IAML (UK & Irl) conference 2016 – part 2

Here is part two of my write up of the recent IAML (UK & Irl) conference. For part one click here. I will just quickly mention the two fantastic visits to Royal Northern College of Music and Manchester Central Library and its Henry Watson Music Library. I really enjoyed both visits, especially the recital by two RNCM tutors including a truly astounding Delius violin sonata (manuscript held in the RNCM Library). If you’re in Manchester, definitely visit the magnificent Central library – it was stunning! And teeming with people which was great. The music library was a dynamic place, with people practicing (out loud!) on the electric pianos. They also have a cool little performance space where there are open jamming sessions in term time.


Credit: ‘Manchester Central Library, March 2010’ by Ricardo (Wikipedia CC BY 2.0).

  • Heather Roberts (RNCM Archivist) – ‘What makes you special: Archives and outreach’

Heather started off with the quip: ‘uniqueness and authenticity are currency’, meaning people are interested in unique and authentic content, i.e. archives and special collections. She talked about supply and demand in regard to their collaborative efforts with e.g. Digital Women’s Archive North (DWAN). RNCM had the supply of archive material and DWAN had the demand and provided a platform to promote their collection. ‘Stories’ was another buzz word and Heather talked about collaborators being the gateway between your stories and the wider community. Her top tips were: think about stories in your collections not just music, and to be open to other people wanting to use your collections for various reasons (not just musical ones!).


  • Caroline Boyd (Copyright Hub) – ‘Developments in Copyright’

The Copyright Hub is a new organisation jointly funded by the government and industry that aims to make copyright workable in the digital age by seamlessly linking people who want to use copyrighted material with the rights holders. She talked mainly about their browser plug in that uses rights holders’ metadata to connect users with copyright information and license options for the media/information. She said anyone can upload their metadata and make copyright content available in this way.

  • Stewart Parson – ‘Get it loud in libraries’

Stewart formerly of Lancashire Libraries started Get it loud in libraries when he was made redundant from his library job. The idea is to utilize libraries’ spaces for programmes, workshops and gigs. Their target audience is young people in Lancashire and they bring pop artists off the beaten track to rural areas for gigs. Responding to a question about whether their gigs boost library use/participation from this age group, he didn’t have any evidence for this but said the gigs generate good buzz and publicity for the library. An unrelated example of this from the conference was the weekly term time jamming sessions run by music student volunteers at the Henry Watson Music Library, which apparently are very successful.

Who was Mr Frobisher?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that digging around old documents can result in 1) deteriorating vision, 2) discovering lost Vivaldi manuscripts or, in my case, 3) finding interesting stories and getting a bit dusty.  A scrapbook I’ve been listing during my voluntary work with the West Yorkshire Archive Service has proven interesting material and piqued my scholarly curiosity.  You can read more about the particular item here, but I want to write today about a person whose name is emblazoned on many of the concert programmes and posters I have listed, yet remained elusive…

Who was Mr Frobisher?  Poster after poster lists his name, a silent reference to his musical skill and dedicated service:

‘Conductor, Mr. Frobisher’

‘Organ, Mr. Frobisher’

‘Leader and Conductor, Mr. Frobisher’

‘Mr. Frobisher will preside at the piano’

I began to wonder who exactly was this Mr. Frobisher?  Why did he crop up again and again?  And just exactly how many times did the poor man have to play Handel’s Messiah?

Joseph H. Frobisher was the organist of Halifax Parish Church, 1838-1862.[1]  I have attempted to trace him further, however it appears there was an entire Frobisher clan in the West Riding in the nineteenth century!  I would propose that the most likely candidate is one Joseph Henry Frabisher (a not insurmountable variation of the surname), christened 26 December 1813 in Halifax, son of Richard and Elizabeth Frabisher.[2] Since he must have been at least 20 years old upon taking up the church organist post, a christening date around 1818 makes sense.

He first turns up in the Halifax scrapbook at a benefit concert in 1834 and appears regularly thereafter in concert with various local choral societies and other groups.[3]  He gave two concerts in 1844 and 1845, not as a soloist but more as an organizer/conductor, judging from the programme for the second ‘dress concert’.  This included three orchestral overtures (Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 1, 1st movement served as an overture) and instrumental and vocal solo music by, among others, Charles de Beriot, Shield, Mozart and Weber.  From the scrapbook, it seems that Frobisher led a portfolio-style career that may have been typical of a professional musician in provincial, nineteenth-century Yorkshire, though I will defer to my Victorian musicologist colleagues on this point.  Still Frobisher’s ‘steady job’ was at Halifax Parish Church, and he obviously was actively picking up freelance accompanying work with the various local choral societies, and occasionally staging a concert of his own.

An interesting performance practice point is the seemingly interchangeable use of the terms ‘leader’ and ‘conductor’ in the concert programmes.  Conductors, in the modern sense (directing the choir or orchestra from the front with a baton), did not emerge until the 1830s.  Previously the performers were led by the first violinist (now termed leader or concertmaster) or from the keyboard.[4]  It would seem that the usage we see here indicates that Mr. Frobisher led from the keyboard.  However based on the speed with which provincial Yorkshire performed newly composed repertoire, he may also have taken to the new trend of conducting from the front.[5]

Finally, in case you were wondering, the Messiah count stands at: 15.  The period covered by the scrapbook when Frobisher was active, 1834-1869, means that he was involved in a Messiah performance about every two years, usually around Christmas.

Some other Frobisher oratorio performance tallies for lagniappe (Louisiana term meaning something extra):

Other Handel oratorios = 44

Haydn The Creation = 12

Hadyn The Seasons = 7

Mendelssohn St. Paul = 10

Mendelssohn Elijah = 4

N.B. I’m no statistician, so my tally numbers are approximate and do not always indicate a performance of the complete work. If a work was part of a ‘mash-up’ concert (i.e. a concert combining songs from many works usually Handel oratorios) the entire programme was counted just once.

[1] Nicholas Temperley, ‘Chetham, John’,  Oxford Music OnlineOxford University Press <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/05544&gt; [28 Jun 2013].

[2] ‘Joseph Henry Frabisher, 26 Dec 1813’ in ‘England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975’, FamilySearch <https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/J3K9-WP5&gt; [28 Jun 2013].  University of Huddersfield also holds a collection of papers from the Frobisher family.

[3] GB-Calderdale, West Yorkshire Archive Service, WYC Misc 514/1, p. 9ff.

[4] Clive Brown, ‘Leader’, Oxford Music Online, Oxford University Press <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/16178&gt; [20 Jul 2013]. Brown points out that in operatic performances before the mid-nineteenth century it was common for the keyboardist to direct the singers, whilst the leader looked after the orchestra. We await Peter Holman’s forthcoming book Before the baton: conducting and musical direction in Georgian Britain for further insight.

[5] The Halifax Orchestral Society, under Mr. Frobisher’s leadership, performed Mendelssohn’s oratorio St. Paul in May 1837 only one year after it premiered in Düsseldorf, and again in 1840 with some of the singers for whom Mendelssohn originially conceived the parts.


I have been job hunting since about February 2013 in the fields of music and library and information science and archives.  The strange title number sequence is a shorthand of my journey so far:  0 job offers, 5 interviews (with 1 interview invite I had to decline due to a change in circumstances), 26 applications.  This post will share what I’ve learned.

Look about you, because there are lots of resources and information available online.  I’ve found many, many useful blogs, websites and information from professional associations.  Disadvantages being that it can tend toward information overload and it’s quite time-intensive to keep up with everything!  Some of the most useful advice for new professionals came from this  blog post by The Wikiman (more on that later).  Other useful blogs: Off the Record, Manchester NLPN and various other librarian blogs.  My memberships in professional associations (CILIP, IAML-UK&Irl) have been great ways to network and see what’s happening by attending their events; next I want to join SLA.

Pay attention to the negative space.  What I mean is not necessarily looking for things that aren’t there but for things that you may not have been looking for or didn’t know you needed to know…For example, a skills test I did (ok, kind of bombed) during an interview process was helpful because it highlighted some gaps in my knowledge.  Similarly another conversation with a potential employer resulted in learning information I didn’t know I needed to know about working abroad and archiving vs. librarianship.

Importance of remaining proactive, persistent and indefatigable.  Let’s face it, it’s tough handling rejection after rejection, but the only way to get anywhere is to be proactive and persistent in keeping up the hunt.  I’ve also done a lot of speculative emailing to try and get voluntary work (even this proved difficult since I often struggled to get any response), but my work at WYAS and M&S Company Archive is a result of speculative emails.  I’m learning to be indefatigable because, as someone close to me says, it takes work to get work!

In a related vein, I’ve been thinking about two suggestions from TheWikiman’s post: 1) How can I proactively anticipate my career needs (i.e. start building the skills I’ll need in the future NOW) and 2) Where can I make things happen for myself (i.e. starting projects, writing articles, etc).  I’ve started compiling a list of skills I want to work on based on job descriptions for posts I’m excited about, and I’m thinking creatively about where I can make things happen.  Currently natural ways to do this include writing research-based blogs about my voluntary work projects and creative thinking regarding my new role as Bursaries Administrator with the Music Libraries Trust.

Importance of social media.  Thank you PennyB for this one:  actively using social media is more important than ever to network and promote yourself in a super competitive field.  Also since none of these technologies are going away, it’s best to get on board now, especially because many institutions already are!  I’ve also seen social media related things on job applications, so I definitely want to demonstrate an active engagement with this area.  Hence I’ve starting blogging more and using Twitter; I was already actively using Facebook and LinkedIn.  It’s proven quite useful so far in terms of networking, gaining awareness of the field and promoting my contributions to a wider audience.

Basics: write a good CV and keep it updated (I’ve also written a one page biography), use an email signature, dress professionally for everything, do your homework on the places you apply and ask questions.

Sharing time, over!  Any advice or suggestions are very welcome!

Recently Listed Music Collections in West Yorkshire

To further my career aims, I recently began volunteering at the West Yorkshire Archive Service and wanted to share what I have been working on with THE INTERNET. The WYAS staff have turned up several unlisted, music-based collections for me to list.  Although I have yet to discover any lost Vivaldi manuscripts, the collections are nonetheless interesting and diverse…

LC/WYAS1870 Leeds Leisure Services (1978-2001). This collection consists of the working files of the Leeds International Concert Season (run by the Music department of Leeds Leisure Services). The collection would be of interest to researchers of British orchestras and other performing ensembles, since many were invited to perform in the concert series, including BBC Philharmonic, The Hallé, English Northern Sinfonia (aka Orchestra of Opera North), Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and many others.  Some of the most interesting material relates to competitions originating in Leeds. The Leeds’ Conductors Competitions (material covers 1983-1999) gives interesting portraits of up-and-coming conductors.  The Tetley G.U.L.P. pub piano competitions (material covers 1990-93, 1996-98) which were staged in the Victoria Pub, Leeds, present a charming story of efforts to encourage a dying breed.

WYB339 Gary Cavanagh Collection (1861-c. 2009). This collection consists of newscuttings, concert posters, notes and other material relating to Cavanagh’s extensive research into the Bradford rock music scene, culminating in the book he co-authored with Matt Webster, Bradford’s Noise of the Valleys: A history of Bradford Rock and Pop 1967-1987 (Bank House Books, 2009). A distinctive feature of both the book and the collection are the ‘rock family trees’, which trace the connections and common musicians between various bands. Many of the bands are albeit obscure (anyone remember Southern Death Cult?), but this collection would definitely interest the Bradford native or late twentieth-century British rock music researcher.

WYC Misc 514 Misc Records of the Northgate-End/Halifax Orchestral Society (1829-1908). This collection documents music making and concerts in the Halifax area during the nineteenth century. Misc 514/1 is a large scrapbook that includes mainly concert posters and programmes. This would be of interest to researchers of British amateur music societies since it offers a nearly comprehensive view of performance trends for classical choral and orchestral repertoire in nineteenth-century Yorkshire (e.g. lots of Handel oratorios!). Misc 514/2 is a record book for the Northgate-End Orchestral Society (1882-1908). Since it lists members’ names and attendance, this item might interest a family historian with musical ancestors in Halifax.