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Saved by the Braille

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The following is a guest blog by Gilbert Busch, Braille Music Specialist in the Music Section.


We braille music readers, knowing that many scores will never be in braille, are sometimes surprised when a work we need has already been transcribed. This is just what happened to me a few months ago.

It was Wednesday evening choir practice at Bush Hill Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Virginia. We were working on Cantique de Racine by Gabriel Fauré. Rick Mumford, our director, had emailed the text to me and my wife Lisa so we could read it on our BrailleNotes (small computers with braille displays). And since we had never heard the music, we went to choir rehearsal and recorded our voice parts with a small portable recorder so that we could listen and then learn the parts later.

The next evening, however, I discovered that something had gone wrong and only part of the Cantique had been recorded. Lisa let me hear her recording, but of course it was sopranos front and center, drowning out the basses, which was the part I needed to learn. What could I do?

That Friday afternoon I was pondering this situation, recalling Rick’s surprise that I’d never heard this “very familiar anthem.” Familiar? So could Cantique be in the NLS music collection? I checked, and within minutes had downloaded the digital file, brailled by Statens Bibliotek og Trykkeri for Blinde, København, in Denmark. There were texts in French and English, all 4 choral parts, plus piano accompaniment. All I had to do was insert the braille music of the bass part into my brailled version of the Sunday bulletin (which had already been emailed to us and then transcribed by me). On Sunday morning I read the part as the choir performed this anthem at Offertory.

“Well,” Rick commented when I told him what happened, “Please give my thanks to your supervisor for purchasing that music.” And I offer this blog as a reminder that, although I work in the Music Section, I still remain a truly grateful (and occasionally surprised) NLS patron.

Finally, for anyone interested in this particular musical work, it is available embossed or electronically at BRM28404 where it can be downloaded from BARD (the Braille and Audio Reading Download service of NLS).


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