“Wave Goodbye” – Conservatoire Library Stories Part 3

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

Early history

The original School of Music was founded as part of the Birmingham and Midland Institute (BMI) in 1859.

BMI (C) commons.wikimedia.org

BMI (C) commons.wikimedia.org

The library was borne out of a growing collection of items that had been offered as donations, beginning with a book gifted by publishers Mahillon & Co entitled Composers’ Vade Mecum in 1886. Along with a collection of donated music, the library was officially formed in 1891 when the School of Music Committee decided to begin the purchase of orchestral works and hire out the parts at 10% cost to Orchestral Class students. Some of the donated works had parts missing, and cost the School a whopping £4 to replace!

Alfred Creswell became the first Honorary Librarian of the Orchestral Class in 1896, a post which granted free admission to the class. A voluntary Sub-Librarian was appointed in 1899 under the same conditions. The Orchestral Class was disbanded and reformed as the Students’ Orchestra in 1900, and it was decided to appoint a “competent librarian” for £1 a week.

A large amount of music continued to be donated to the library over the coming years, including a substantial number of key orchestral works from the Principal of the BMI, Granville Bantock. The library grew sufficiently to be granted a dedicated space, and Room 19 in the School was considered suitable. The fixtures and fittings amounted to £21, a considerable cost in 1905!

At this time, a new Librarian was appointed for 10/- a week, working evenings. In 1908 Bantock decided to appoint a new Librarian, Howard Orsmond Anderton, who would also act as his assistant. It was reported that he had a “high-handed manner and irritability with the students”, and he resigned in 1912. Throughout these years, the Honorary Librarian position remained filled and this person took responsibility for collecting and cataloguing donated and purchased items.

In 1923, the Birmingham Library approached the School of Music as they were hoping to set up their own music collection. Bantock served as the chairman of the committee, and advised that duplicate copies of chamber works could be donated, as well as 25 vocal scores.

In 1947, the following extract was published in the School’s Fanfare magazine:

“The Music Library contains all kinds of music for instruments, voices, chamber groups, string and symphony orchestras. Those who are making a serious study of music can hardly afford to neglect the opportunity of systematically reading through this enormous collection not only to improve their standard of reading but also to build up a thorough knowledge of the repertoire of classical and modern music which for economic reasons is not practicable in any other way.”

We think this message still holds true today!

Our history of the Conservatoire Library continues in two weeks.

Our thanks to John Smith who provided the above information via extracts from the School of Music Committee notes and Fanfare Magazine.

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