Archive for the ‘ Ramblings ’ Category

Release the music!

Lilian recently sent me some information about, because she knows that I am absurdly interested in issues concerning music, performance and copyright. This website is run by the Open Rights Group (an organisation which I sometimes agree with, but sometimes think are very misguided) and concerns plans to extend the length of time that sound recordings are protected by copyright. In a rare move for me, I ‘signed’ their on-line petition, so it seems that writing a blog entry about the issue is a good idea as well.

Copyright is a complicated thing, which the library and information profession constantly struggles with. It is bound up with many other issues: data protection versus freedom of information; access to information versus the right to control intellectual property; the conflicting rights of information creator, disseminator and user. In general terms, librarians are often seen to be upholders of copyright, yet are foes of censorship and are sometimes oddly anti-establishment (see the fun and games of the FBI vs. ‘radical militant librarians’). And yet, although I do indeed agree that copyright is in general a good thing, and do not agree with most of the arguments against it, I can see that the term of copyright protection is perhaps excessive (generally 70 years after the death of the author) and that this is particularly true in the case of sound recordings. 

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Audition preparation

Many things in life make me nervous.  Performing.  Meeting new people.  Seeing crocodiles (or alligators) on the television.  Looking at my bank balance.  Watching someone I know perform.  But auditions are one of the worst things for nerves.  I know that the audition panel are not really evil monsters, that they want you to do the best you can do, and that any decision they make is unlikely to be personal.  But even so…they’re a terrifying experience.  The weeks leading up to them are rather scary as well.

This coming Sunday, I have an audition for Kiss Me, Kate.  Amateur, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less scary.  After much soul-searching, I decided to audition for two roles within the show – Bill Calhoun and Second Man.  Second Man is actually the best role, one of the two gangsters who are the root cause of much comedy and who get to sing ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ at the eleventh hour.  The gangsters are often played by people older than my oh-so-youthful 27-year-old self, but the director is willing to consider anyone from their twenties upwards for Second Man, who is the subordinate (and marginally more stupid) one.  Bill Calhoun is a long shot, the juvenile male who plays Lucentio in the musical version of The Taming of the Shrew which forms a large part of the plot.  He’s a dancer, which is the main problem.  I can sing his songs and I can possibly be charming enough to play him if I try, but the dancing is the real worry.  Still, I can dance ‘in my fashion’, so I’ll just give it all I’ve got at the audition and see what happens. 

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The world’s longest-running musical? I don’t think so!

This weekend, Les Miserables is celebrating its 21st birthday on the West End, claiming the crown of London’s longest ever run for a musical (The Mouse Trap, of course, is miles ahead, but is a straight play).  The press claims have been that this will make it the world’s longest-running musical, but that’s really a bit of a lie, or at least an example of hyperbole.

It certainly beats Cats as the longest-runner in London (with Phantom of the Opera holding that record for Broadway), but none of those shows come anywhere near the long run that was enjoyed by a little show called The Fantasticks in New York.  Not a spectacular show, and not (it has to be admitted) with the same audience capacity in the theatre, it nevertheless ran for just under 42 years, twice as long as Les Mis has trundled on for.  It’s not as splashy and newsworthy, though, so it seems it can be conveniently swept under the carpet in order to make the London record sound so much more impressive.

The Fantasticks is a lovely little show, and it introduced the world to ‘Try to Remember’, a song that crops up every so often, most recently in a TV commercial for coffee in the UK.  The songs and the script make me smile, though they don’t move me as much as Les Miserables does.  I just feel it deserves to keep the distinction of world’s longest running musical – 41 years and 8 months is no small achievement!

Taking a compliment

There are many idiosyncrasies of the Singing Librarian which people may find either endearing or infuriating, and one of the most conspicuous is my complete inability to take a compliment.  You could put this down to any number of psychological factors, or perhaps blame Britishness for it, but ultimately it’s probably just plain annoying.

Why write about this today?  Continue reading

The other side of auditions

One of the duties that comes with being on the committee of my operatic society is being on the panel for society membership auditions.  Most of the other duties involved letters or e-mails, so interaction with real people makes a pleasant change.  And although I’d never want the responsibility of being on the casting committee for a show, I rather like doing this.  Tonight we had eight auditionees, as we’re beginning show rehearsals and that always brings a stream of people in.  It was a mixed bunch, but a pleasure to listen to.

We had songs from stage and screen, including ‘Chim, Chim, Cheree’ and ‘Music of the Night’, and even a traditional Welsh song.  Lovely.  None of it was painful, and it was heartening to see people overcoming nerves to sing to us.  Some just sang the notes and some really performed the song, giving it their all.  Some had ludicrously large ranges, one was very limited.  Some sang scales beautifully, some rather raggedly.  But it was interesting to sit and focus on someone else’s voice, hear the potential in it and think about its possibilities.  You’re really willing the person to do well, and feel a bit nervous on the behalf of anyone who’s shaking or sweating.  Having been on the other side of the divide many times (and soon to be again), being on the panel for this is probably very good for me, giving me an insight into the mind of the panel members and reassuring me of their good intentions.

We inform the auditionees of our decision by post, so thankfully there’s no call for immediate feedback, positive or negative, which would make me squirm.  I’m no Simon Cowell.  I’m just a young man who wants to see talented people join the society and have fun.  And hopefully that’s what most of tonight’s auditionees will do.

Liquid comfort blankets

I’m trying to decide whether or not the ever-present bottle of water is a new thing or not.  It seems that Western society is suddenly unable to function unless everyone totes a small plastic bottle of water, whether shop-bought or from the tap, literally everywhere they go.  Clasped in our hands in the street, at work, at the theatre, at church, at the gym and anywhere else you care to mention.  We don’t necessarily use the contents very often, but the bottle can not be too far away before we begin to panic.  You may be late for Cousin Doreen’s wedding, but if you forgot your bottle of water, you still need to stop off at the petrol station to get a new one.

I am certainly not immune and have noticed with alarm my extreme attachment to my silly little bottle at rehearsals.  In performances, I can obviously only drink when off-stage and manage perfectly well with no ill effects, but in rehearsals, I sneak sips of water in the middle of numbers if the sopranos are warbling away on their own for a few bars and practically inhale the stuff after particularly taxing numbers.  A few hours at rehearsal, even if we’re just singing, will see me get through at least 500ml of water.  Of course, hydration is a good thing, but this strange psychological dependence can become compulsive and sometimes inappropriate.  Surely it must increase the number of visits we all make to the little boys’ and girls’ room each day?  And isn’t it just a little distracting when your neighbours insist on using their liquid comfort blanket at the most ridiculous times?  In the midst of silent contemplation at church, or a quiet solo at the theatre, for instance.

Have we all gone mad?  Is there something in the water?  Or is this all perfectly normal?  I’m not sure, but my throat suddenly feels very dry…


Just over a month ago, I joined the gym.  For many people this would probably not be a particularly significant thing, but for me it certainly is.  As a non-sporty academic type of person, the gym is a strange, alien environment where I feel somewhat out of place, even after a dozen or so visits, but I’m determined to keep going.  During term time it will be even stranger, as the place will start to fill up with ridiculously fit sport science students who will make me feel most inadequate just by existing, let alone throwing weights around like peanuts and making the rowing machine beg for mercy…

Anyway, my motives for joining the gym are many and confused.  The choice of gym was easy, as the university I work for gives a staff discount at its gym, which is good.  So, why have I joined? Continue reading

How to get on a librarian’s little list

Admit it, we’ve all got one.  A little list of the people who’d be first up against the wall if you were to stage a revolution.  Ko-Ko, in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, puts it like this:

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I’ve got a little list – I’ve got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground
And who never would be missed – who never would be missed!
There’s the pestilential nuisances who write for autographs-
All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs-

And so forth, through a catalogue of people that he could quite happily cope without.  We all have our little (and not so little) niggles, and this is an attempt to catalogue the ‘little list’ of a typical library.  In reverse, but not particularly precise, order. Continue reading

Still haven’t found what they’re looking for

It seems that it is a rule of blogging to use a post here and there to ponder the many and varied reasons that people choose to visit the blog in question, and it also seems that (having apparently passed 2000 ‘hits’) it is time for the Singing Librarian to ponder this.  Of course, the majority of the people that leave comments here are people that I know from elsewhere, either in that dodgy thing we sometimes call ‘real life’ or from another site, generally h2g2.  However, I know there are others who pass through, either regularly or for a one-off visit, and it’s always intriguing to see what search engine terms have brought the new visitors here.  And most of them will have been rather disappointed, I fear. Continue reading

Now we are in-laws

My sister got married at the weekend.  However, other than saying that yes, she looked stunning, yes, it was a fantastic occasion and no, it didn’t rain, I’m not writing this post about the even itself.  It is about a new facet of my identity which perplexes me somewhat.

What is the role of the brother-in-law?

The role of the mother-in-law is very well defined, and the father-in-law almost as much.  But what about the sibling of the newly married man or woman?  We get to add -in-law to our list of titles, which is a privilege denied to uncles, aunts, cousins and so on, but why bother?  If the two of them ever decide to start a family (which is, sadly, fairly unlikely, but I will not apply pressure), then uncledom would be the state entered into, and the role of the uncle is quite clear.  The role of the uncle is to lead the little darlings slightly astray by being crazier than the parents, and also to introduce the wee ones to activities they might otherwise miss as their parents have no particular fondness for a particular sport, craft, genre of film or national cuisine.

But what of the brother-in-law?  I suppose if a sister’s husband started being unpleasant to her, a brother-in-law might step in and say ‘oi!’  But as my sister is more capable of looking out for herself than I am of looking out for her, this doesn’t apply in our case.  And her husband is a very nice, gentle man (as well as a gentleman, I suppose) and I’d be shocked if the issue ever arose.  The only other thing I can think of is that the brother- or sister-in-law is the in-law who you don’t have to put on any airs for, who you don’t have to try to impress.  The in-law who you feel comfortable with and who won’t over-criticise the standard of your cleaning, cooking or DIY.  The good cop to the mother-in-law bad cop.  Hopefully, given time, the friend.

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