Tag Archives: singing

Festivity

Westbourne Park Baptist Church Community choir at Paddington Library, December 2016Our calendar of festive events was enjoyed by all, even though with the timing of Christmas and the late break up of schools we had to pack a LOT into a few days of holiday!

Sadly not many pictures were taken – perhaps a stipulation by Father Christmas? But please take the reports by Westminster Music Library and, here, Paddington Library to be representative of a whole lot of fun being had across the borough.

In the middle of December, we welcomed the members of the Westbourne Park Baptist Church Community choir, who staged a nativity with Mary and the three wise men in Paddington Children’s Library. Audience participation was very much forthcoming and along with the resounding carol singing there was abundant gold, frankincense and myrrh, not to mention mince pies, biscuits and fruit juice.

Westbourne Park Baptist Church Community choir at Paddington Library, December 2016

A bit later in the month, Paddington Children’s Library hosted a busy Christmas party for the under fives, with special guest Father Christmas in what looked like a brand new suit! This was Father Christmas’ first visit to our new childrens’ library in Queensway. It has been nearly a year since we moved into the former shop and it is time to reflect on and celebrate the popularity of the Under 5s, the burgeoning homework club with our fabulous volunteers and the numerous class visits, plus the art exhibition courtesy of Lyndons Arts Trust. It has certainly been a good year. Father Christmas was suitably impressed. He was also impressed with the behaviour of the children, all of whom received well deserved presents – a cuddly toy and a book each.

Under Fives' Christmas Party at Paddington Library, December 2016

Library staff would like to thanks to the South East Bayswater Residents’ Association for its generous support of both events.

Happy New Year!

[Laurence]

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Interesting times (2)

December 2016 version of Sgt Pepper cover, by Chris Barker There’s an ancient Chinese curse or proverb: “May you live in interesting times…”

Well, there isn’t actually (it dates all the way back to the politician Austen Chamberlain in 1936) but I think we can all agree that 2016 has been… interesting!
Most of us would probably wish that 2017 is a little less so.

While Westminster Libraries can’t promise world peace or political stability, we can promise you some interesting anniversaries and the resources for interested people to carry out further research.

January

The year kicks off in January with the 75th anniversary of Desert Island Discs, which was first broadcast on 29 January 1942. It continues to this day with guests (rather tweely known as ‘castaways’) being asked to discuss the eight pieces of music they would take to a desert island. Later on, guests were allowed to choose a book and a luxury too. The first castaway was the ‘comedian, lightning club manipulator, violinist and comedy trick cyclist’, Vic Oliver. Oliver was not only a major star on the radio but also the son-in-law of Winston Churchill (something Churchill wasn’t too thrilled about, though Oliver never traded on the relationship). Though this episode doesn’t survive in the BBC archives, many hundreds of others do and  are available to listen online or download as podcasts. The earliest surviving episode has the actress Margaret Lockwood as a guest and other castaways include seven prime ministers, dozens of Oscar winners, a bunch of Olympic medallists, a few Royals and several criminals.

February

19 February brings the 300th anniversary of the birth of the actor, playwright and theatre manager David Garrick. Though he was a native of Lichfield (and former pupil of another Lichfield resident-turned-London-devotee, Samuel Johnson) by the age of 23, Garrick was acclaimed as the greatest actor on the English stage. He was a noted playwright but most famous for his Shakespearean roles – though he was not averse to ‘improving’ on the text – his adaptations included a Hamlet without the funeral of Ophelia and the need for the gravediggers, a ‘King Lear’ without the Fool and a Cordelia who lives on, an interpolated dying speech for Macbeth and a scene between the two lovers in the tomb before they die in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Be honest – who wouldn’t want to see those? He ran the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane for nearly 30 years and he is now commemorated by a theatre and a pub (with Charing Cross Library neatly sandwiched in between).

March

1717 wasn’t just a significant year in the history of ‘legitimate’ theatre. 2 March that year saw the first performance (at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)  of The Loves of Mars and Venus by John Weaver, generally regarded as the  first ballet performed in Britain. While there had been English masques and French ballets before this, Weaver was the first person to tell a story through the medium of dance without the need for songs or dialogue. Weaver was the son of the dancing master at Shrewsbury School (public school curricula must have been rather different in the 1600s).

Mrs Hester BoothIn 1703 he had staged (at Drury Lane) a performance called The Tavern Bilkers, usually regarded as the first English pantomime (he described it as “the first entertainment that appeared on the English Stage, where the Representation and Story was carried on by Dancing Action and Motion only”) but it was The Loves of Mars and Venus (the choreography of which survives) which established Weaver as the major figure in English dance until the twentieth century. Venus was played by Hester Santlow (shown dressed as a harlequin), one of the leading ballerinas of the day, who created many roles for Weaver.

April

Readers of a certain age will remember adverts for Memorex tapes (other brands are available) in which a singer shattered a glass with a high note and the trick was repeated when the tape was played back. Depending on exactly how certain your age is, you may have identified the singer as the great Ella Fitzgerald whose centenary is commemorated on 25 April 2017.

Growing up in a poor district of New York and orphaned in her early teens, Ella spent time in a reformatory but soon escaped and began to enter show business via talent competitions and amateur nights, becoming an established band singer. At the age of 21 she recorded a version of the children’s nursery rhyme A Tisket A Tasket which went on to sell over a million copies. She went on to become one of the greatest of all jazz singers, developing her own idiosyncratic style of ‘scat singing’. All through her career she fought prejudice, refusing to accept any discrimination in hotels and concert venues even when such treatment was  standard in the Southern USA.

You can listen to some of her greatest recordings via the Naxos Music Library and learn more about her career in Oxford Music Online (log in to each with your Westminster library card number).

May

May Day has long been a festival associated with dancing and celebration and more recently with political demonstrations. But 1 May 1517 has become known as Evil May Day. Tensions between native Londoners and foreigners lead one John Lincoln to persuade Dr Bell, the vicar of St Mary’s, Spitalfields to preach against incomers and to call upon “Englishmen to cherish and defend themselves, and to hurt and grieve aliens for the common weal.”. Even though the Under-Sherriff of London (none other than Sir Thomas More)  patrolled the streets, a riot broke out when they tried to arrest an apprentice for breaking the curfew. Soon afterwards, a crowd of young men began to attack foreigners and burn their houses. The rioting continued throughout May Day – fortunately, while some houses were burned down there were no fatalities. More than a thousand soldiers were needed to put down the riot. Lincoln and the other leaders were executed, but most were spared at the instigation of Cardinal Wolsey, who according to Edward Hall

‘fell on his knees and begged the king to show compassion while the prisoners themselves called out “Mercy, Mercy!” Eventually the king relented and granted them pardon. At which point they cast off their halters and “jumped for joy”.’

Sadly this was not the last outburst of anti-foreign feeling in London’s history but such incidents are thankfully rare.

June

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK RowlingA happier event took place on 30 June 1997 with the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling.  It’s hard to remember a time when we didn’t all wish we’d received our letter to Hogwarts instead of going to a boring Muggle school.

But we all know about Harry so let’s move on.

July

To 12 July and first documented ride, in 1817, of the ‘dandy horse’ or ‘running machine’ or, to you and me, a bicycle without chains or pedals. This was the first means of transport to make use of the two-wheel principle and the creator was Baron Karl Drais , perhaps the most successful inventor you’ve never heard of, and he managed an impressive 10 miles in an hour. While it looks pretty clunky by today’s standards, Drais was inspired by the Year without a Summer of 1816 when crops failed and there weren’t enough oats to feed horses.

Dandy horse

Readers of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances may remember thar Jessamy in Frederica was very proud of his skill with the ‘pedestrian curricle’. The Observer newspaper was enthralled by the invention of  ‘the velocipede or swift walker’ claiming in 1819 that, on a descent, ‘it equalled a horse at full-speed’ and suggesting that

‘on the  pavements of the Metropolis it might be impelled with great velocity, but this is forbidden. One conviction, under Mr Taylor’s Paving Act, took place on Tuesday. The individual was fined 2/-.’

When he wasn’t inventing bicycles Karl Drais was making an early typewriter, a haybox cooker and a meat grinder.

And on 27 July 1967, we note the 50th anniversary of the decriminalistion of homosexuality.  This will be celebrated with many events throughout the year such as this one at Benjamin Britten’s home and others at various National Trust properties.

August

Most of us can probably remember what we were doing on 31 August 1997 when we heard of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and she will be on many people’s minds as the 20th anniversary of this event approaches.

A slightly more auspicious event took place on 17 August 1917, when the two war poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon met at the Craiglockhart War Hospital, an event written about by Pat Barker in her novel Regeneration, as well as Stephen Macdonald’s play Not about Heroes. Owen wrote two of his most beloved poems – Dulce Et Decorum Est and Anthem for Doomed Youth while he was in hospital (he also edited The Hydra, the patients’ magazine) and was tragically killed the following year at the very end of the war. Sassoon survived the war and wrote about his hospital experiences in the autobiographical novel Sherston’s Progress. You can read more about the lives of Owen, Sassoon and the other war poets in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log in with your library card).

Wilfred Owen 

September

Another literary anniversary is upon us on 21 September, when we note the publication of one of the bestselling fantasy books of all time – The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, about a small, shy creature who becomes involved in a quest for a dragon’s hoard. It was offered first to the publisher Stanley Unwin who asked his 10 year old son Raynor to review it for him,

Bilbo Baggins was a Hobbit who lived in his Hobbit hole and never went for adventures, at last Gandalf the wizard and his Dwarves persuaded him to go. He had a very exiting (sic) time fighting goblins and wargs. At last they get to the lonely mountain; Smaug, the dragon who guards it is killed and after a terrific battle with the goblins he returned home – rich!

This book, with the help of maps, does not need any illustrations it is good and should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9.”

The Hobbit by JRR TolkienThe book was an instant success thanks to glowing newspaper reviews (The Manchester Guardian wrote ‘The quest of the dragon’s treasure  – rightfully the dwarves treasure – makes an exciting epic of travel, magical adventures, and – working up to a devastating climax, war. Not a story for pacifist children. Or is it?’) and has never been out of print. While embarking on the sequel, The Lord of the Rings, is a pretty daunting task, The Hobbit is still funny and exciting and highly recommended to that clichéd group – children of all ages.

October

The audience at Warner’s Theatre in New York on 6 October 1927 knew they were going to see an exciting new movie, but none of them could have predicted that motion pictures would never be the same again. The Jazz Singer was the first feature film with synchronised singing – no dialogue had been planned but the star, Al Jolson, couldn’t resist adlibbing on set and his ‘Wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothing yet’ (in fact, his stage catchphrase) has electrified audiences ever since.

The film was a huge hit making over $2,000,000 (having cost only $400,000) and Jolson became an international star. The movies didn’t look back and within three years, silent film was a thing of the past.

The Jazz singer posterTo be honest, seen now, the film (about a Jewish boy who defies his father to sing jazz) is slow, sentimental and creaky, and the less said about Al Jolson’s penchant for blackface the better, but it’s worth checking out his performance to see the sort of charisma that sold out Broadway theatres for 20 years.

You can also see how fan magazines reported it at the time by checking out the Lantern site – a fantastic archive of Hollywood magazines that will keep film buffs busy for days…

November

As of 2015 there were 5640 female clergy in the Church of England (with 14,820 men) and it’s predicted that women will make up 43% of the clergy by 2035. Yet the General Synod only voted to allow women priests (against fierce opposition from conservatives) on 25 November 1992. Now they are central to the life of the Church of England  and most of their opponents have been won over. Some of this can, of course, be attributed to The Vicar of Dibley with Dawn French as the eponymous lady priest, but they’re now so much part of the landscape that even Ambridge, home of the Archers has had a woman vicar.

December

3 December will be the 50th anniversary of the first heart transplant operationperformed by the South African surgeon Christian Barnard. The first patient, Lewis Washkansky, died 18 days after the operation (though he was  able to walk and talk after the transplant). The second patient to receive a heart was a baby who sadly didn’t survive the operation, but the third patient, Philip Blaiberg lived for another nineteen months. Six months later, in May 1968, the first British heart transplant took place at the National Heart Hospital in  Westmoreland Street, Marylebone. Now about 3,500 heart transplants take place each year and 50% of patients live for at least 10 years. So while none of us want one, it’s good to know they’re available.

Christiaan Barnard

You can find out more about these events and many more in our 24/7 library and of course the in the libraries themselves. Happy 2017!

[Nicky]

Deck the shelves…

Opal Flutes at Westminster Music Library, December 2016So it’s that time of year again, the tree has gone up, we’ve covered the place in tinsel, the Santa hats have been dusted off and we’re starting to get sick of certain songs already… yes, Christmas time is officially upon us.

And it wouldn’t be Christmas without us sharing the many festive musical events we’ve held in Westminster Music Library since the start of December…

Opal Flutes at Westminster Music Library, December 2016

Opening proceedings with a cracking selection of winter themed arrangements were the fabulous Opal Flutes flute choir, a bunch of keen amateur musicians of all standards and from many walks of life; as well as the standard flute we’re all familiar with, they also boast players of piccolo, alto flute and bass flute. So popular are they that they even have music specially arranged for them, Jingle Bells never sounded so good.

Staff get into the swing of the under fives' Christmas party at Westminster Music Library, December 2016

Having bid them all the very best for the festive season, it was time for the Music Library staff to take over and present the madness and mayhem that is the Under Fives Christmas Party, as ever with the help of the indispensable Georgina from Victoria Children’s Library:

Father Christmas came to the under fives' Christmas party at Westminster Music Library! December 2016“Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the Under Fives Christmas Party in the Music Library, it’s right up there with the Queen’s Speech”

And of course there was a visit from the one and only Father Christmas (we know who you are, and your secret’s safe with us…).

Our musical entertainment managed to conjure up a lot of happy faces although there were a few tears. It’s amazing how competitive parents can be when it comes to the race for getting a Christmas present for being “good all year”…

Carols with Knightsbridge Brass at Westminster Music Library, December 2016

Once Santa had departed to continue his gift distribution and we’d tidied up the tinsel, our thoughts turned to our grand finale Westminster Music Library Christmas event – a carol evening including mince pies and silly stories, and the amazing musical accompaniment of Knightsbridge Brass, a quintet of brass players from The Band of the Scots Guards.

Carols with Knightsbridge Brass at Westminster Music Library, December 2016A little different from Trooping the Colour, they were all game enough to trade in their bearskins for Santa Hats and provide exceptional musical back up for the carolling crowd – which reached a record breaking number this Christmas.

And that’s us done for this year’s Christmas celebrations in the Music Library, although we’re still eating the mince pies…

[Ruth]

From woof to tra la la la la

Mayfair Library held two heartwarming events last week.

Dodger Dog balloonOn Monday 28 November, Karen Gee read her book, ‘How I Became Dodger Dog!’, which is based on the true story of how an unwanted little Staffie puppy found his ‘forever home’.
Around 30 excited children came to Mayfair Children’s Library after school to hear Dodger’s story and to receive stickers and balloons.

The reading was warmly received by children and parents alike and was both entertaining and educational, promoting responsible dog ownership. Signed copies were available to buy, with 25% of the profits going to dog charities throughout the world.

Mayfair Community Choir at Mayfair Library, November 2016

The next day, Christmas started early when the Mayfair Community Choir performed their Welsh-themed Christmas concert. There were readings from A child’s Christmas in Wales, interspersed with verse and carols. The evening finished with wine and welsh snacks.

Mayfair Community Choir at and their 'I love my librarian' badges at Mayfair Library, November 2016The choir all wore badges proclaiming ‘I love my Librarian’ and made a rousing plea to all present to express their support for librarians in Westminster.

[Katrina]

Oh, what a beautiful partnership!

Silver SundayThe hills… no… shelves were alive with the sound of music last Saturday morning as we celebrated Silver Sunday at Westminster Music Library. For years now it has been our tradition to mark this celebration of older people with an annual sing-along, and this year was no different. Crowds of local residents braved the dreadful October rain and joined us in the Music Library to make music together and meet new people.

Our theme for this year was the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein, who brought us South Pacific, Oklahoma and The Sound of Music amongst many others. It was our great pleasure to welcome back Ruairi Glasheen, our celebrated choir leader from the Joint Force Singers project, to lead us in a workshop exploring favourite songs by this great song writing pair. Our whirlwind tour of their greatest hits included Do-Re-Mi, Climb Ev’ry Mountain, My Favourite Things, and, in defiance of the storm hammering on the windows, Oh, What A Beautiful Morning!

Ruairi Glasheen leads the Rodgers & Hammerstein singalong for Silver Sunday 2016 at Westminster Music Library

Using his extensive choir leading experience, Ruairi not only led us through the songs but helped us warm up our bodies and voices with a number of physical and vocal exercises. Our ensemble soon warmed to his charismatic leadership, and by the time we got round to learning our first song all were keen to test their newly-stretched vocal cords. Ruairi even taught the ambitious singers some harmony parts for some of the songs, and the result was fantastic. Within just an hour or so he really had us sounding like a mature choir – certainly not as if we’d all only just met!

Councillor Christabel Flight, who is not only the mastermind behind Silver Sunday but is also a keen supporter of Westminster Music Library, was guest of honour. Under her leadership, Silver Sunday has grown into a day of over 400 free events for older people all across the country. We were pleased to host just one of these events and look forward to doing the same next year!

It is always a privilege to sing with others in a group, and judging by the feedback from some of our attendees, the event was a huge success. Many commented on how nice it was to socialise with other local residents and try something new. Here at Westminster Music Library we can certainly attest to the power of music-making in building friendships, having hosted many similar events over the years.

Sir Simon Milton Foundation logo

We enjoy each one we organise and are glad to see both familiar and new faces joining in.
[Jon]

Joint Force Singers – The Movie!

Joint Force Singers - first rehearsal, September 2015It’s been well documented that singing in a choir is not only a relaxing and enjoyable activity, but also has great health benefits and promotes long lasting friendships.

Joint Force Singers, Westminster Music Library‘s twelve-month choral collaboration with Westminster’s Armed Forces, was made possible by a significant funding grant from The Armed Forces Community Covenant.

My mission when we set out was to raise awareness of the Armed Forces within our local community; I hope you’ll agree that this short film shows just how successful this has been. The integration of members recruited from the army and local community organisations has established bonds, inspired mutual appreciation, and created long lasting friendships.

It’s been an exciting year featuring a  number of high profile concerts; at Lords MCC, The Westminster Community Awards, Pimlico Proms, Armed Forces Week, The Guards Chapel at Wellington Barracks, to name but a few – you can read more about and see pictures from most of our events here on this blog.. Joint Force Singers has cemented our relationship with Westminster’s Armed Forces, brought together a fantastic bunch of people from across the community, and has built and cultivated many lasting friendships.  To quote Marylin Manson:

“Music is the strongest form of magic”

[Ruth]

A chorus (life)line

Westminster Music Library is pleased to announce the launch of our new vocal set hire service! Modelled on our hugely popular orchestral set hire service, our newly-expanded collection of vocal sets is just as impressive, and launches in the wake of our very own community choir project.

Joint Force Singers rehearsal

Joint Force Singers definitely benefited from access to our choral set collection over the duration of the project; covering as it does such a wide variety of styles, levels and genres from classical to folk, popular to jazz, there was no excuse for our Musical Director not to find something suitable for concert programmes to impress audiences.

Vocal sets available from Westminster Music LibraryVocal sets available from Westminster Music LibraryVocal sets available from Westminster Music Library

Browsing through the catalogue brings up lots of the classics like Bach’s Magnificat and Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, many of which are available in a number of different editions. More unique and sometimes obscure works by lots of the great composers can also be found; highlights include dozens of part-songs for chamber choirs by Elgar, Holst and Vaughan Williams.  But you’ll also find carols, nursery songs, madrigals, humorous songs, folk songs and pop songs all well-represented, available in multiple copies and at extremely competitive rates.

Ever thought about forming a barbershop quartet or a rock choir but don’t know where to find the music? Or perhaps you’re just stuck for ideas of what to perform next with your choir. All of our vocal sets are individually catalogued and available to browse on our catalogue:

Vocal sets available from Westminster Music Library

We have over 800 performance sets available for all sizes and styles of choir – the perfect song or larger work for your choir will be in there somewhere, and our knowledgeable library staff can offer advice and will even help you choose.

Most of us know there are lots of well documented health benefits in singing with a choir, and on top of that you’re bound to make a whole bunch of new friends. So what are you waiting for, if you’re the librarian or the choir master, or even forming a brand new choir, why not pay us a visit?

[Jon]