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Connections: Participating in Pride Month

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.

It’s Summertime!

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 […]

An American Classic: Irving Berlin

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, […]

Ganne, Alford, Holst, and Others: Music of World War I

This April marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I. The Library of Congress is commemorating that significant anniversary with exhibits, publications, and other various activities. As part of this commemoration, the NLS Music Section was asked to provide braille music for blind visitors. While going through the collection, we […]

Celebrating Black Composers

In honor of Black History Month, this blog post will highlight materials in the music section that are written by or about African American composers. These composers wrote in many styles, including popular, Western classical, jazz, gospel, and more. Here is some music by three Black composers that we have available in our collection. Harry […]

Newest BARD Additions

Since we are on a roll talking about BARD, I thought it would be good to highlight some of the new (or newly digitized) titles that we’ve uploaded to BARD over the past few weeks. Talking Books Uncle Dave Macon (DBM03766) This is a look at “Uncle Dave” Macon (also known as “The Dixie Dewdrop) and […]

Made in America

“Children must receive musical instruction naturally as food, and with as much pleasure as they derive from a ball game.” -Leonard Bernstein Today, we celebrate the birthday of Leonard Bernstein, one of the greatest American musicians of the twentieth century. Many of us know him as the celebrated conductor of the New York Philharmonic, the […]

Musical Paintings

This blog is being submitted during one of my favorite times of year…VACATION . It is summer time and I’ve already enjoyed a beach trip to our National Seashore, Assatague Island and Chincoteague. I enjoy every vacation, but this one was loaded with the sound of waves crashing on the shore, laughing children and parents, sunny and […]

Happy Birthday Nino Rota

Although motion pictures are, for all intents and purposes, a visual art form, one can still appreciate the music from those films on their own without the movie-going experience. For this I am grateful, as, being more drawn to music than film (and having limited spare time to catch all the movies that I’d like […]

Giving Thanks for an American Composer

Hopefully, everyone has arrived or on their way “over the hills and through the woods to Grandmother’s house” by the time this blog is posted, preparing to spend time with family and friends and give thanks on this special holiday, and one of my favorites. I would like to give thanks to the idea that […]