“Wave Goodbye” – Conservatoire Library Stories Part 5

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

Today we continue with the history of the library

1970s onwards

One of the first discussions that took place when the Birmingham School of Music became part of the then-Birmingham Polytechnic, was the facilities and borrowing arrangements in the new Paradise Circus location. Sue Clegg was the first music Librarian appointed in the new library, and she quickly organised the stock properly for the first time – filling in the gaps where there were omissions, cataloguing the collection so that it could be searched, and forging links with the Birmingham Central Library, Birmingham University Music Library, and the CBSO.

£1000 was given to the library for purchase of TV and video equipment, and the library was also instructed to make provision for the growing interest in the study of electronic music. In 1978 Sue Clegg also appealed for more money to cover growing binding costs, as well purchase of cassettes, and new vocal and orchestral sets.

In 1981, the library finally got a security system to stop stock loss – this included Tattletape and security gates. Recommendations were also made this year to expand the library, as in the years since the move to Paradise Circus, the space had already been outgrown and had been considered insufficient by the CNAA who validated the degree courses. The library was extended in 1983.

MU retro 5

MU retro 6

In the Centenary souvenir programme (1986), then Librarian Stella Thebridge wrote:

The library today would amaze not only those students of 50 or 100 years ago, but also those who studied here only 20 years ago. Those who would have been pleased to trace a piece of music in a card catalogue will find computerised catalogues giving details of holdings not only of this library but of 50 others round the country. The student who would have welcomed the opportunity to hear a record in the library can now switch from an opera on video, via a traditional cassette or record to the pure strains of a compact disc. History is constantly around us at the School of Music library. Music does not date, and it is thrilling to open a piece and find a signature flourished by Granville Bantock, a dedication by Liszt or Holst or a performance direction noted by Harold Gray to be passed on to the CBSO

MU retro 1

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.

Subscribe using the link on the right to receive regular news and stories from Library and Learning Resources.

“Wave Goodbye” – Conservatoire Library Stories Part 4

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

Today we continue with the history of the library.

1950s onwards

The library continued to grow, with plenty of donations and purchases over the years, as well as some disputes over the ownership of various valuable works discovered in the basement!

In 1955, the Committee was asked for advice on the running of the gramophone section of the Library at Margaret Street, particularly recommendations for purchasing new records. After investigation it was found that the Margaret Street librarian was doing a very efficient job already, and the library was already moving to purchase better-quality LP records. It was considered whether the gramophone library should merge with the music library, but for practical reasons this idea was postponed. In 1957, this decision was questioned by the new Principal, who thought the library at Margaret Street would benefit music students. As well as recommending that music students be able to use Margaret Street library, which they would later be allowed to do, he also wanted to transfer some of the stock to the music library and enlarge the space to accommodate both this and a new reading room. Books that were transferred between the two buildings were labelled as such and interfiled. In 1958 four very rare orchestral works were discovered at Margaret Street, bound into one volume and miscatalogued. They were separated and sold on, after the Birmingham Public Library scanned them and retained the negatives for their collection.

In 1956, it was reported that many of the orchestral works, now dating back to the 1920s, were beginning to disintegrate. A method of heatsealing the works was investigated, but a final decision was made to purchase plastic folders instead. Also agreed for purchase that year was a specialist gramophone record player, which was to be installed by a technical expert at a cost of £100!

The 1960s began with a change to the Margaret Street arrangements. Rather than individual students paying £1/year to use the library, the Birmingham School of Music (BSM) payed an annual subscription of 10 guineas. The Principal, Gordon Clinton, also wrote a paper on the future of the relationship between the BSM and the Birmingham Midland Institute (BMI) where it was housed asserting that the music library should merge with the BMI library, as long as the School Librarian remain in control of the music.

Big changes happened in the early 1960s, with the BSM gaining independence from the BMI in 1963. It was housed in temporary premises from 1965, however the offer made from the LEA for the library was not considered adequate. Instead, the BMI loaned textbooks and orchestral items to the BSM, pending a revised offer. The situation was poor for music students, who were unable to borrow from the BMI library, and therefore struggled to access the parts they required. Negotiations continued, and concerns were raised that whilst certain items were in storage, they were beginning to deteriorate. A few years after the split, the BSM purchased the library, minus some of the valuable works, for £2500 and this was moved to Dale End in 1966.

In 1970, the BSM became part of Birmingham Polytechnic, although it retained its Conservatoire status.

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.

Subscribe using the link on the right to receive regular news and stories from Library and Learning Resources.

“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.

Subscribe using the link on the right to receive regular news and stories from Library and Learning Resources.

^Laura

“Wave Goodbye” – Conservatoire Library Stories Part 2

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

We were sent an extract from a piece written by Dane Preece for Birmingham Conservatoire’s Fanfare magazine in 1984, which describes the transition from working at a university department to Library Assistant at the then-Birmingham School of Music (BSM):

“One day, whilst still a stranger to my new BSM surroundings back in the Autumn Term of 1981, I was joined in the canteen by a sympathetic yet sprightly female student (a singer, as it turned out). Our conversation began in much the same way most conversations do when you meet someone for the first time, during which I happened to mention that I had just finished reading music at university. Inspired by this remark, she told me that she had just come out of a class in which Mr Daw had been discussing the merits (or otherwise) of various editions, and in which he had told them that Schirmer was a ‘good’ one. She then said, “his opinion would soon change of he saw my Schirmer edition of the Brahms songs”. When I asked why, she replied with considerable agitation, “Why? Because all the pages are falling out!”.

I was too stunned to laugh. I remember thinking at the time: I know I was warned before I came that there would be a change of emphasis away from ‘things academic’ at music colleges, but nobody ever warned me that the change would be so painful! I have been able to laugh at the incident many times since after I came to realise that the incident was no true reflection of the academic standards upheld by the BSM staff. But it did demonstrate to me fairly early on that there were indeed going to be changes of emphasis at the School of Music which I was going to have to adjust to.

When I joined the BSM library staff in 1982, after my post-graduate year was up, I expected to have to submit to yet more changes and adjustments; happily, however, these were few, the greatest problem being the invitations I’ve had from a handful of members of staff to address them by their Christian names. Believe me, it is by no means easy to treat one’s former tutors and examiners as, in effect, colleagues – however, if past experience is anything to go by, it may just require the passage of time for me to succeed in making that rather awkward readjustment!”

Conservatoire Library in the 1980s

Conservatoire Library in the 1980s

Our thanks to John Smith for sending us this extract.

Subscribe using the link on the right to receive regular news and stories from Library and Learning Resources.

^Laura

“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.

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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.

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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.”

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Robert Allan, Music Librarian 1992-2008

Subscribe using the link on the right to receive regular news and stories from Library and Learning Resources.

^Laura