“Wave Goodbye” – Conservatoire Library Stories Part 1

The Birmingham Conservatoire Library closes its doors for the last time on Friday 9th June 2017.

Robert Allan, Music Librarian between 1992 and 2008, remembers the grand opening of the refurbished library in 2006.

“The Conservatoire Library has been in the present location since 1994, but it was only in 2006 that it became possible to transform it by adding an extra floor, giving extra seating, shelving, staff space, and enhanced listening facilities. For this to happen the library had to close completely over that summer vacation, and barely re-opened in time for the autumn term. It was then discovered that quite a number of crates of music books had gone missing, which only turned up some weeks later, to the relief of the library staff! By the following spring it was time to have an official opening of the refurbished library.


Jeffrey Skidmore unveils the new plaque

Jeffrey Skidmore, founder and music director of Ex Cathedra, was invited to unveil a plaque to this effect at lunchtime on the 19th April 2007. (The same shiny plaque still stands adjacent to the library entrance/exit.)  Many notable musicians and staff were invited to attend the opening, with food and drink provided, and there were speeches by the Director of Library Services at the time, Judith Andrews, and by Jeffrey himself (emphasising the importance of music libraries). Funding had been made available to commission an original fanfare for this occasion. I consulted Joe Cutler, Head of Composition, and he suggested BMus student Samuel Bordoli to write it. He agreed to compose the fanfare for three trumpets, and soon let me hear at least an approximation of it via computer.


Music students perform a special fanfare

The performance on the day was, of course, by three Conservatoire students, and I felt that the piece, performed on the new upper level to the guests below, was highly effective. It is gratifying to add that Samuel Bordoli was not only singled out to be introduced to Pierre Boulez on his visit to the Conservatoire, but he has gone on to become one of the most successful composers of his generation, for example with a piece performed at a concert in Windsor Castle celebrating H.M. The Queen’s 90th birthday in 2016.

Who would have thought, though, that the Conservatoire Library would continue as a separate entity for a mere ten years beyond that occasion?  Even so, I myself will continue to make regular use of these extensive music resources in their new location.”


Robert Allan, Music Librarian 1992-2008

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