Category Archives: Victoria Library

Happy National Libraries Day!

National Libraries DayToday, 7 February is National Libraries Day – are you coming to the library today? We’d love to see you.

If you haven’t been to the library for a while, pick your nearest one and come and find out what we have to offer. This Saturday in Westminster Libraries you can find:

These are just the special events this Saturday – we have literally hundreds of other events going on every day of the week across our network of libraries. Keep an eye on the Forthcoming events page for one-off events and at the regular events section of your own library’s events page for regular activities.

Or just come in and have a look at our wide range of books for both adults and children, use the library computers, ask a question, borrow a DVD or CD, find out about local history at the Archives Centre, use our amazing special collections or use the study space we offer.

Regular library users – or even lapsed ones – will enjoy the Twitter-based quiz we’ve got going on this morning. We’re posting pictures of details, features or aspects of many Westminster libraries and asking you to work out which one it is – take a look at #HowWellDoYouKnowYourLibrary? on Twitter to have a go. We’ll also be posting the pictures on here and Facebook later on.

If you can’t get to the library today, have a look at our brilliant online resources – you can download e-books, e-magazines and e-audiobooks for free, and use the Guardian newspaper archives, Naxos Music Library and KOMPASS business directory (and much MUCH more) from home too.

And if you can’t get to the library at all because you are disabled or caring for someone at home, don’t forget that we have a Home Library Service for you.

There are loads of reasons to love libraries this National Libraries Day. Come and find out why!

A meeting of musical minds

Digital piano for customer use - at Westminster Music LibrarySome years ago, a talented cello student (who also happened to be studying for a degree in philosophy) became a member of Westminster Libraries and began borrowing books and scores from what was then ‘The Central Music Library’.

After several years of playing chamber music with various ensembles in London (and a change of name on our part) he started publishing his own arrangements for string ensembles. Would Westminster Music Library like to have some for the collection? You bet we would, particularly as popular classics arranged for string quartet (crowd pleasing works by Mozart, Schubert, Elgar, Joplin and the like) go down very well at weddings, christenings, bar mitzvahs and anywhere else a string quartet might be called upon to perform.

Fast forward to 2012, when someone who had studied piano at the Kaliningrad College of Music in Russia (qualifying as a teacher and performer and also teaching at The Shostakovich Music School) and had gone on to study law in Moscow, just happened to be ‘passing by’ Westminster Music Library. Having not played piano for twenty years she was delighted to discover that not only did we have a keyboard, she could use it for free, and we also had rather a lot of piano music.

The rest, as they say, is history. Nicolas noticed Liliya who was practicing piano in the library, they chatted, swapped details and before you know it, they are duet-ting together on a regular basis. Nicolas is now a full-time arranger and publishes under the name Galloway Music, and Liliya specialises in teaching music to young children as well as performing with chamber music groups.

Nicolas Cherniavsky (cello) and Liliya Guzheva (piano) at Westminster Music Library, January 2015

And our story doesn’t end there; in 2014 they asked us if we would be interested in them holding a recital in the Music Library, the programme to comprise music arranged for cello and piano by Nicolas himself. How could we refuse?

A few months later, a packed Westminster Music Library was treated to an evening of music spanning Henry Purcell to Scott Joplin, played by two brilliant musicians who (we like to take the credit here) would probably never have met had it not been for a chance meeting in the library.

“Let me thank you and your colleagues for giving us the opportunity to play our concert. The library has significantly changed my life. I started practicing there, I met Nicolas, we started playing duets and we have since performed in several concerts together. Thanks a lot!”
Liliya Guzheva

It definitely beats Facebook….




“The King” and I…

… a celebration of the 80th anniversary of the birth of Elvis Presley.

The ‘King’ of millions of hearts all over the world and rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis Aaron Presley (born: Tupelo, Mississippi, 8 January 1935) defined an era.

Presley in a Sun Records promotional photograph, 1954He was the man of the showbiz industry in his time, with the unearthly ability to deliver hit song after hit song to the obvious delight of his fans. The man who from his humble beginnings from the farmlands of Memphis, Tennessee ended up making the whole world dance to his tunes, whose killer looks made many go weak at the knees, a man who made rock ‘n’ roll what it is today and will always be remembered as a true superstar.

He rose from poverty to fame in the mid 1950s, attracting large audiences – particularly teenage girls – at concerts everywhere he went. Elvis was young and attractive, had a great voice, and his sound and style were totally unique. His musical style was a combination of black rhythm & blues, country, blues, pop music of the time, and gospel. Nicknamed “Elvis the pelvis” for his swivelling dance moves, some parents and church goers considered him vulgar, and a dangerous influence to teenagers.

Acting had been his dream for many years, and in 1956 he realised his ambition with the film “Love me tender”. Between 1956 and 1961 he was recording, giving live concerts, and making films (with the exception of his time in the army) and achieved international fame.

Other films from this early period include “Jailhouse rock” and “King Creole”, and soon after returning from the army in 1961 he abandoned singing to live audiences and turned exclusively to film making.

Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock
In the 1960s Elvis was acting in one film after another (films like “Blue Hawaii” and “Viva Las Vegas”), but he became dissatisfied with his acting career and stopped making films in 1969, returning instead to live concerts.

From 1970 until his death in 1977, Elvis toured in concerts across the USA, an estimated total of over 1,000 performances. He made history with these elaborate shows, his costumes (most often jumpsuits) breaking box office records.

Elvis died unexpectedly in 1977 from a heart attack, prescription drug abuse indicated as a cause. He has sold over 1 billion albums worldwide, has over 100 gold / platinum awards for his singles and albums within the USA, he is by far one of the most popular artists of all time, and his records and films continue to sell well today.

This is just a glimpse of The ‘King’, there is far more to know about this legend and there are many books about him to choose from at Westminster Music Library; from reference guides, discographies, to biographies. You can listen to Elvis on numerous CDs in stock in libraries too.

And the King lives on – the number of Elvis Presley impersonators has reached an all-time record high – there are now at least 85,000 Elvises around the world, compared to only 170 in 1977 when he died. At this rate of growth, experts predict that by 2019 Elvis impersonators will make up a third of the world population! Why not release your “inner Elvis” and borrow one of our Elvis Presley scores?


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.”







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…


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!



Stepping into Vaughan Williams’ shoes

Behind the Lines: The music and composers of the First World WarJust when you thought Westminster Music Library’s Behind the Lines programme* was drawing to a close, along comes another workshop, featuring the First World War music of Ralph Vaughan Williams.

This was a specially commissioned adult music workshop for members of Open Age, an organisation with whom Westminster Music Library has forged a fond and fruitful relationship in recent years.

Thanks to generous funding from the Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust, we were able to re-enlist musicians from The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to facilitate a workshop, focusing on the life and music of Vaughan Williams during The Great War, a composer who holds a special place in our hearts as he opened the library to the public in 1948.

This was also to be a morning of ceremony as we were joined by two distinguished guests – Lt. Cdr Tony Pringle and Honorary Alderman Frances Blois – the former to present to the City of Westminster a copy of the magnificent reference guide – Stepping Forward” – a tribute to the Volunteer Military Reservists and Supporting Auxiliaries of Greater London 1908 – 2014, compiled by The Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Association for Greater London. The book was first published in 2008 as a simple guide to Titles and Battle Honours of the Territorial Army in Greater London since 1908. This new and revised edition now includes all Reserve unit links with the London Boroughs (including Westminster) and contains historical listings of Reserve Forces Centres and the locations of memorials to the fallen.

Open Age workshop on Vaughan Williams, November 2014

But back to the music… the focus was first on A Pastoral Symphony. Contemplative in nature, it’s a meditation on a lost generation as well as a celebration of the return of peace; the work embodies a hope that the nation might be healed and made whole again.  This symphony is the third of nine symphonies he wrote, and was composed between 1916 and 1921.  It reflects Vaughan Williams’ experiences in France as a wagon orderly during WW1, not the common misconception that it reflected the English countryside.  The final movement of this symphony includes a wordless soprano line, which the group learnt as the first interactive group activity.  In performance, this is often sung by the soprano from a distance to create a sense of space and emptiness, adding a ghostly lament to the music that depicts the tragedy of the war.  The first half of the session also included an in-depth discussion about the composer and his music.

Following a break we moved on to look at Dona Nobis Pacem – a cantata written at a time when the country was slowly awakening to the possibility of a second European conflict.

Premiered in 1936 and with its dramatic settings of Latin liturgical text and Walt Whitman’s poetry, its emphasis is on reconciliation. Dona Nobis Pacem was performed at countless festivals and concerts in the years leading up to the Second World War.

Open Age workshop on Vaughan Williams, November 2014

Given its connections with both World Wars it reminds us that war inevitably brings misery and loss. Vaughan Williams, like everyone else, was a member of his community, and while he was ready to warn his countrymen of the horrors that might lie ahead, he had no hesitation in playing his part in both of the Great Wars once they had started.

Following an interesting discussion between the musicians and participants, the whole group performed their version of two sections of the cantata:  Agnus Dei – a fervent cry for peace, and Dirge for Two Veterans – a mother, portrayed by the moon, watches over the funeral march for her son and husband, who were killed together, symbolic of all families’ losses in lives cut short from one generation to the next.

Presentation of the book 'Stepping Forward' - Open Age workshop on Vaughan Williams, November 2014

Time was rapidly running out on our workshop and there was still an important presentation to be made. On behalf of the Reserve Forces and Cadets’ Association for Greater London, Lt Cdr Tony Pringle presented Honorary Alderman Frances Blois with “Stepping Forward”, in memory of all those men and women from the City of Westminster who gave their lives in the Great War 1914-1918. A fitting finale to our workshop, and one which I suspect RVW would have approved.


* Between September 2013 and August 2014, to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, Westminster Music Library teamed up with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for a programme of workshops focusing on composers who lived through and were influenced by the conflict.

Funded by Arts Council England, Behind the Lines featured interactive and creative workshops for adults, families and primary and secondary school children and concluded with an inter-generational Summer School and final performance at St John’s Smith Square. Using the resources and collections of Westminster Music Library and the expertise of its staff, the workshops were facilitated by a team of musicians from the RPO.