2nd December

2 December
It’s day two of the Advent Calendar
– click on the door number to see what’s inside!

1st December

1 December
It’s day one of the Advent Calendar
– click on the door number to see what’s inside!

Dress rehearsal

Some Home Library Service members were the guests at a dress rehearsal at Church Street Library last week of Impro for Elders, before their actual performances this week (tonight and tomorrow!) at the Cockpit Theatre. Impro for Elders is directed by the award winning Improbable Theatre and funded by Arts Council England and Create Church Street.

Impro for Elders dress rehearsal, Church Street Library November 2016

The improvisation performances by local people who had been meeting for only a few weeks were emotional, funny and imaginative. The HLS members were able to provide valuable feedback to the performers, which hopefully will add to their performances!

Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to attend a local cultural theatrical event:

“I was moved by the stories and enjoyed the humour”

“If I had been younger and more steady on my feet this is something I would have really enjoyed participating in”

“Such imagination!”

Members of HLS attend the Impro for Elders dress rehearsal, November 2016  Members of HLS attend the Impro for Elders dress rehearsal, November 2016

[Elaine]

Don’t look at these, but…

The 2016 Westminster Libraries & Archives online Advent Calendar is here! Treats behind each door number become live at midnight each night, starting tonight. Each day we will entertain you with local history photographs, useful tips (on festive cookery, local activities, crafts for kids and much more) and more bits of interesting Christmas knowledge than you can shake a candy cane at.

For real world enjoyment, here’s a great idea – make a book Advent Calendar!

Book Advent Calendar

Of course, our Advent Calendar is really all you need. However, in the interests of fairness, objectivity and all round librarianly generosity we thought we’d share a few other online calendars we’ve found…

We’ve discovered in previous years that many of these calendars are only publicised in Advent itself, so we will add others to this post as we come across them – do check back for more. And if you’ve found one you’d like to share, please add it in the comments!

Counting down to Christmas

Merry Christmas from Westminster Libraries & Archives!Last Sunday, 27 November, was the first day of the Christian religious season of Advent. In November?!? Yes – Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the nearest Sunday to 30 November. As the first day of Advent does not reliably fall on a particular date, most of the daily Advent Calendars that are bought or made nowadays begin on 1 December and are a countdown of 24 days up to and including Christmas Eve, 24 December.

We’re pleased to announce the return of the Westminster Libraries and Archives online Advent Calendar. In keeping with the more ‘usual’ format, the daily entries will begin on Thursday 1 December. Those of you who have enjoyed this little celebration of all things festive, interesting or seasonally useful in the past will recognise some of the themes and pictures – it’s Christmas after all, a time of familiar traditions as well as novel gifts. But while many an old favourite will feature, we’ve also unearthed new treasures and will be asking you to take part in a new ‘Christmas Favourites’ survey.

Advent Calendar 2015

So add wcclibraries.wordpress.com/advent-calendar-2016/ to your favourites, look out for daily reminders and tweets, and join us in a particularly librarianly lead up to Christmas!

Henry Purcell – local boy makes good

Henry Purcell sculpture by Glynn Williams 1995, Christchurch Gardens SW1In a library situated between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, there is a fine collection of music books and printed music – the one and only Westminster Music Library.

We’ve developed a bit of a reputation for obtaining money for all manner of music related activities, sometimes from the unlikeliest of sources…

So it was that following our MOD funded Joint Force Singers choral project last June, I started thinking about what Westminster Music Library could do next for the good citizens of the Borough. Maybe it was time to start looking a little closer to home for some inspiration.

Henry Purcell - portrait by John Closterman, 1660-1711

There have been hundreds of famous people who were born in Westminster, from Queen Anne to the First Earl of Zetland, but what about those who dedicated their lives to music? Composers like Thomas Busby, brothers George and Walter McFarren, all interesting but not exactly household names. I needed a show stopper, someone who had a real connection to Westminster throughout his life. How about the chap considered to be England’s greatest composer of the Baroque era, famously dubbed the “Orpheus Britannicus” for his ability to combine powerful English counterpoint with expressive, flexible, and dramatic word settings? None other than Henry Purcell.

Born in Old Pye Street, a stone’s throw from Westminster Abbey and Westminster’s present day City Archives, Purcell’s interest in music began when he was a young child. Even the street names in his neighbourhood are enough to get the imagination running riot: Abbey Orchard Street, Devil’s Acre, Thieving Lane.

Rumour has it that he started composing at the age of 9, his earliest work being the ode for King Charles’ birthday in 1670. The young Purcell attended Westminster School, was appointed copyist at Westminster Abbey in 1676, and landed the impressive post of Organist of Westminster Abbey by the time he was 20, in 1679. As organist of Westminster Abbey, he played at William and Mary’s coronation on 11 April 1689. An impressive pedigree for a local boy, and definitely someone we should be celebrating.

Henry Purcell: Chacony (MSS British Library)

While Purcell is well worth celebrating, I needed to think about how to do it – how could this celebration help residents to connect with their community, make the most of the local opportunities and assets available to them, and encourage them to celebrate Westminster’s unique historic heritage?

With musical expertise from our long-time partners the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the knowledgeable staff at Westminster City Archives (an Aladdin’s Cave of fascinating information, maps and photographs of the area), I put together a proposal which includes a series of intergenerational workshops for local residents and school children, resource packs for both adults and children, and an exhibition focusing on the life, music, history and heritage of Henry Purcell. And the beauty of Henry Purcell as far as Westminster Music Library is concerned? We have lots of books and scores in our collection with his name on them!

So we’re good to go for February 2017, with the generous help of the Westminster Cultural Partnerships Team and Westminster City Councillors – watch this space!

[Ruth]

Art Book of the Month, November 2016

Chinese Natural History Drawings selected from the Reeves Collection, 1974 - title page

Chinese Natural History Drawings selected from the Reeves Collection
Corporate Author: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History)
Edited: PJP Whitehead and PI Edwards
London: BMNH, 1974. Limited Edition 41/400

John Reeves (1774 – 1856) was an English tea inspector for the British East India Company who spent several years in and around Canton.  His impressions of China were not very favourable (‘…and we have been disputing for months past with the villainous Government of this vile country…’ he wrote to his sister in 1814); but this mood did not last and he soon developed an obvious enthusiasm for collecting Chinese animals and plants, though specimens from all over Asia appear in his collection.

Chinese Natural History Drawings selected from the Reeves Collection, 1974 - Pineapple Chinese Natural History Drawings selected from the Reeves Collection, 1974 - Slow Loris

An early 19th century Sir David Attenborough, Reeves was a keen naturalist.  He took to documenting animals and plants and commissioned Chinese artists to paint them in the Western scientific tradition.

He sent living specimens of beautiful Chinese flowering plants back to England, and was responsible for the introduction of many attractive garden plants to the West, including chrysanthemums, azaleas and wisteria. His name, reevesii, was applied to nearly 30 species of animals, and a plant genus.   .

Reeves’s son, John Russell Reeves, shared his father’s enthusiasm for natural history and eventually became a well-known naturalist in China for scientists in England. On John Russell’s death in 1877, his widow presented the drawings he had inherited from his father to the British Museum’s natural history department.

Chinese Natural History Drawings selected from the Reeves Collection, 1974 - Scarlet Macaw

Twenty stunning selected drawings from the Reeves Chinese Collection, divided equally between animals and plants, made mostly on large sheets of cartridge paper, are reproduced in high quality in this beautiful volume.  John Reeves lived to see the birth of photography – which made possible the collotype reproduction used here – but it is doubtful that his artists knew about cameras.  Many of these pictures were not drawn from the subject and in some of the most delightful examples too much artistic licence has been taken.  It must have been tricky to capture a realistic likeness while the animals moved about.  In some cases the drawing is a composite of leaf, flower and fruit from three different plants grafted on to the same stem!  Similarly, the insect drawings contain an amazing amount of detail and observation, but the insects are often purely imaginary.  But it is perhaps for these reasons that these beautiful drawings both show what the actual animal looks like and provoke a response in humans.

Chinese Natural History Drawings selected from the Reeves Collection, 1974 - Pineapple and Butterflies and a Dragonfly around Morning Glory

The drawings are pleasing aesthetically and still important scientifically; almost two centuries later, they represent a real tribute to the energy of John Reeves of Canton and the skill of his artists.

[Rossella]