Category Archives: Music

Rhythm for life – towards better health and well-being

The world is more complicated than ever and life around us seems to move at an ever faster pace, statistics show that anxiety and depression have risen by a third in just over four years – it’s clear that we are facing a significant and growing problem. Discovering new ways to target these issues present great challenges, but also, opportunities. As technology continues to dominate our lives and change our behaviours, research shows there are actions we can take to tackle these issues, one of which is through drumming.

Something to consider

The roots of drumming are ancient, archaeologists have discovered evidence that people have used drums for millennia; numerous small cylindrical drums have been excavated in southern parts of Turkey and Iran dating from 3000 BC. Drumming was important then and it is now, think about your favourite song or musical composition, is there a drum beat or distinctly rhythmical element central to its structure? Some anthropologists believe that rhythms and sounds may have been a precursor to the languages we speak today and used as a form of communication.

Learning to drum and setting out on the musical journey of rhythm and pulse can be enjoyable and therapeutic, here are five reasons why you should come join the party…

1. Drum out stress and anxiety
Research shows that participating in group drumming activities boosts the body’s production of endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones. Experiencing a group drumming session can be powerful and transformative, promoting feelings of being energised and focused, it’s hard to engage with other things like your smart phone. Research also shows that participants who had blood pressure checks before and after a one hour drumming session displayed a reversal in stress producing hormones, proving that this is a powerful and transformative way to manage stress and anxiety.

2. Maximise your brain function
Your brain loves it when you drum. Music is a powerful way to engage your brain in a full neurological workout; the visual, auditory and motor cortices work hard during a group drumming session. Drumming promotes synchronous brain activity, getting both sides of the brain working together whilst improving concentration, coordination and problem solving skills. The power of drumming is especially noticeable in people living with dementia and acquired brain injury. Therapeutic Instrumental Music Performance (TIMP) programmes show transformative results in stroke survivors and their rehabilitation, and music has been proven to be a powerful means of communication for those living with dementia.

3. Boost your immune system
There is growing evidence that drumming can be linked to a reduction in pro-inflammatory immune response in the body, helping to induce the opposite effect through increasing the positive anti-inflammatory defences your body needs to stay healthy. According to cancer specialist Dr Barry Bittman (who conducted extensive research in the fields of music and neurology), group drumming has the potential to increase cells associated with killing cancer and viruses. Research conducted at The University of Tokyo showed the number of white blood cells increased significantly, the slowing down and synchronisation of breathing during the sessions improved blood flow.

4. Feel more connected
With the constant quest for super speed broadband and the latest smart phone, do we still have the capacity to make real and meaningful connections to people and places? Drumming is a great way to feel connected to others without speaking or acting, but solely through the non-verbal pulsating rhythms created in a group. Meet new people, laugh, listen, reflect and be part of creating an incredible shared experience for yourself and those around you.

5. It’s fun!
Injecting fun into your life is a serious business! People who are deprived of fun and recreational experiences are more likely to commit crimes, be less productive and have low self-esteem. Drumming is one of the most fun and rewarding things to do – why not give it a try?

Starting in January 2018 we will be holding lots of free drumming workshops in Westminster Music Library, no experience necessary! Contact us to find out more: musiclibrary@westminster.gov.uk
020 7641 6200

Ruth
Westminster Music Library

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Making music at Westminster Music Library

Make Music Day UK

It all started 35 years ago in France…

In 1982, staff at the Ministry of Culture dreamed up an idea for a new kind of musical holiday. They imagined a day where free, live music would be everywhere: street corners and parks, rooftops and gardens, store fronts and mountaintops.
And, unlike a typical music festival, anyone and everyone would be invited to join and play music, or host performances. The event would take place on the summer solstice, June 21, and would be called Fête De La Musique. In French, the name means both “festival of music” and “make music”

Amazingly enough, this dream came true. The Fête has turned into a true national holiday; France shuts down on the summer solstice and musicians take over. Almost 8% of the country (5 million people) have played an instrument or sung in public for the Fête de la Musique. Today, Make Music Day takes place in over 120 countries and 750 cities across the world.

It was about time that the UK joined the party. In 2016 I was invited to meet with a group of people representing music making across the country, our job was to organise an annual UK wide, free day of music held in public spaces, from squares to libraries, bandstands to school halls and arts centres, held on the summer solstice, 21 June. Make Music Day UK aimed to turn the country into a stage, and offer a full spectrum of performers the opportunity to display their musical skills.

Naturally Westminster Music Library would be holding some sort of event, but we just cannot do things by halves. So it was that on the hottest day of the year, 25 would-be musicians joined our “Learn to play day” to learn the basics of playing a musical instrument for the very first time. Guided by a workshop leader and professional tutors, our fledgling orchestra learnt a surprising amount in such a short time. They delighted our invited audience with a grand finale concert featuring well known classics from Handel to the The Kinks, and clearly the particpants enjoyed it just as much:

“Inspirational, a fantastic opportunity for all to learn to play an instrument and enjoy music”

With the mercury rising ever higher and our budding musicians heading for home with dreams of performing at the Albert Hall, we had a swift turn-around for an evening recital featuring a talented oboe trio – Oboi. A tremendous performance by students at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, who played repertoire from Beethoven to Mendelssohn arranged for oboe trio. They played brilliantly and even managed to look cool, we could only marvel at their professionalism. Our audience loved it:

“It was brilliant. Well arranged and an excellent opportunity to be aware that this is a fantastic Music Library and supports the enjoyment and education of music for all interested.”

And from the Director of Make Music Day UK:

“Yesterday was the first Make Music Day UK and there were nearly 140 events taking place all over the UK, from Aberdeen to Swanage, Swansea to Norwich, and everywhere in between. Thank you very much everybody for getting together on this, we certainly feel we’ve made a good start!”

Edited at add – we have a video of the event we can share with you. Hope you enjoy it:

Roll on Make Music Day 2018.

Ruth, Westminster Music Library

Forty years of change

Open doors at Westminster Music Library

Westminster Libraries is changing. Readers will be pleased to know that no libraries are closing and opening hours are not being slashed as has happened in some other parts of London and elsewhere in the country. But from April you may see fewer and different staff in your local library as a number of staff are leaving, retiring or switching libraries. Of course libraries need to change and evolve, just like any other organisation, if they are to remain relevant to people’s changing needs and to embrace technological changes.

As one of those staff who is retiring after some 40 years, I invite you to look back at some of the key changes in Westminster Libraries over that period.

Church Street Library 1969

When I started in the 1970s there were no computers in libraries. Most libraries issued books using the Browne system. Books had a pocket holding a card which gave the book’s number and author/title details. Readers were given a number of pocket tickets with their name and address details. They tendered one of these for each book borrowed and the book’s card was placed in the pocket ticket and then filed in a rack before (or behind) a date due marker. On returning a book, the racks would be searched for the matching card and the ticket returned. Returns and renewals could only be done at the library where the books were borrowed. Readers with overdue books would receive posted reminders.

St. Marylebone library book label and pocket

However in Westminster, the libraries were so busy, especially at lunchtimes, that the Browne system was too slow to cope. Instead readers were given plastic tokens which they handed over for all but the most expensive books. There was no record of who had out what books, so no overdue letters could be sent, but once a year each reader was written to and they had to produce all their tokens or pay a forfeit. This system was to last until a computerised management system was introduced from 1984.

City of Westminster tokens

The library catalogue was a large set of drawers in which were inserted 5 inch by 3 inch cards for each book – one filed by author, and one by title or class number. The catalogue would only show books at that library, and would not show whether the book was in stock or on loan. When new books were added or old books withdrawn the cards had to be manually filed or removed. By the 1970s new technology saw the introduction of a system-wide catalogue on microform, but it still could not show whether the books were in the library or on loan. This again had to wait for computer technology.

New books were selected from ‘approval collection’s or by visiting suppliers’ showrooms. Once supplied they all had to be catalogued, processed and jacketed so it might take weeks before they reached the shelves. Non-fiction books had their class numbers embossed on the spine in gold leaf.

Gramophone records at Charing Cross Library, circa 1950s

As well as books, readers could borrow gramophone records, although there were strict rules about their care. The records themselves were not on the shelves. Instead there were display racks of the cards from which borrowers made their choice and then exchanged the card for the recording – supplied in a carrying case.

Reference libraries had shelves upon shelves of atlases, dictionaries, directories, encyclopaedias and so on, often out of date even before being published. Some directories even came in loose-leaf binders so that update replacement pages could be supplied.

Periodicals room in Marylebone Library, 1940

There were no public computers, no Internet, no wi-fi , no DVDs… since none of these had yet been invented.

Computer technology has completely transformed all of this, as it has life and work elsewhere. Readers can issue and return their loans (at any of our libraries) through self-issue terminals without queuing at the counter. They can renew online at any time and keep a historical record of what they have borrowed. The catalogue can be searched online and reservations placed from home. E-mail notification lets you know when items are due back or reservations are available. New stock will appear on the catalogue when ordered in advance of publication and will be received, ready for loan, within days of publication.

Computers at Pimlico Library - gradually getting sorted

Those groaning shelves of reference books have mostly gone now, replaced by public computers to use and study space with free wi-fi access. But don’t think that there is any less information available. Far from it. With the 24/7 library your library card gives you access to a wealth of information for free on our subscription databases. Business information, the arts, family history and worldwide newspapers are among the resources available – much of it accessible from anywhere online and – as the name suggests – available 24/7, not just when the library is open.  E-books, e-audiobooks and e-magazines are also available online.

The library service has not just changed as a result of technology though. The present City of Westminster had only been formed in 1965 under the Local Government Act 1963. It was a merger of the City of Westminster and the Boroughs of St  Marylebone and Paddington each of which had had their own library service. So there was some duplication of services which have been rationalised since.

Some of the other key changes that have happened to the library service in the last 40 years include:

1974 Pimlico Library opens in Rampayne Street. opposite the tube station. The station itself had opened in 1972, a year after the Victoria Line had been extended to Brixton.

1984 Charing Cross Library starts its specialised service to the Chinese community with the appointment of a Chinese librarian.

1987 Paddington Library basement opened up as part of the public area, allowing the integration of all the reference stock and the reading room which had previously been housed in two separate buildings.

1987  Charing Cross Library is the first Westminster library to lend videos.

1995 Westminster City Archives building opened by HRH Duke of Gloucester on 2 March 1995, bringing together the archives & local studies collections from old City of Westminster, St Marylebone and Paddington boroughs for the first time.

1997 Great Smith Street Library replaced by St James’s Library in Victoria Street, next to City Hall.

1998 The Open Learning Centre at Queen’s Park opened on 1st June 1998. It became the Learning Centre in September 2009.

2000  The Government launches The People’s Network programme to link every public library in the UK to the Internet. Public access computers were installed and staff trained through the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL).

2007  Marylebone Library moved into the Council House next door.

2008 St John’s Wood Library expanded, with the basement being opened up to public use.

2010 New enlarged Church Street Library opens, with a teenage zone and learning centre. The library had operated from a former butchers shop nearby for 2 years while the building work took place, financed by £1.1m lottery money.

2010 New Pimlico Library opens in Lupus Street, joint with Pimlico Academy and Adult Education Centre. This replaced the original Pimlico Library.

2011 St James’s Library closed and a new ‘Express Library‘ opens in the vestibule of the Archives Centre.

2012 Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham libraries come under a common Triborough management arrangement.

2013 New single library management system for Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham libraries with a combined catalogue, offering access to all three boroughs stock to all members.

2013 Marylebone Library moved to temporary premises in Beaumont Street after the Town Hall was sold to the London Business School.

Of course it hasn’t all been expansion. Over the years we have also had to reduce, rationalise or say goodbye to some areas of service. Sheet Music has been concentrated at Westminster Music Library, where staff have the specialist knowledge to serve the music community. The closure of the medical library at Marylebone was seen as a casualty at the time, although digital access to medical information is now available through the 24/7 Library.  A mobile library was introduced and operated for a few years but was not replaced when due for renewal.

There have also been proposals and ideas that never got off the ground. Among these were plans in the early 1980s to close Maida Vale and Queens Park libraries and replace them with a single library in Harrow Road at the former Paddington Town Hall. Another proposal was to move Paddington Library to a floor above the Whiteleys shopping centre in Queensway.

Library book borrowing may be in decline nationally, but our users come to the library for far more than books. They may come to study, to use the computers for a variety of purposes – social media, on-line purchases, job-hunting etc. They may come for reading or writing groups, author talks, computing or English classes, careers advice sessions, and a range of health promotions. In some libraries they can now collect goods ordered online at Amazon lockers. There may be children’s under 5s sessions, homework clubs, holiday reading clubs and craft events. Libraries provide work experience training for secondary school children. Adults can feed back into the community by volunteering in our libraries.

People have predicted the end of libraries in our present digital, connected world. Well they may have changed in ways unimaginable even a generation ago but they are still a thriving, valued part of the community. Who knows what changes another generation will bring, but I expect there will still be something people call a ‘library’. It may even still contain books – the death of the printed word has been predicted but it seems to be still going strong at present. And there to help them will be someone they will refer to as a ‘librarian’ whatever their official job title may be, or indeed whether they are employed staff or a volunteer.

[Malcolm]


Read more about library history in some of Malcolm’s previous contributions to the blog:

“A very great master of music”

Works by Henry Purcell at Westminster Music Library“A very great master of music”

This was the headline grabbing news in The Post Boy for 26 November 1695 on the death of composer Henry Purcell.

Recognised as one of the greatest English composers, Purcell was universally mourned.  But we wanted to celebrate his musical achievements rather than lament his death, not only as a prolific composer but also as a lifelong resident of Westminster.

So in time honoured fashion, the Westminster Music Library team – together with a little help from some excellent musicians from The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, a bunch of our local residents and school children, Westminster City Archives, some generous support by Westminster City Council and Westminster Cultural Partnerships Team – arranged a day of workshops with a grand finale concert for family and friends. This was set to be a fun and exciting challenge for all.

But before the musicians tune up and the music gets going, who was this Purcell chap and what made him so very special?

Henry Purcell was born in Westminster in 1659 into a very musical family. His Father – Henry Senior – was a leading musician during the commonwealth and became a gentleman of the Chapel Royal.  Henry Junior attended Westminster School and was a chorister at the Chapel Royal, he wrote his first song at the age of 8 and by the time he was 20 he became organist at Westminster Abbey and continued to work there his entire life [read more].

He turned his hand to church music, instrumental music, music for the theatre, popular songs, and most notably he composed the first ever English opera, Dido and Aeneas, a story of love and destiny. And it was this very opera that we turned our attention to for our workshops. Let the show begin!

A brief summary of the plot…

Aeneas, a Trojan Prince, is shipwrecked in Carthage, where he is the guest of Dido, the Queen of Carthage. Aeneas falls in love with Dido and asks her to marry him, to which she agrees.

Meanwhile, evil witches are plotting Dido’s destruction, and devise a plan to trick Aeneas into leaving his beloved wife. The Sorceress conjures a storm to send the royal couple home from a hunting trip. On their way, an elf disguised as Mercury, the winged god, speaks to Aeneas and tells him he must leave Dido to follow his destiny and create a new Troy in Italy.

Believing it to be the will of the gods, Aeneas and his sailors prepare to leave. Dido is heartbroken at his departure, and the witches celebrate.

So boy meets girl, boy is distracted, leaves girl, girl dies of a broken heart. There’s a good deal of action involving storms, sailors, witches and hunting, and a whole Kleenex box worth of blubbing at the end. Lots of potential to get creative juices flowing for both musicians and participants.

From sailors’ hornpipes to cackling witches, crashing drums to eerie strings, everyone had their part to play. Our grand finale performances by both adults and children were incredibly polished considering what a short amount of time they’d all had to work on them. By the time we reached the sad finale there was hardly a dry eye in the house, lucky we’d thought to provide tea and biscuits…

Henry Purcell workshop with RPO musicians at Westminster Music Library, February 2017

[Ruth]

Let There Be Love

Thirty people turned up on a chilly February afternoon at Paddington Library for a St Valentine Day theme recital of Clarinet and Poetry.

I was very lucky to engage two wonderful professionals: Poet, Valerie Fry and Clarinettist, Chris Hooker who performed a number of love poems and music with a Romantic theme. Among the poems were ‘The Owl and the Pussy cat by Edward Lear and ‘To His Coy Mistress’ by Andrew Marvel.

The musical repertoire included a number of fairly modern pieces by Paul McCartney  (Yesterday), Honeysuckle Rose (Fats Waller) and I’ve Got You Under My Skin (Cole Porter).

The  audience feedback was overwhelmingly positive and many people stayed behind to talk to the performers over some refreshments

[Laurence]

 

A Blue Plaque for a Marylebone Punk Rocker

Marylebone is not lacking in blue plaques recording the former residences of the great – and not-so-great – local residents. Several examples have been the subject of previous blog posts. The official plaques were erected formally first by the London County Council / Greater London Council and are currently administered by English Heritage.

Blue plaque for Joe Strummer

English Heritage’s selection criteria include a minimum time frame of 22 years between the subject’s death and an erection of a commemorative plaque. December 2016 saw an unofficial blue plaque erected to Joe Strummer of influential punk band The Clash. Strummer died in 2002 and thus fails the formal selection criteria. Nonetheless, a ceremony was held at the Seymour Housing Co-op building (33 Daventry Street NW1, between Lisson Grove and Edgware Road). In nearby Bell Street, Malcolm McLaren and two of the Sex Pistols were also residents in this period. This is the second public commemoration to Joe Strummer in the area. The pedestrian subway linking the two halves of Edgware Road, bisected by Harrow Road, is named the Joe Strummer Subway. Fittingly above this junction and subway soars the elevated Westway, an major inspiration for the band.

Joe Strummer's entry in the ODNBJoe Strummer has also made it into the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log in with your library card). Other resources one can use for research into his life and the band’s significance in music history are the several newspaper and magazine archives which can also be accessed free online with a Westminster Libraries membership. Those readers who were around in the late 1970s will remember the moral panic that bands such as The Clash and the Sex Pistols generated and this is reflected in many newspaper articles. I found an interesting slant upon the punk rock phenomenon in an Economist article entitled More money than music in nihilism, (June 11, 1977, page 22).

Away from these contemporary reports Westminster Libraries hold a number of books relating to The Clash and the punk rock phenomenon:

Punk rock so what?by Roger SabinRedemption song: the definitive biography of Joe Strummer by Chris SalewiczJoe Strummer and the legend of the Clash by Kris Needs

[Francis]

Cuttings remarks

Westminster Music Library's newspaper cuttings collectionRegular readers of this blog may recall Hold the front page, in which I described my work sorting through and analysing Westminster Music Library’s Edwin Evans Press Cuttings Collection. At the time of writing that particular blog entry, I had made my way through approximately 20% of the collection.

Now, over a year later, the task is complete, and I am in some position to report on my findings.

My specific task has been to create an elementary catalogue of this collection, alongside recording some basic details against each person’s entry: discipline, gender, etc.

While the eventual aim of the entire project – the creation of a fully searchable digital archive of this collection – remains unchanged, this was deemed a suitable preliminary task to assess the collection’s value and potential. It seems remarkable that, for all the years that the collection has been in the Music Library’s possession, it had not been catalogued until now. The reasons for this, one may suppose, relate to its relative inaccessibility and its sheer size – both of which are motivating factors in the decision to create a digital record of this underappreciated collection!

In my initial blog post a year ago, I offered some statistics on the content of the collection which may have been of interest to those wishing to understand the shape of the classical music culture of the early 20th century.  The final breakdown of discipline and gender of subjects included in the Evans Collection is mostly unchanged from my initial report, but the most up-to-date version is summarised here for those interested:

  • A significant majority (66%) of subjects are Performers. Of these Performers,
  • 37% are singers
  • 29% are pianists
  • 17% are string players
  • 5% are conductors
  • 12% are ensembles
  • Just 2% are wind players of any sort!
  • Composers represent 26% of subjects, while “Others” come in at just 9%.
  • 57% of all entries are Male, 32% female (the remaining 11% accounts for non-individuals such as ensembles and festivals).
  • 38% of all subjects are featured in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (log in with your Westminster library card).

If you’re anything like me, a chart of percentages and statistics fills you with delight, but these data do indeed serve a useful purpose. The Evans Collection may be used to draw comparisons between historical music circles and today’s, to the interest of music fans and great benefit of historians. For example, over one-third of all performers reported on were singers, as opposed to a mere 0.2% being woodwind or brass players! (Speaking as a French horn player myself, I am grateful to report that today’s classical music culture is much more balanced in favour of wind players: trombonist Christian Lindberg, for example, or clarinettist Julian Bliss, are well-known names.)

My work with the Edwin Evans Press Cuttings Collection is, regrettably, finished for now. As previously mentioned, a digital archive of the collection is the goal, but for now, even with the publication of this catalogue, it is hoped that this will go some way in increasing the collection’s accessibility to all interested parties.

The newly-created catalogue is now available online, via the Westminster Libraries web pages – take a look.

Edwin Evans' Press Cuttings Collection online

[Jon]