Category Archives: Victoria Library

Any other duties as required…

French hornI’m sure we’re all familiar with that line at the end of a job description, but if you’re part of the team in Westminster Music Library, you play a musical instrument and have often wondered what it would be like to perform in front of a live audience it can take on a whole new meaning.

Once I discovered that Jon – our Saturday Assistant – was an excellent French horn player, and not only that, had a group of friends who were similarly blessed, it was only a matter of time before he found himself “volunteering” to perform for the good folks of Westminster with his quartet. For anyone unfamiliar with the French horn, it’s a brass instrument with a mellow tone, consisting of a long, spiral tube ending in a flaring bell, three valves, and a funnel-shaped mouthpiece, and if you unwound it, that spiral tube would be more than 20 feet long.

Our four musicians clearly share a passion for this complicated and versatile instrument. It’s considered to be one of the most difficult instruments to play, and for good reason. It can play practically every note without pressing a single key, lends itself to many different styles of music and can fill so many parts. In an orchestra this beautiful instrument can be heard playing along with anything from a clarinet to a tuba.

The Jon Frank Horn Quartet  at Westminster Music Library, March 2015

Although the catalogue of original works for horn quartet is not extensive, there are a fair number of arrangements of well known works, and it was from a selection of this repertoire that Jon and his quartet performed for our audience in Westminster Music Library. And isn’t it great that each and every piece of music he chose for their recital came from our very own Music Library shelves?

The Jon Frank Horn Quartet  at Westminster Music Library, March 2015

The concert covered arrangements of Mozart’s overture to his opera The magic flute, selections from Bizet’s Carmen, and some lively jazz in the shape of two songs by Gershwin – s’Wonderful and I got Rhythm. As the concert drew to a close, it was clear that our quartet were not going to be allowed to leave with any haste. Our appreciative audience not only demanded an encore, but also held them captive while they fired questions at them about the French horn, its history, their favourite works for this illustrious instrument, and just how difficult it was to play.

All four musicians demonstrated so clearly the art of successful ensemble playing, this was a thoroughly enjoyable concert given by a group of versatile and committed musicians. Have a listen to their encore in this clip:

If you don’t know what this piece is, you’ll just have to visit The Music Library on Saturday and ask Jon….

[Ruth]

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….

[Ruth]

 

 

“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?

[Ruth]

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.”

 

[Ruth] 

 

 

 

 

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…

[Ruth]

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!

[Ruth]