Tag Archives: Old Pye Street

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]

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Takeover Day at the Archives

On Friday 20 November the City of Westminster Archives Centre, Maida Vale Library and St John’s Wood Library participated in the Kids in Museums‘ national initiative ‘Takeover Day’. This initiative aims to give young people the opportunity to participate in a work environment, assisting staff and volunteers in their work and contributing to the life of an organisation.

In the final of three posts today about #takeoverday we find out how the day went at Westminster City Archives:

At Westminster Archives we welcomed students from St Matthew’s CE Primary School, hoping to give them a flavour of future employment, a sense of achievement and a fresh perspective on the Archives Centre’s role within the community.

Our pupils worked at different stations throughout the day, allowing them to fully appreciate the variety of roles at in our establishment. At the reception desk pupils spoke with our readers and spent time assisting our Archives Assistant Michelle in rejuvenating our children’s book display. Assessing our book stock encouraged children to think creatively about ways of drawing readers into our building. Ishmael especially enjoyed working at reception; he “enjoyed welcoming the public and talking to them.”

Takeover Day at Westminster City Archives, November 2015: Children's display

Donning their lab coats our young workers had the chance to be conservators for part of their day. Georgia taught pupils about the special paste used to repair paper. Working in this significant role really appealed to our students, with Hanifa especially pleased at being able to “make a paste that would fix torn paper with the right material.”

Takeover Day at Westminster City Archives, November 2015

Acting as ‘History Detectives’ St Matthew’s School also spent time in our search room discovering the resources we have available to the public. Pupils looked at historic maps, photographs and learned how to use our microfilm readers; vital tools for any building and family historians. Looking at historic photographs of Old Pye Street gave our students the chance to see how the area local to their school has changed.

Kyode especially enjoyed learning about our resources and the microfilm reader;

“The ‘History Detectives’ job was the best. We got to use the microfilm and we looked at pictures (most of them from Old Pye Street) and on the map we found our school”

Pupils had the chance to demonstrate their knowledge to our volunteer Jelena, Cllr Tim Mitchell and the Deputy Lord Mayor in our closing ceremony.

Takeover Day at Westminster City Archives, November 2015: with the Deputy Lord Mayor

Staff and volunteers at Westminster Archives were really pleased to be able to work alongside the pupils of St Matthew’s CE Primary School for the day, demonstrating to them the varied and interesting roles of our employment. The positive feedback from staff and pupils alike highlighted the fun-filled day had by all! We were pleased to hear similar comments from those taking part in the day at Maida Vale Library and St John’s Wood Library and hope to participate in next year’s event.

Takeover Day 2015“This experience at the Archives centre has been amazing […]. Learning all these amazing jobs has inspired me to do something similar when I grow up, overall I love working in the Archives.”
-Esther

[Kimberley]