The gift-giving season came early to the Music department this year: over the last few months, we’ve had some fascinating presents from generous friends. Head of department Jeanice Brooks describes them:
I’ll start with the smallest and also possibly the strangest gift we’ve received. Southampton resident Mrs Sarah Chorley, who donated a 1940s wind-up gramophone and a large collection of 78 rpm records to our library some years ago, came across this very tiny 78 in a local used bookshop, and sent it along for us to enjoy. I put a pencil and my fingers in the pictures to show how little the record is – just a few inches across, which means it holds only about 30 seconds of music on each side. I’d never seen anything like this before (neither had Mrs Chorley) but a quick internet search turned up a few other examples. Apparently the Imperial recording company produced them for a brief period in the 1930s as a marketing ploy. It’s sort of like the little digital clips today’s marketers use to tempt you into downloading the whole song, only made from shellac. I’m hoping to take it over to our Special Collections division soon to find out what it sounds like, but in the meantime here’s a YouTube video of someone playing back another Imperial miniature 78 – of the traditional tune ‘The Sailor’s Hornpipe’ – and here’s another, which features the popular dance band leader Jack Payne and his orchestra.
Moving up in size – over the summer vacation Alan Smith brought us a wonderful book of sheet music from the 1820s. Alan found out about our At Home with Music project after seeing my very (very very) brief appearance in this film, in which I explained how Jane Austen and her family made up music albums out of separately purchased printed sheet music. This book was made this way, and Alan found it in Dronfield, northeast Derbyshire in the 1970s; it had been left in a dustbin outside the vicarage. It’s full of keyboard arrangements of popular dance music, and several of the items are inscribed with the initials ‘R.G.’. One particularly nice inscription tells us who this was: the copy of Murray’s 5th Set of Quadrilles has a manuscript note ‘From the Publisher to Mr Robert Gray, Teacher of Dancing’. This is really interesting, as most of the sheet compilations we’ve studied in our research project belonged to amateur women players and singers; this is the only collection we’ve come across that belonged to a professional dancing master.
The last gift is arriving tomorrow, and it’s by far the biggest of the three: a beautiful 1930s baby grand piano. Gerard Melling has offered this lovely instrument to us for our new programme of music in the Nuffield Theatre. The piano is by Brinsmead and Sons, a leading English piano maker established in 1836 and particularly successful in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This piano is very similar to one formerly owned by composer Percy Grainger, which resided in our keyboard room for a time. We’re very pleased to have this instrument for the Nuffield, where we’re planning a series of cabaret and other performances starting later this year.