Category Archives: Victoria Library

Take the Grade One Challenge!

Making Music logoAre you a string player who longs to dabble in woodwind?
A pianist who wants to try playing in an ensemble?
Or a complete musical novice with time on your hands and neighbours to irritate?

Here’s your chance. Working in partnership with the BBC’s Get Creative initiative, National charity Making Music is encouraging people to try learning a new instrument or take up singing. Whether or not you have studied music before, whatever your age or background, here’s an opportunity for you to try something new.

SaxophoneTrumpet

Making Music, who work to support amateur and voluntary musicians and ensembles, will offer one-to-one support for all those who take part. Their aim is to help as many people as possible to take a Grade 1 exam by the end of 2015; they’ll even cover exam fees for students who agree to fundraise on their behalf via sponsorship from friends and family.

The aim of The Grade 1 Challenge is to make music accessible to everyone, no matter what their age or musical background, to give people a way into starting, restarting, or just getting involved with an instrument which maybe they’ve wanted to learn for a while, but haven’t had the opportunity – or perhaps haven’t felt like they could learn.

To learn a new musical instrument you need 4 key things:

  1. an instrument
  2. a teacher
  3. motivation
  4. something to play

Westminster Music Library can definitely help with all of these! We can help you find an instrument or a teacher, we have a brand new display of Grade 1 resources, including books on music theory and harmony, preparing for music exams, plus information about Making Music and The Challenge. We also have “Grade-1-a-thon” Challenge packs to give away, generously donated by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM). And last but by no means least, a whole load of Grade 1 printed music available to borrow for free.

Grade 1 Challenge display at Westminster Music Library, 2015

So, how long does it take to work up to Grade 1 standard? The answer is: however long you want to give it. You don’t have to do a certain number of lessons before you can take the exam, and a little bit of regular practice can make a lot of difference.

At the end of the year, whether or not you take the exam, you’ll have the opportunity to take part in Making Music’s Grade 1 orchestra and play a specially commissioned piece of music.

MandolinPianoGuitar

Learning a new instrument is a challenge in itself, but if you want to take it further, why not sign up to The Grade 1 Challenge? Anyone interested in participating can sign up via the Making Music website.

Discover more about The Grade 1 Challenge at Westminster Music Library, pick up a leaflet and check out our Grade 1 Challenge resources

[Ruth]

“Bless ‘em all! The long and the short and the tall!”

All ages singing together at the BBC Music Day WWII singalong at Westminster Music Library, June 2015So says the popular World War II song; and judging by the enthusiastic response, the long, short, tall, old and young were indeed feeling blessed by Westminster Music Library’s World War II sing-along.
Our event was part of the BBC’s inaugural National Music Day“a nationwide celebration of everything we love about music, with the aim of bringing people together from different generations and communities through their love of music.”

 On Friday 5 June we filled the  Library to the brim, uniting members of local community group Open Age along with troops of children from St Barnabas CE primary school for a morning of singing, celebrating the finest of the Second World War’s musical legacy.

While the struggles of wartime were very hard for soldier and civilian alike, our selection of songs served to communicate the positive qualities brought to light through the conflict: hope, in We’ll meet again; love of country, in There’ll always be an England; and bravery, in The white cliffs of Dover. Comradeship, too, of soldiers all-too-wary of their Sergeants and Corporals, is wonderfully represented in our ironic opening number, Bless ‘em all, whose composer, Fred Godfrey, assuredly informs us, “… furthermore, it wasn’t ‘Bless.’”

BBC Music Day WWII singalong at Westminster Music Library, June 2015

For our guests from Open Age, these songs were gateways into memories of growing up post-war, and for some, even during wartime. “Very nostalgic,” commented one visitor, although another justly observed, “I think it could get emotional for some people here.” Indeed, nostalgia can often rose-tint our recollections; for some the hardships of wartime are still very real memories.

For those of us young enough to have no such memories, the musical legacy of this time is a unique look into the past, and certainly our year six pupils from St Barnabas valued these as such – “A week ago these songs were completely unknown to the class,” commented their teacher.

Ruth leading the singing at the BBC Music Day WWII singalong at Westminster Music Library, June 2015We were grateful to the children for their hard work in rehearsing the songs to sing with us, and thrilled to hear that they’d even given a ‘preview’ performance to the rest of the school in their morning assembly before coming here.

Their earnest singing boosted our ranks, and was especially appreciated during the final number – Roll out the barrel – when it became apparent to many of us in the audience that we couldn’t encourage our vocal chords to hit the high notes!

One person who has no such singing woes, though, is Ruth Walters, who masterfully led us through the entire programme, accompanied by Anthony on piano. As well as being full-time staff, they are accomplished and experienced musicians, along with the three other members of the Music Library team: Miriam, Andrew and Jon. The high standard of performance is often commented on at events such as this one and we are grateful to our staff for using their musical talents so effectively.

Some of the Westminster Music Library team

We were also joined by Sam, a reporter working for Westminster Council, whose interviews and photo-calls really excited the children. A group photo taken at the end of the school children and staff serves as a lovely reminder of an exciting morning.

Children and WML staff at the BBC Music Day WWII singalong event, June 2015

After refreshments and much chatting, our guests left us, and we set to work opening up the Library to the public for another day. We enjoyed having people of all ages and backgrounds for our sing-along, and, in the words of Vera Lynn, here’s hoping “we’ll meet again some sunny day.”

[Jon]

Kind of blue

Königsblue at Westminster Music Library, May 2015: Timea Gazdag (soprano) and Dasol Lee (piano)

Take one soprano with “sensitive communication, particularly in pieces with a lyrical tone”, and a pianist, an active soloist whose playing has been described as being “sensitive and musical” and having “beautiful tone”, and it would seem at the outset that these two talented musicians have a fair bit in common. Both students at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, it wasn’t long before they discovered how much they enjoyed making music together, so much so that it seemed rather a good idea to form a duo, and so Königsblue was born. But why ‘Königsblue’?

Königsblue at Westminster Music Library, May 2015: Timea GazdagSoprano Timea Gazdag explains:

“It’s really a ‘bluo’. I come from Hungary, a strange place where everyone is sad. I now live in the UK, where no-one would tell you if they are”.

Königsblue at Westminster Music Library, May 2015: Timea GazdagOh dear, was Königsblue’s recital at Westminster Music Library for the good folks of our community going to be an evening filled with melancholy tunes, wringing of hands and weeping? She goes on to say:

“I am an art song person, cabaret music, folk music, country music”.

Scanning through the Google I found a review of their début concert in April 2014, it seems to have had an enthusiastic audience and was described as “fun” – maybe my fears were groundless? Indeed they were.

Opening the recital with a selection from Robert Schumann’s song cycles ‘Liederalbum für die Jugend (Album of songs for the Young)’, and ‘Myrthen’, it was clear that even though some of these songs have rather unhappy themes, our two musicians were keen to show Schumann’s lighter side, selecting songs which depicted the countryside and Spring from the first cycle, and from Myrthen – which the composer dedicated to his wife Clara – songs full of images of bridal flowers and love.

We were then treated to a polished solo piano performance by Dasol Lee of ‘8 Valses poéticos’, a collection of romantic waltzes by the twentieth Century Spanish composer Enrique Granados. Technically challenging, the music was perfect for this warm, spring evening, bringing to mind as it does flamboyant Spanish dancers:

With Timea’s performance of Pamina’s aria ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’ from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute (a classic tale of “he doesn’t love me any more” when everybody knows he’s potty about her), and a selection from Hugo Wolf’s song cycle Möricke-Lieder, the concert all too quickly drew to a close.

So was this recital full of doom and gloom, unrequited love, sadness and anguish? Was our audience awash with tears?  Judging by the smiles on everyone’s faces, I think not…

“An excellent performance, I was delighted to see the power of music – there should be no barriers to great music – abounds”

“Very enjoyable, remarkable up-coming artists”

“A really beautiful recital, looking forward to more concerts in the Library”

 [Ruth]

Tonight at the Music Library: the London Mandolin Ensemble! More details on the Events at Westminster Music Library page.

Bustling Spring Health and Volunteering Fair at Victoria Library

On Wednesday 20 May, Victoria Library was host to a bustling Spring Health and Volunteering Fair.

Dr Bike making a bike road safe at the Victoria Health & Volunteering fair, May 2015   Checking blood pressure at the Victoria Health & Volunteering fair, May 2015

WAES showing us how to prepare healthy snacks at the Victoria Health & Volunteering fair, May 2015More than 100 people came by throughout the afternoon to indulge in free massages, learn about mindfulness and get their health checked.  There were also plenty of opportunities to investigate some of the many volunteering options available.

General bustle at the Victoria Health & Volunteering fair, May 2015

[Nick]

Free Comic Book Day in Westminster Libraries!

Free Comic Book Day 2015Celebrate and discover the amazing world of comics on Free Comic Book Day!
Taking place annually on the first Saturday in May, Free Comic Book Day is a single day when participating comic book specialist shops around the world give away comic books – and this year, for this first time, we are very pleased to have some free comics from Forbidden Planet to give away.

Participating libraries will have a poster advertising they are taking part. It’s first come, first served, so if you are an avid comic fan, visit one of the participating libraries – Charing Cross, Church Street, Maida Vale, Marylebone, Mayfair, Paddington, Pimlico, Queen’s Park, St John’s Wood or Victoria – on Saturday 2 May to pick up your special free copy.

Free Comic Book Day 2015 - DC Comics: DivergenceWhat are we giving away?
DC Comics: Divergence

A first look at upcoming storylines, featuring three 8-page previews for the June releases of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, as well as Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok’s launch of the “Darkseid War” within Justice League featuring the biggest villains in the DCU – Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor, and Gene Luen Yang’s DC Comics debut with celebrated artist John Romita, Jr on Superman.
Rating: Teen

Why not join the library and check out the graphic novel collection at the same time? All of Westminster’s lending libraries have a comics section which is constantly being renewed and added to, so visit your local library and see what’s in stock.  Marylebone Library, being the home of the Graphic Novel Club [read more], joins Pimlico and Victoria libraries in having the largest selection of titles.

If there’s something in particular you’re looking for, check the catalogue in advance to find out where it’s in stock. We have lots of Marvel comics, the DC 52 reboot titles, Robert Kirkman’s ‘Invincible’ and reprints of classics such as Ex Machina and manga titles Naruto and Dragonball…  to name but a few!

[Rachel and Nick]

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!