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Introduction

We have over 100,000 pieces of manuscript music, 1.6 million items of printed music and about 2 million music recordings! This blog is written by our team of music curators and features news and information about the British Library's rich collections of music and sound recordings. Read more

12 January 2017

Music Collections acquires Boosey & Hawkes archive

Boosey and Hawkes previous storageThe Boosey & Hawkes Archive in storage before transfer to the British Library

The recent post on the Library’s acquisition of the album of Vincent Novello, father of the publishing house, provides a useful reminder to announce the acquisition in the past year of another collection relating to British music publishing: the archive of Boosey and Hawkes. This is undoubtedly one of the most important music acquisitions in recent years, and in terms of size, it is certainly the largest. Comprising many hundreds of boxes of documents relating to the business of the firm for about a hundred years up to around 1980, it is of enormous research value, charting, as it does, the rich role that Boosey and Hawkes played in the musical life of the nation during that period; and of course the company is thriving and still very much in business today.

The modern company was formed in 1930 when the two founder firms merged: one had been established at the end of the 18th century as a lending library by John Boosey, before moving into publishing popular operas as they became fashionable in the mid-nineteenth century. William Henry Hawkes, on the other hand, was a military musician who set out to provide editions of woodwind and brass music in the second half of the 19th century. The new firm therefore came to cater for all musical tastes, producing editions of light music, popular songs, music for brass and military bands, dance orchestras, as well as publishing the works of some of the greatest classical composers of the 20th century. Today no other British music publisher has a greater international standing.

During the 20th century Boosey & Hawkes were pioneering in their support of contemporary music. They had a keen eye for identifying composers whom we now recognise to be amongst the greatest of the time: Bartók, Richard Strauss, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Martinů and Copland, for example, as well as the major British composers Elgar, Delius, Vaughan Williams, Britten and Maxwell Davies.

Though most of the autograph scores of the major composers do not form part of the archive, the archive contains documentation relating to just about every other aspect of the publication process and the promotion of the composers and their works. The correspondence between publisher and composer, for example, when considered side by side with the annotated proofs of the editions, shows how compositions reached their final form in print. So there are about 50 Stravinsky proofs and about 250 letters. In addition, there are about 100 letters from Benjamin Britten, whose works the company published until the mid ’60s. Other papers in the archive relate to performance, copyright, royalties, contracts and other legal matters.

None of this material has been publicly accessible to researchers before, so it is of enormous interest and importance. The archive is currently being arranged and catalogued and we look forward to making it available in our reading rooms as soon as we are able. Meanwhile, Helen Wallace’s Boosey & Hawkes: the publishing story (London, 2007) gives a flavour of what treasures and excitement to expect.

Boosey and Hawkes new storage British Library

The Boosey & Hawkes Archive in its new location at the British Library

Richard Chesser

Head of Music

06 January 2017

Lew Stone and his Thirties Sound

1 - MS Mus. 1746-3-4, f. 18 croppedTrumpet part for Lew Stone’s arrangement of ‘Sam, you made the pants too long’. British Library MS Mus. 1746/3/4, f. 18

In London’s 1930s high life, only the smartest entertainment and only the freshest music would do – and these are what the new Monseigneur restaurant, opened in 1931 at 215 Piccadilly, promised its clientele.  Lew Stone (1898-1969), having already made a name for himself as a craftsman of snappy arrangements, was originally pianist and arranger for the band in residence – he can be seen at his duties here â€“ but found himself in charge when its leader Roy Fox fell ill.  The music Stone then brought to the Monseigneur’s dance-floor made the band so popular that, by mutual agreement, he was given the job permanently.  At the helm of a band ranked among the best in London, he made recordings with Decca and radio broadcasts on the BBC, and became a household name in Britain, his musical career lasting until his death in 1969.

Lew Stone’s widow Joyce, who promoted her husband’s legacy energetically, presented many of his original manuscript scores to the British Library for its music collections.  The Lew Stone collection (British Library: MS Mus. 1746) is now in the process of being catalogued and includes not only full scores from throughout his career but individual instrument parts actually used when the band performed.  Some bear the scribbled names of band-members well-known in their own right, such as Nat Gonella (trumpeter), Don Barrigo (saxophonist) or Tiny Winters (bassist).

2 - MS Mus. 1746-3-1, f.14 croppedWell-used parts for Lew Stone’s signature tune: a ‘fanfare if wanted’ followed by a few bars each of ‘Oh! Susannah’ and ‘Goodbye Blues’. MS Mus. 1746/3/1, f. 14

Many of the parts are scrawled over with cues and prompts: ‘Close in to ‘Mike’’, ‘Have Plunger Ready’ and ‘Remind Lew’ of how many bars to omit during broadcasts, or pencil drawings of spectacles to attract attention and avert disaster.  In some places the manuscripts are scorched, as if the musicians had perched lit cigarettes on their music.  Then there are the doodles: signs of missed vocations in the band?

3 - MS Mus. 1746-3-2, f.21 croppedDoodle, possibly by Nat Gonella, on the score of ‘The Three Trees’, of three trees and a geometric dog. MS Mus. 1746/3/2, f. 21

  4 - MS Mus. 1746-3-11, f. 11 croppedMeticulous annotation of the band-leader’s face. MS Mus. 1746/3/11, f. 11

In addition to arrangements of popular melodies, romantic numbers or nonsensical melodramas sung by members of the band, several sets of scores are Lew Stone’s original compositions.  One tune, ‘Whispering Waters’, was composed by Joyce and arranged by her husband (clarinets to play ‘liquidly’).  There are some initial drafts and sketches for songs and collaborations with lyricists, and also incidental music composed for the 1940 film ‘Under your Hat’ (directed by Maurice Elvey).  And throughout the collection Lew Stone’s own adjustments and re-adjustments appear on the scores, the proof of how finely he tuned a sound that once livened up dance-floors and the airwaves all over the country.

5 - MS Mus. 1746-3-40, f. 3 cropped Incidental music for the film ‘Under your Hat’ (1940). MS Mus. 1746/3/40, f. 3

6 - MS Mus. 1746-3-35, f. 10v cropped

The1st Alto Saxophone part of ‘Whispering Waters’, Joyce Stone’s tune, arranged by her husband (1940). MS Mus. 1746/3/35, f. 3v

 

Dominic Newman

Music Manuscript and Archival Cataloguer

The British Library always attempts to identify copyright holders in order to give proper acknowledgement when reproducing their material. Please email music-collections@bl.uk if you believe you hold rights connected with any of the content included in this article.

21 December 2016

It's pantomime time!

Come Santa Claus!

The children wait for thee.

Now's the season of the year,

Held by children very dear.

Santa Claus,

Now at your call,

Comes to gladden one and all.

Horace Lennard's lyrics for the opening number of the 'fairy pantomime' Santa Claus, staged at London's Lyceum Theatre from December 1894, are quaintly (or perhaps cloyingly, depending on your taste) late Victorian. Oscar Bennett's music perhaps even more so.

Oscar Barrett Santa Claus coverSelected numbers from Oscar Barrett’s 'fairy pantomime' Santa Claus (Metzler & Co., 1895). British Library F.688.(3.), title-page

I found myself looking at it recently having recently visited the British Library's Victorian Entertainments: There will be fun exhibition (open until March 2017). A connection formed between pantomime (represented in the exhibition particularly by Dan Leno, music hall star and famous Victorian pantomime dame), and a large collection of manuscript music from the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane (where Leno regularly appeared).

Amongst that collection, now here at the British Library, are six boxes of music for the Santa Claus pantomime. Although the music that came from the Drury Lane theatre isn’t necessarily all from productions there, it includes a lot of material associated with the composer and theatrical producer Oscar Barrett (1847-1941). Barrett worked at the theatre as musical director for some time in the 1880s, but soon mounted rival pantomimes at the Lyceum. 

Through the 1870s, the productions of Sir Augustus Harris (both senior and junior), began a trend in pantomime towards scenic spectacle, rowdy audience participation, and star turns by music hall performers of the day such as Dan Leno and Marie Lloyd (who would often bring their own songs and routines with them). Under Barrett, the music at least seems to have become more tightly controlled and 'tasteful' (a term that crops up in a lot of the newspaper reports of these performances).

Barrett had a critical hit in 1893-4 with Cinderella, his first production at the Lyceum, which was seen by some as returning to earlier models of pantomime. Interestingly, this in turns seems to have influenced subsequent productions at Drury Lane. (Jeffrey Richards, The Golden Age of Pantomime, 2010, details the various rival productions, their mutual influences, and context in broader changing fashions for pantomime through the 19th century.)

1894-5 was the season for Santa Claus. The plot mixed Maid Marion, Robin Hood, the story of the Babes in the Wood, a dog called Tatters (a collie specifically, played by a Mr Charles Lauri), Queen Mab, and Santa Claus himself. The Bury & Norwich Post, 22 January 1895, tells us that William Rignold, who played him, was "admirably cheery" and delivered his speeches suitably "ore rotundo". Musically, it looks as though it was a similar hotchpotch, albeit one with a noticeable tendency towards certain ‘respectable’ styles (a kind of Arthur Sullivan-lite operetta one in particular). 

MS Mus 1716-65-1-sample-partSample orchestral part from MS Mus. 1716/65/1, orchestral packet 3

The manuscripts from the archive are fascinating for many reasons, but especially as testaments to a pragmatic and ephemeral world of music making – and a glimpse at the characters of the pit musicians themselves. (The most I could find about them was a brief mention of the "competent orchestra" in the Globe, 27 December 1894.)

Parts were clearly reused across different pantomimes, with various passages sometimes cut, sometimes reinstated; there are pieces of printed music by other composers (Mendelssohn at one point) that have been inserted and similarly reshaped as required.

There are also several doodles. The viola player in 'no.50 D', for example, has written 'sausage roll' and then a cryptic musical cipher!

Orchestral part for Queen of the Night MS Mus 1716-65-1Viola part for the song ‘Queen of the Night’, MS Mus. 1716/65/1,

The euphonium player for 'no.18' fancies himself a latter day van Dyck, and references the popular music hall song of the time "Where did you get that hat?"

Euphonium part Mus 1716-65-1 orchestral packet 2Euphonium part, MS Mus 1716/65/1, orchestral packet 2 

And then there is one of the second violins in 'no.21', who has left us a pencil sketch of some kind of bird. (I'd like to think it might be a turkey, but a colleague suggested it could be a goose in a bonnet ... !)

Second violin part MS Mus 1716-65-orchestral packet 2Second violin part part, MS Mus 1716/65/1, orchestral packet 2 

The ephemeral nature of this music and the kinds of productions it was used for has often left us with a sketchy and selective record of music for pantomime (and theatre productions more generally). In some cases this may not matter, but the insight into life and working practices that the surviving sources provide is fascinating. A case in point is a letter from Oscar Barrett detailing his vision for the choreography for a particular dance. A telling amendment to the score doubles the number of dancing robins for that scene from 12 to 24.

Chris Scobie - Rare Books & Music Reference Service

Notes on resources:

  • Newspaper content in this article was found via The British Newspaper Archive - also subscription based, but freely available in the British Library Reading Rooms
  • The Lord Chamberlain's Plays  contain scripts (although not music) for plays submitted to the Lord Chamberlain for licensing between 1824 and 1968 
  • A useful overview of 19th century pantomime can be found in Jeffrey Richards, The Golden Age of Pantomime: slapstick, subversion and spectacle in Victorian England, (London, 2010). British Library YC.2015.a.3620. ; and a collection of critical essays on the subject in Jim Davis (ed.), Victorian Pantomime, (Basingstoke, 2010). YC.2012.a.4426.