in Lisbon in 1931, American tenor Nico Castel was raised in Venezuela, and finally made his way to New York to pursue his musical interests where he became the first winner of the “Joy in Singing” award which launched his career. Soon after, he made his debut with Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera, and then the Metropolitan Opera Company where his tenure includes 21 years as staff diction coach.

Nico Castel’s contributions to the world of opera are vast and varied. His over 45 years of work in this field – performing, studying, teaching and developing and perfecting his skills and many talents – have earned him the international acclaim as tenor, teacher, translator and unparalleled diction and style master coach he enjoys today.

Nico Castel is a true polyglot (he speaks fluent Portuguese, German, French, Spanish, Italian and English), a man of vast culture, a multi-talented artist and scholar, who in addition to having carved himself a career as one of the world’s pre-eminent character operatic tenors, with over 200 roles in his repertoire, has also developed a parallel career as vocal coach and teacher of multilingual lyric diction.

Nico Castel’s heritage and lifetime of knowledge and experience in the fields of language, singing and opera have culminated in his publications of opera libretti translations and diction manuals which after many years of hunting down (due to usage rights, exorbitant shipping costs and some rather uncooperative mid-Atlantic suppliers) Westminster Music Library is now the proud owner of a complete set. It has been described by some pretty starry people as the definitive reference for diction, pronunciation and translation for all of the major operas:

Nico Castel has undertaken a stupendous task with his Operatic Libretti Series — a work that should have been done years ago … How much time these publications could have saved me when studying a new opera! How fortunate are the present day students to be able to refer to these books, constantly improving their understanding of the complete work.
Dame Joan Sutherland

My good friend and colleague of many years, Nico Castel, has undertaken the Herculean task of writing translations and phonetic transcriptions of practically every opera in the current repertoire. It is an undertaking that has engaged the passion so typical of him. These books will become the standard by which a new generation of singers can better understand and interpret their opera roles in a way that was never practicably possible heretofore. Bravo, Nico, for this invaluable legacy!
Placido Domingo, tenor/conductor, Metropolitan Opera

Bravo Maestro!



Not Like Father Like Son? The John Lewis Story

Receipted bill for purchases from John Lewis and Company, silk mercers, drapers and fancy warehousemen, 278-288 Oxford Street and 21-28 Holles Street, 27 Oct 1904

2014 has been the 150th anniversary of the John Lewis department store. The current store in Oxford Street stands on the site of the first store founded by John Lewis, a Somerset draper who – after working in another shop – set up his own business in 1864. By 1895 the business had expanded so much that the original shop was replaced by a three-storey department store, with retail showrooms, warehouse space, and a customers’ restaurant. He employed about 150 people, with 100 female staff housed in a hostel nearby, in Weymouth Street.

Whilst his determination and character enabled the business to prosper it was at the expense of his employees. The Victorian cliché of an inflexible hard taskmaster overseeing a downtrodden workforce with little rights and poor wages fits him to a tee. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log in with your library card) entry gives the reader a clear idea of his character. This was the man who was sent to Brixton prison in 1903 for contempt of court during his long running battle over the shop lease with the De Walden estate and who would arbitrarily sack employees on the spot.

So how is it that the John Lewis Partnership model now championed by the coalition government, evolved from this diametrically opposite 19th century model? The answer is John Lewis’s son John Spedan Lewis who championed the current mode of working, first at the Peter Jones department store and then at both stores when he amalgamated the two into one company. In spite of this radical change the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry for John Spedan indicates that he inherited some of his father’s traits stating that he was intolerant with those he considered his intellectual inferiors.

Those wishing to research more deeply into the partnership model and its roots will find trips to Westminster Reference Library and Westminster City Archives useful for the following reference titles:

If you’d like to find out more about the history of department stores and shopping in general, try these:

Department Stores by Claire Masset The World of Mr Selfridge by Alice Maloney Shopping for Pleasure by Erika Rappaport

L to R: Shopping for pleasure : women in the making of London’s West End by Erika Diane Rappaport; The world of Mr Selfridge by Alice Maloney (includes historical details about the department store in among the chapters relating to filming the series and biographical details of the cast); Department stores by Claire Masset.

The City of Westminster Archives Centre holds lots of information on the subject, including the Liberty archive, material about William Whiteley’s and photographs & architectural plans of many of the West End department stores.