Recently on June 9th-10th, I had the pleasure to present some treasures at the recent “Pride in the Library: LGBTQ+ Voices in the Library of Congress Collections” exhibit. This was in the Jefferson Building and there was great interest in what was on display. The attendance record (2,365 visitors over three days) illustrates the level of interest in the exhibit. One of the strongest impressions was the immense loss of creative forces our nation suffered due to the AIDS epidemic, and the history of persecution.
In my immediate vicinity, I was thrilled to stand by an original manuscript of Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland, String Quartet No. 1, op. 25 by Benjamin Britten, and The Hermit Songs by Samuel Barber. The connection between these three treasures is they are the results of commissions for the Library of Congress by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, supporter of twentieth-century composers. Can you imagine life without Appalachian Spring? I don’t even want to think about it. And having Britten’s beautiful manuscript of his string quartet brought home to me how important penmanship and copyists are; there is nothing as beautiful as a pristine, clear manuscript.
And the best connection for me was showing visitors the original score of the first song from Samuel Barber’s The Hermit Songs, then showing them the braille music version NLS Music Section has available for our patrons (BRM 17836.) When I pointed out the table of contents in the braille score, comments ranged from “Wow!” to “Awesome!” So happy to help our visitors make that connection. And the connection went deeper; I informed them that Mrs. Coolidge had commissioned Samuel Barber to compose these songs, and his favorite singer Leontyne Price premiered it with the composer at the piano! This happened in the Coolidge auditorium on the first floor of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.
My final encounter brought my experience at the exhibit to a satisfying conclusion. A young lady came by, stopped to look at both print and braille scores, but seemed keen on the braille example. I informed her she could touch it, and she told me that she used to know braille. When I asked her where she had learned it, she told me “my best friend in the 5th grade was blind and she taught me.” That is a beautiful connection.
Now that the hockey season is officially over, there is only one major sport that is capturing the nation’s attention: baseball! I find that baseball is synonymous with summer, as it’s been played in the summer months for generations. I’m sure I’m not alone recalling warm summer evenings spent gathered around the radio listening to […]
Recently, I read Willie Nelson’s autobiography “It’s a Long Story.” Willie and his sister Bobbie were raised by their paternal grandparents who were avid amateur musicians. From when they were very young, the Nelson children spent much of their time making music together and singing gospel songs at their church. Willie still cherishes those times […]
On May 13, I was baking cookies and listening to the Met Broadcast of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. One of the announcers explained that this production would take place not in the 18th century, but in 1911, the year it was composed (also the year that Mahler died, I thought to myself). And that’s when it […]
For this week’s blog, the staff of the Music Section decided it would be a good idea to update our readers on some of our newly added titles from Bill Brown. These books are not on BARD. However, they are all available on digital cartridge. If you see something that interests you, please get in touch […]
On Saturday, May 6, 2017, I had the pleasure to present some braille music scores and talk about the NLS Music program to many people in a short amount of time. They were all very happy and streaming by the Main Reading Room desk in the Jefferson building at a very rapid pace. However, they […]
We’ve discussed show-tunes, Broadway, and the Great American Songbook on the blog before, but we have yet to talk about perhaps one of the most influential composers of American standards: Irving Berlin, who happens to celebrate his 129th birthday today. Along with penning a few Broadway scores, including the score for Annie Get Your Gun, […]
Everybody knows someone who gets a lot of mileage out of limited knowledge. People with this talent sound like experts and can dominate conversation at a gathering for 10-15 minutes until they have to leave to “refresh their drink” or to “catch up with a friend.” Well, I am here to offer you a chance […]
This is a continuation of my survey of songs recently added to the LOC’s National Recording Registry, indicating where they may be found in the NLS music collection. (Note that Over the Rainbow was covered in last week’s blog.) Puttin’ on the Ritz Harry Richmond’s 1929 recording of this Irving Berlin song was added to […]
Every year, 25 recordings are added to the LOC’s National Recording registry, recordings that are considered “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” The purpose of this blog is not to list all 25 of them, but to highlight those where the song is part of the NLS Music collection. Most of these items may be downloaded […]