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…


The Big Friendly Read

To celebrate 100 years of one of the world’s favourite storytellers, Roald Dahl, libraries are running The Big Friendly Read this summer holidays.

Rachel from Tiny Tunes entertaining the under fives at Marylebone libraryThe Summer Reading Challenge 2016 will feature some of Roald Dahl’s best-loved characters and the amazing artwork of his principal illustrator, Sir Quentin Blake. It will encourage reading on a BFG scale!
Aimed at primary school aged children, the Big Friendly Read is happening at libraries across Westminster all summer.

To take part in the Challenge, all children need to do is sign up at their nearest library. It’s free! They’ll receive a special collector’s folder and as they borrow and read at least six library books over the summer, they can collect six special cards to complete it. The cards all feature original Quentin Blake illustrations and explore some of most popular themes in Roald Dahl’s books such as invention, mischief and friendship. Plus there are other rewards to collect along the way.

Big Friendly Read - the Summer Reading Challenge 2016

There’s a whole programme of events and activities planned in Westminster libraries for families over the summer to celebrate the Summer Reading Challenge. Have a look at what’s on at your local library.

Here are a few pictures of what’s been going on this week:

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Teddy Bear Diplomacy at Paddington Children’s Library

Paddington Bear visits Paddington Library, November 2014. Photos courtesy of Gavin Conlon Photography Ltd.Paddington Library receives visitors from all over the world. They come to use the library’s wide range of services, often revisiting on subsequent trips to London. The library also receives visits from overseas librarians and educationalists who have heard about our community outreach, our Summer Reading Challenge, our homework club and how we engage with young people.

Last Friday we had a very special guest in the form of Paddington Bear, all the way from Darkest Peru. We promised to look after him well, and he brought two friends with him…

His Excellency the Peruvian Ambassador to the UK, Mr. Julio Muñoz-Deacon (accompanied by his wife and Embassy officials) and his Excellency the British Ambassador to Peru, Mr Anwar Choudhury visited together to read a Paddington Bear story to the Under 5’s song and rhyme group.

As you can see from the photos Paddington Bear thoroughly enjoyed his visit and the children were delighted with our special guest.

Pictures courtesy of Gavin Conlon Photography Ltd.

We’re all going on a Summer Reading Challenge!

Westminster Music Library hates to miss out on the annual Summer Reading Challenge, so a sunny morning with the under 5s was a good opportunity for us to join in the fun.

Summer Reading Challenge event at Westminster Music Library, July 2014

This year’s Mythical Maze theme challenges children to make their way around a labyrinth full of fantastical creatures from the world of legend and mythology. Our young participants and their intrigued “minders” made their way to the labyrinth that is Westminster Music Library, into a world full of fantastical creatures also known as “the Music Library staff”. Hopefully this will put paid to the rumours that we are the things of myth and legend (although it’s fair to say that our House Pianist has recently become a bit of legend himself, check out his recent musical escapades in Woolwich with the BBC…)

But even legends have to earn their keep, and entertaining a lively bunch of excited children counts as “all in a days’ work” to the staff in Westminster Music Library. Anyone wishing to join our ranks please take note.

Dragon - copyright Sarah McIntyre for The Reading Agency

Back to our challenge. Once everyone was settled, it was time to give out some song sheets and get the party started. We had songs about going on summer holidays (written by Cliff Richard), songs about being beside the seaside (written by John A Glover-Kind), poems about frogs and sailors (product of the overactive imaginations of Music Library staff), all accompanied by our very own junior orchestra on a selection of percussion instruments, and sourced from the seemingly inexhaustible Children’s Library Cupboard.

The challenge was to get our participants to come up with as many strange or mythical creatures as they thought might be living in the sea: scary giant squid with their long tentacles, or those weird looking things that lurk about in the murky depths with torches on their heads. Once everyone had invented their mythical marine creature, we had a suitably apt poem about learning to swim:

Mermaid - copyright Sarah McIntyre for The Reading Agency


Last summer I could not swim at all
I couldn’t even float,
I had to use a rubber ring
Or hang on to a boat;

I had to sit beside the sea
When everybody swam;
But now this summer’s come at last
I’ve learnt and now I can!


A head count of the swimmers and non-swimmers amongst us was about fifty-fifty; let’s hope our mythical sea creatures haven’t put the non-swimmers off…

Happy Summer Reading Challenge!

Mythical Maze - the Summer Reading Challenge 2014


Scrubs up nicely!

Charing Cross Library was closed for almost the whole of last month for a full redecoration, reopening last Monday 31 March.

Charing Cross Library after redecoration, April 2014

Our refurb has given us a fresh new look, with improved lighting and additional shelving, more laptop spaces (with more power points), an increase in seating, a much needed bigger space for the children’s library and display furniture for the front window.

We had a wonderful Under 5s session this week, showing off our new space with new carpets and some new toys – the reaction of the children and their parents & carers was very positive.

The lovely new children's area in Charing Cross Library, April 2014

Do come in and have a look around!


A visit from “Saint” Nick

Westminster Music Library's christmas party for children, 2013

It’s become something of a tradition in Westminster Music Library; the staff spend all year looking serious and learned, behaving in a restrained and “librarian like” manner, until sometime in late November somebody utters those immortal words: “Shall we give the Under 5s a Christmas party again this year?” Oh yes we will, and before our house pianist groans loudly and reaches for the diary to book some annual leave, we’re knee deep in Christmas music, party hats, Santa suits and many accompanying bells and whistles. 

So it was that last Wednesday morning a large bunch of excited children and their even more excited parents gathered in Westminster Music Library in anticipation of fun, mayhem and general chaos. House pianist suitably installed (bah humbug) we were off to a flying start with a hearty rendition of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Sufficiently warmed up and getting ever louder, the tension built to fever pitch as we awaited a visit from the Big Man himself, none other than Santa Claus. Several verses (and choruses) of Jingle Bells but no sign of him, oh dear… could he have got stuck up a chimney? Or half way round the M25? Or was it something to do with a missing cushion, aka Santa’s stomach? Finally, after yet more Jingle Bells, there he was, booted, bearded and (fat) suited in all his glory, and brandishing a large sack of presents to give to our patient audience. There was something for everyone, presents galore and everyone looked happy, well nearly everyone… pulling Santa’s beard does not a happy Santa make, and removing the fairy from the top of the Christmas tree to check whether she’s edible is really not a good idea.

Presents liberally distributed (amazingly every child had been good); Santa went on his merry way, or more likely off to sit quietly in a darkened room. Despite his departure there was still time for us to belt out Walking in a Winter Wonderland; We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and Frosty the Snowman.


Behind the lines – local children get to know Ravel

Behind The Lines Early Years Workshop 07.12.13Last Saturday, Westminster Music Library played host to more exciting and successful Behind the Lines* workshops for Early Years and Primary Age children.  Led by the talented musicians of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, 27 lively children from 2 year olds to 10 year olds took part in the workshop based on the music of Maurice Ravel; a Romantic, French composer who was particularly influenced by early composers such as François Couperin.

After a few fun games to wake up our bodies and an introduction to the cello, violin, flute and trumpet, the children in the Early Years workshop started creating music to represent animals of the jungle; elephants, monkeys, and there were even some worms!  Some of the children may even have a future career in conducting as they took on the role as music leader, instructing everyone what to play and on which instruments!

The children in the Primary Age workshop were extra enthusiastic and excited about the wide range of interesting instruments which included a marimba, African drums, and lots of other percussion – some even brought their own instrument.  As an older group, the children were able to discuss composers and different genres of music, looking at different types of scores taken from the Music Library shelves. 

They were then introduced to Ravel’s Fugue from Le Tombeau de Couperin, excellently demonstrated by the RPO musicians.  This piece is a six movement piano suite written between 1914 and 1917, each movement in the style of a Baroque movement.  Ravel then orchestrated the suite in 1919 and dedicated each movement to a friend who had died in WW1.  Taking the theme from the second movement ‘Fugue’, the children then set off to creating variations on Ravel’s music, splitting into groups of keyboard and percussive instruments.  At the end of the session there was a show-stopping performance, with excellent solos from some of the children, singing from the whole group, and lots of fun had by all!

Behind The Lines Primary Age Workshop 07.12.13

Many of the children in the workshops on Saturday demonstrated their skills, talent, and knowledge of music, which was very impressive to see and hear; from improvising to knowledge of composers, to describing different styles of music.  These workshops are an excellent opportunity for children and adults to explore, exhibit, and develop their knowledge of music further, as well as learning about the musical output of some great composers of the 20th Century as a result of World War I.

There are lots more workshops to come, check out our website: to find out more.

Behind the Lines: The music and composers of the First World War*Behind the Lines is a year-long programme of participatory events run by Westminster Music Library in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, to encourage local communities from across Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea to engage with the Library and its collections. The programme uses the centenary of the First World War as inspiration for a series of interactive workshops and creative projects designed for adult, family and school participants.


Our younger musicians take centre stage…

Still basking in the glow from the success of our first Behind the Lines* workshop for adults two weeks ago, last Saturday Westminster Music Library held the next workshops in the series, this time for our younger musicians and their families. With expert guidance from the musicians of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the two workshops; one for 2-5 year olds (Early Years) and one for 5-11 year olds (Primary Years) ran very smoothly, with over 35 excited, well-behaved children and their parents. 

Behind the Lines Early Years workshop at Westminster Music Library, 19 October 2013

The musical focus featured English composer Edward Elgar. After an introduction to the bassoon, cello, violin, and some fun, energetic, musical games, the Early Years group picked out some instruments to play and chose an animal to be represented by their instrument. We had a whole zoo in the library; from bats to hamsters, mice to lions. 

In the Primary Years workshop, many of our talented young musicians had already started learning to play an instrument, so naturally they brought them along to add to our “orchestra”.  But for those without, there was no shortage of fun and interesting instruments to play, from cuckoo whistles to African “djembe” drums.  

Behind the Lines Primary Years workshop at Westminster Music Library, 19 October 2013

Everyone played together as one group in the final performance, a brilliant end to a fun packed morning.

It was very encouraging to see how many children got involved in the music, showed their interest with questions and knowledge with answers, and most importantly thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The great thing about workshops in the Music Library is being able to pull real scores off the shelf – Simon Baggs (our Elgar expert) talked about Elgar’s opinion of and influences from Wagner, one of our young participants noticed they were sitting right next to some Wagner scores and asked “is this his work?” The score was taken from the shelf so we could look at and hear the extract Simon was talking about. 

To read a fuller report on these workshops, watch a video and find out about when the next ones will be held, check out the Behind the Lines website.


Behind the Lines: The music and composers of the First World War*Behind the lines is a year-long programme of participatory events run by Westminster Music Library in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, to encourage local communities from across Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea to engage with the Library and its collections. The programme uses the centenary of the First World War as inspiration for a series of interactive workshops and creative projects designed for adult, family and school participants.