Portobello Open Air Swimming Pool

Portobello Open Air Swimming Pool famous for its Art Deco design, large diving boards, artificial waves and chilly water was one of Portobello’s main attractions for over 40 years. Opening in 1936, it was the largest outdoor pool of its kind in Europe.

The pool was enormous, 330 ft long by 150 ft wide. The one and a half million gallons of water required to fill the pool was filtered from the sea and heated by steam from the adjacent power station.

One of the main attractions was the wave making machine which was the first to be installed in an outdoor pool in the UK and could generate waves up to 3ft high.

Completed open air pool -1936

The pool closed for six years during the Second World War and had to be camouflaged to stop it being used as a landmark for enemy planes.

Portobello Open Air Swimming Pool – 1936

By the end of the 60s Portobello’s popularity waned as cheap package holidays became readily available. The pool fell into decline and with the closure of the power station in 1978, removing what little heat there was for the water. The 1979 season was to be its last and the pool was finally demolished in 1988.

We have just published images on Capital Collections recording the pool’s construction. See these fascinating images in our new exhibition on Portobello Open Air Swimming Pool.

Edinburgh composers

This is just a short and not at all comprehensive list of Edinburgh born composers. 

Edinburgh, the Athens of the north, an artistic oasis, is a home and birthplace for many great talents and we have chosen to highlight a precious few who provide the soundtrack to some of our lives.

Thea Musgrave    

Thea Musgrave 2010, photo © Kate Mount

Born in Barnton, Edinburgh and after a boarding school education, Thea returned to Edinburgh to the University to study Medicine but changed to Music. After a long career in Music and now in her 93rd year, Thea Musgrave is still working and composing. In an interview for the BBC in 2018, Thea Musgrave was asked about being a women composer. She responded by saying, 
“Yes I am a woman, and I am a composer. But rarely at the same time”,
and asked in the same interview if she had any advice for young composers she said,
“Don’t do it, unless you have to. And if you do, enjoy every minute of it.”
A composer of over a dozen operas including Mary, Queen of Scots and Simon Bolivar, and a full list of works for solo instrumentalists, chamber groups and full orchestras including Loch Ness – A Postcard from Scotland (2012). 

Alexander Mackenzie 

Caricature of Alexander Campbell Mackenzie by Leslie Ward, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Born in 1847 in in the New Town, Edinburgh, Mackenzie was the fourth-generation musician in his family. His great-grandfather was an army bandsman, John Mackenzie, his grandfather was a violinist working in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, Alexander’s father also an Alexander and also a violinist, was Leader and Musical Director of the orchestra of the Theatre Royal Edinburgh and Editor of the National Dance Music of Scotland. By the age of eight Alexander, already a prestigious talent, was playing in his Father’s orchestra at the Theatre Royal. Mackenzie went to study violin and composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He studied violin with Prosper Sainton, who had taught his father. After the Academy he returned to Edinburgh to a very busy life composing, teaching, playing and conducting. In 1888, after the death of Sir George Macfarren, the Head of the Royal Academy of Music, Alexander Mackenzie was appointed its new head where he remained until his retirement in 1924, and in that time re-establishing its slightly tarnished reputation. On his retirement from the Royal Academy, Sir Alexander also retired from public life. He died in London in 1935 at the age of 87. 

Learmont Drysdale 

George John Learmont Drysdale was born in 1866 and brought up in Edinburgh. Drysdale went to London to study at the Royal Academy of Music but a falling out with the afore mentioned Alexander Mackenzie, who was the then Head of the Royal Academy, forced Drysdale to leave before graduating and return to Edinburgh to try and pick up his career as a composer, teacher and conductor. 

Despite not have much of his music published in his lifetime, there is a record of a performance of one of his works at the proms in London. In Prom 55, on Saturday 8 October 1904 at the Queens Hall, London the programme included “A Border Romance” by Learmont Drysdale. 

During his brief life his work, the Kelpie – a dramatic cantata had been performed in Edinburgh, there had also been performances of his larger works, a musical Mystery play – The Plague – and an opera – The Red Spider. At his death in 1909 there were many works left in manuscript, including the almost complete opera Fionn and Tera. Drysdale’s manuscripts are held in the Glasgow University Library. 

Helen Hopekirk 

Plaque to Helen Hopekirk in Portobello,
Photo by gnomonic via Wikimedia Commons

Helen was born in Portobello in 1856, a Blue Plaque above the door of a close on Portobello High Street marking the place she was born and lived until she was 12 years old, the plaque was placed there on the 21 May 2006 by Portobello Community Council. Helen studied piano and composition with Alexander Mackenzie mentioned earlier. She made her debut as a soloist with the Edinburgh Amateur Orchestral Society. Hopekirk briefly relocated to Leipzig to study composition with Cark Reinecke. In 1882 she met and married Edinburgh Merchant and music critic he served as her manager. In 1883 after their move to America she made her debut with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She continued to tour America and Europe as a soloist and retired in 1939 after a final performance in the Steinart Halls, Boston. She died six years later in 1945. Hopekirk was a respected and much sought after composer in her lifetime, but now her work unfortunately remains for the most part unrecorded and not concert repertoire.  She left a large collection of songs, works for piano, piano and orchestra, it is also unfortunate that some of her large-scale works are, as well as ignored, also lost. 

Shirley Manson 

Shirley Manson
photo by Zach Klein from New York, SA, via Wikimedia Commons

Lead singer and one of the main songwriters with the band Garbage, held largely responsible for their very successful second album Version 2.0. Shirley was born in Edinburgh in 1966. Before Garbage she wrote and sang with Goodbye Mr Mackenzie and Angelfish.   

Kenneth Dempster 

Kenneth Dempster was born and educated in Edinburgh. He started his full time music studies at Napier College of Commerce and Technology before it became Edinburgh Napier University. Then went on to the Royal Academy of Music. Kenneth Dempster is Composer in Residence at Napier University.  He has had major commissions from, amongst others The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, The Scottish Chamber Choir, Mr McFalls Chamber, The Edinburgh Quartet, the Hebrides Ensemble and St Magnus Festival.  

Dempster’s works include Seven Fans for Alma Mahler for the SCO, a community Opera based on Ibsen’s Peer Gynt.

Ronald Kinloch Anderson  

Ronald Kinloch Anderson
by Howard Coster, 1933 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Ronald Kinloch Anderson was born in Edinburgh in 1911 and he died in London in 1984. 

A pianist and teacher, Ronald Kinloch Anderson studied in Edinburgh with Professor Donald Tovey. He taught at Trinity College of Music, London, from 1946 to 1963 and after a period as a freelance music producer with EMI became their Artistic Director. In his lifetime Kinloch Anderson was more known as a pianist and a harpsichordist, with the Bath Festival Orchestra and the Menuhin Festival Orchestra. At Dartington Hall he formed the Robert Masters Piano Quartet with Robert Masters – violin, Nannie Jamieson – viola, Muriel Taylor – cello and Kinloch Anderson – piano. In amongst the correspondence and manuscripts he left to Central Library on his death in 1984, are works for, and dedicated to, this Piano Quartet. 

Tommy Smith 

Tommy Smith recording his epic Modern Jacobite piece with The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
photo by DerekClarkPhoto via Wikimedia Commons

Tommy Smith was born in Edinburgh in 1967. Encouraged to take up music by his stepfather, Tommy began his musical education in Wester Hailes Education Centre. Shortly after recording his first album he was awarded a scholarship to Berklee College of Music, fund raising by friends, family and music teachers enabled him to take up this scholarship. This move shaped his musical life as a composer and educator. His long tenure with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra and as Artistic Director of the first full time Jazz Course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. His works as a composer are showcased on many of his recordings and his commissions like his piece for Sax and Orchestra – Jacobite for the BBC SSO. 

Craig and Charlie Reid 

Craig and Charlie Reid together known to the world as The Proclaimers are proud sons of Leith. The twins were born in 1962, in their early years moved from Edinburgh to Cornwall and then to Auchtermuchty in Fife where they were educated. They have both since returned to Edinburgh and never stray far from their beloved Hibernian Football Club. The pair first came to the world attention with the 1987 album, This is the story and the single from that album Letter from America. What for most can be the difficult second album, for the Proclaimers is for many their best work. Sunshine on Leith containing the hit single Sunshine on Leith generated a hit show and a film and is sung regularly at Hibernian Football Club. I am not originally from Leith or Edinburgh so my football allegiances lie elsewhere but standing in Easter Road Stadium listening to a capacity crowd singing Sunshine on Leith, it is difficult not to be moved, and believe me I have tried. 

The Proclaimers
photo by Bryan Ledgard, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Their Albums are:
This is the Story (1987)
Sunshine On Leith (1988)
Hit the Highway (1994)
Persevere (2001)
Born Innocent (2003)
Restless Soul (2005)
Life with You (2007)
Notes and Rhymes (2009)
Like Comedy (2012)
Let’s Hear it for t he Dogs (2015)
Angry Cyclist (2018) 

In 2007, the single 500 miles, first out in 1988, was re-released as part of the Children in Need charity appeal and occupied the top of the charts in this second outing.  

Robert Crawford 

Born near Edinburgh in1925, Robert started composing at the age of fifteen, whilst still at school and studying privately with the Edinburgh resident Hans Gal. He went on to study at the Guildhall School of Music with Benjamin Frankel. On his return to Edinburgh in 1949 he completed his 1st String Quartet which was first performed in the 1951 ISCM Festival in Frankfurt and received a prize for a new Chamber work awarded by the Scottish Arts Council at the Festival of Britain. 

Never a prolific composer, after the completion of his 2nd String quartet in 1956, Crawford stopped composing almost completely, not starting again till 1986. Thirty years later, for some of that period Crawford was a Music Producer for the BBC retiring in 1985. 

This is a nearly complete list of compositions by Robert Crawford from 1949 to his death in 2012. A lot of these works were commissions:

Elegiac Quintet for Recorder and String Quartet
Hammered Brass 
Piano Quintet
Piano Sonata No. 2
Octet “Ricercare”
Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet
Saltire Sonata for Piano
Six Bagatelles for Piano
Sonata Breve
String Quartet No. 1
String Quartet No. 2
String Quartet No. 3
Three Two-part inventions for Recorder and Clarinet
Variations on a Ground, Three Two-part Inventions 
Symphonic Study Lunula for Orchestra 

As a composer there a few things which strike notes of difference from a common path, Crawford made his name as a composer of chamber works, mostly the string quartet, and his choice to live and work in Edinburgh, when his peers may have chosen London or Glasgow or even further afield. 

Robert Crawford died in Edinburgh in 2012 at the age of 86. 

Stuart Mitchell 

Stuart Mitchell composer
photo by Stuart7m via Wikimedia Commons

Stuart was born in Edinburgh in 1965 and died in 2018 at the age of 52. 

Stuart is perhaps best know for the work the Seven Wonders Suite written in 2001 and recorded by the Prague Symphony Orchestra. Stuart and his father Thomas Mitchell caused much media interest when they claimed to have deciphered the musical code adorning the walls of the Roslyn Chapel. 

Stuart formed a company producing music based around a DNA profile. He produced works based on the DNA profiles of Beethoven and Elvis Presley. 

We have put together some examples of the work of the people featured here in playlists that you can find on Naxos Music Library and Naxos Jazz.  
All you need is your library card number to login and enjoy the enormous Naxos music library online.

Edinburgh composers playlist on Naxos Music Library Classical
Edinburgh composers playlist on Naxos Jazz

Patrick Geddes and Edinburgh

In another addition to Our Town Stories we feature a noted biologist and botanist who went on to be a pioneer in the field of town planning – Patrick Geddes.

Geddes’ work in Edinburgh brought about the redevelopment of a number of parts of the Old Town which were abandoned as slums in the late 1700s when the New Town was developed. Geddes believed that in order to understand and improve conditions it was necessary to share a community’s experience. With his wife, he chose to live in James Court in the Lawnmarket which at the time was considered housing for the poor.

They started cleaning and painting their new home, encouraging their neighbours to do the same. Working with the residents he transformed spaces he had cleared into community gardens.

Geddes worked with Edinburgh University to produce a series of halls of residence, the most striking of these being Ramsay Gardens which was a mixture of student accommodation and private flats.

Drawing of University hall extension at Castle Hill
University hall extension, Castle Hill, 1893

Geddes was involved in the improvement of Moray House, Huntly House and Whitehorse Close. Another project involved transforming Short’s Observatory on Castlehill into the ‘worlds first sociological laboratory’, The Outlook Tower, now the Camera Obscura.

His work in improving slums in Edinburgh led to him travelling to India at the invitation of the Governor of Madras to advise on urban planning issues. He subsequently held a position in Sociology and Civics at Bombay University.

Sir Patrick Geddes, by Lafayette (Lafayette Ltd) half-plate nitrate negative, 30 December 1931. Given by Pinewood Studios via Victoria and Albert Museum, 1989 © National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG x47992), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Geddes’ health began to deteriorate in 1924 and he left India to settle in Montpelier in the South of France.

He was knighted in 1931 and died in Montpelier in 1932.

Find out more about the celebrated environmentalist and sociologist and his lasting legacy on the city in our Patrick Geddes and Edinburgh story on Our Town Stories.

Castles and mansions of the Lothians

Our new Capital Collections exhibition features two photograph volumes, copies of which are held both in the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection and the Art and Design Library within Central Library, titled ‘Castles and Mansions of the Lothians‘.

There are over a hundred photographs and judging by the style of the images, we think they were all taken by the same photographer.

The Grange House which was demolished in 1936.

The mansions are situated throughout the Lothians from Linlithgow in the west to many in East Lothian. Some will be easily recognisable by their names. Most people who live in Penicuik will recognise the name Beeslack, and many might remember when the name Dalhousie Castle meant one thing, Medieval Banquet!

We think that the photographs were taken between 1875-1883. The photographs feature grand houses built in an age that allowed owners to display how well they were doing for themselves alongside older ancestral homes that had been passed down from generation to generation.

Bonaly Tower is now self contained flats.

Sadly, not all these buildings still exist. The ones that do are mostly now events venues, hotels or B&Bs or have been converted into residential apartments. There are one or two that remain private residences and continue, to show off their original splendour to this day.

To see the complete collection, view the Castles and Mansions of the Lothians exhibition at Capital Collections.

The ReDrawing Edinburgh project needs your help!

ReDrawing Edinburgh project logo

Do you live in Cramond, Corstorphine, Colinton, Liberton or Leith? Or, have you lived there in the past?

We’d love to hear from you!

We are looking for pieces about what this area means to you. Is there a word that captures this place to you? Do you have any particular fond memories from growing up or living there?

Your piece can be a poem, a short essay, spoken word, or a song.

The ReDrawing Edinburgh project, in collaboration with Cinescapes, are working on a multimedia installation to mark the centennial commemoration of the 1920 Edinburgh Boundaries Extension and Tramways Act.

This multimedia installation will showcase an anthology of images, words and music that celebrate the identities of these areas over the past 100 years since their amalgamation into Edinburgh.

If you’d like to be part of the soundscape for this exhibition, send us your piece:

  • you can send a written text, an audio recording or a video of your BSL-signed piece
  • for written pieces we’re looking for 50-100 words
  • for recordings or videos, the limit is 2 minutes.

Please send in your submission to redrawingedinburgh@gmail.com by Friday 23 April 2021.

If you have any questions, please email redrawingedinburgh@gmail.com

One year on

A year ago, our Libraries closed their doors, joining the effort to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. None of us expected the ‘stay at home’ message to last so long or that libraries would be closed again one year later.

We did realise we were living through a momentous and strange time. We wanted to record the effects of the pandemic and Edinburgh Collected gave us the means to gather images from across the city. With your help, we recorded the changes to normal life and the visual signs of the pandemic – rainbows, chalk drawings, supermarket queues, facemasks – the sights now commonplace, that last Spring and early Summer were new and alien.

Dinny visit yer Granny! shared by Carol

We’re tremendously grateful to all those who helped us record this past strange and difficult year on Edinburgh Collected, our online community archive.

Cleaning Mania, shared by reignlea – “Before we knew it would last forever.”

We continue to welcome contributions to our Coronavirus collection on Edinburgh Collected so that we can record history today, for the future.
You can view the submissions so far in our online scrapbook, Edinburgh 2020-2021 – coronavirus pandemic.

Oh, I wanna dance with somebody! shared by Will o’ the Wisp

Astor Piazzolla

Portrait of Astor Piazzolla
Astor Piazzolla in 1971

Astor Piazzolla was born 100 years ago on 11 March 1921, in Mar del Plata, a tourism and fishing hub to the south of Buenos Aires. Astor was the only child of Vicente Piazzolla and Assunta Manetti, whose Italian parents had immigrated from Italy, respectively from Trani, on the south-eastern heel of Italy and Lucca, in the central Tuscany area.

Vincente and Assunta moved with the four-year-old Astor, to New York, to the not so nice, at that time, area of Greenwich village. Some years later, Vincente spotted a bandoneon in a pawn shop and bought it for the nine year old Astor.

A bandoneon
A bandoneon, photo by Pavel Krok via Wikimedia Commons

A bandoneon is a square button concertina originally from Germany, mostly now favoured in the South American countries of Uruguay and Argentina. Due to the alignment of the reeds to the bellows, the bandoneon can, in the right hands, be a much more emotive and expressive instrument than the accordion.

The young Astor listened to tango music in his father’s record collection, also to jazz and classical music. The family moved to Little Italy, an area of Lower Manhattan, it was around this time that Young Astor composed his first Tango, said to be “La Catinga”. He also got his first teacher, a Hungarian classical pianist, Bela Wilda, who had been a student of Rachmaninoff.

Portrait of Carlos Gardel
Carlos Gardel, photo by José María Silva, via Wikimedia Commons

Astor’s parents worked hard and worked long hours, leaving the young Astor, mostly, to himself. He became streetwise and learned to look after himself in ways which would probably raise many questions and eyebrows today. In an interview for La Opinion Cultural in 1976, Piazzolla, recounts the story of how he met the famous Argentinian Tangoists, Carlos Gardel and Juio De Caro. A story which involves gaining entry to an Apartment, via the fire escape to deliver milk and wake the occupant, Carlos Gardel, to have him open the front door to Carlos’s visitors, who had sent the young Astor up the fire escape.

According to Astor he stuck around that day and played the bandoneon for Carlos Gardel who was very impressed and invited him to tour with Gardel’s Orchestra. Fortunately for Astor and all of us, Astor’s father Vincente forbade him from this adventure, which saved his live, for sadly Carlos and his musicians perished in a plane crash.

At this point, a quote from Astor Piazzolla himself, “Never believe what I tell journalists”. He seemingly enjoyed storytelling, often with scant regard for truth.

Anibal Troilo, photo by Alicia D’Amico, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1936, Astor and his parents returned to Mar del Plata, where he began earning a living as a musician playing Bandoneon with several local bands. He then moved to Buenos Aries, to begin playing in the Orchestra of Anibal Troilo, which was fast becoming the great tango orchestra of the time. Piazzolla as well as bandoneon playing, played the piano for Troilo’s Orchestra and acted as his arranger. Piazzolla came to the attention of the renowned concert pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who was living in Buenos Aires at that time, Rubinstein encouraged Piazzolla to study with the great Argentinian Composer, Alberto Ginastera.

Portrait of Alberto Ginestera
Alberto Ginestera, photo by Annemarie Heinrich, via Wikimedia Commons

Thus began a very busy and productive time for Piazzolla – composition and orchestration lessons with Ginestera, piano lessons with classical pianist Raul Spivak and playing with the Troilo Orchestra. He also fitted in watching morning rehearsals of the orchestra of Teatro Colon.

Stylistic tensions began to rise between Troilo and Piazzolla. Astor decided to leave and join the orchestra of Francisco Florentino but this was a short term liason. He formed his own orchestra, the Orquesta Tipica. This was 1946 and Piazzolla had finally his first orchestra to try out his own styles and compositions

Piazzolla, having finally achieved what must have been one of his desires, grew increasingly dissatisfied with his music making, and having pushed tango forward wished to leave it behind and be taken “seriously” as a composer or perhaps be taken for a “serious” composer.

In 1949 he disbanded his orchestra and set to work composing some major orchestral works. In 1953, at the insistence of Ginestera, who he was still working with, Piazzolla entered his Symphonie Buenos Aires op15 (1951) for the Fabian Sevitzky Award/Scholarship. Sevitzky was a Russian born American, Conductor of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and great champion of the music of the Americas, Sevitzky travelled to Buenos Aires to conduct Piazzolla’s Symphonie in the premiere. This event was marred when fights broke out between the conservative Buenos Aires audience over the inclusion on two bandoneons in the scoring of the Symphonie Buenos Aires. Piazzolla dually won and the grant allowed him to travel to Paris with his wife, their two children and his parents to study with the great composition guru, Nadia Boulanger.

Portrait of Nadia Boulanger
Nadia Boulanger, photo by Edmond Joaillier via Wikimedia Commons

The list of Boulanger’s students and those that, however briefly, passed through her “classroom” is a list of the great and the greater of 20th century composers. Boulanger’s most insightful of gifts, was to allow the composer to find their own voice, and compose to their strengths, this she did with Piazzolla. He had been reluctant to play any of his many tango-inspired compositions choosing, or maybe wishing to be seen, for his more “classical” compositions. Boulanger encouraged him to play one of his tangos, Triufan, and on hearing this Boulanger persuaded Piazzolla that this was his true voice.

On his return to Buenos Aires, Piazzolla formed a new string orchestra and an octet to perform his works and arrangements, a list of compositions which was growing and reflecting his Nuevo Tango, this was Piazzolla’s wish to take the tango from the dancefloor to the concert hall. Mixing all that he had learned from Boulanger and jazz music greats like Gerry Mulligan, whom he was to work and record with numerous times, consolidating all this into his jazz, classical, contrapuntal tango-inspired music, which whilst spiky and edgy could be achingly beautiful. One such piece was “Adios Nonino”. Written on the death of his father in 1959, Piazzolla locked himself in his room and in an hour produced the beautiful and emotional tango.
(Nonino is an Argentine word for grandfather, a variant of the Italian Nonno.)

Long tours round the world, recordings and new compositions were Piazzolla’s life for the next thirty years. He seems to have formed a succession of groups quintets, octets, small string orchestras, and disbanded just as many, but each reflecting what musical style or type of composition he was producing at the time. An unsuccessfully brief spell in New York in the early sixties, with a jazz tango fusion quintet was followed by a successful return to Buenos Aires. This pattern of up down, success and not, followed. He was, however, greatly respected by his fellow musicians and this was constant in his professional life, the musicians who were willing to work, travel and experiment musically with him. There are many collaborations with many disparate musicians and ensembles.

During the late 70s and early 80s Piazzolla lived mostly in Italy but returned to Argentina often. This was the time of the military dictatorship of Jorge Videla. Piazzolla in a memoir, was questioned about his relationship with the Junta and his acceptance of at least one luncheon invite. Piazzolla dismissed the inference by suggesting that perhaps it is not wise to turn down an invite delivered by government men in dark suits.

In the many highlights of his long career, there were two commissions from the Kronos Quartet for works for bandoneon and string quartet, the second “Five Tango Sensations” written and recorded late in 1989. The 1982 composition, Le Grand Tango for cello and piano was finally premiered in 1990 by Mstislav Rostropovich and pianist, Igor Uriash. Piazzolla composed an Opera, “Maria of Buenos Aires”.

In researching this article, the two most often used descriptions of Piazzolla are ‘Tango composer’ or ‘World composer’. Although both are true, they don’t accurately reflect the breadth of Piazzolla’s talent. Ravel, Shostakovich, Britten or Mackenzie are not placed by their respective French-ness, Russian-ness, English-ness or Scottish-ness nor is Vaughan Williams describes as a Folk composer due to some of the titles of his compositions, but Piazzolla is tagged for his most recognisable trait rather than just ‘Astor Piazzolla, composer’.  

Astor Piazzolla, composer, suffered a cerebral hemorage in Paris in 1990. He never regained consciousness and died in Buenos Aires in 1992.                                         

He was posthumously awarded the Konex award in 1995, which honours Argentinian cultural personalities.

Discover Astor Piazolla’s work on MediciTV:

A Homage to Astor Piazzolla, a documentary by Christopher Nupen
Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

On Naxos Classical and Jazz find Playlists of Astor Piazolla’s music and much much more.

Film music: Part four

Douglas from the Music Library continues his personal history of film music. In the last of his series of posts he will conclude his “history” of how the film soundtrack became what it is today. 

The Golden Age of Cinema, (1929 – 1945), was a musical education, which freed the format to grow and become soundtracks made up of Rock and Roll Music, Jazz, Country and Western and of course, no music.

One of the first truly jazz soundtracks was made for the 1958 Louis Malle film, ‘Elevator to the Gallows’. A trio of musicians led by Miles Davies improvised the score directly to the film, creating a number of firsts, not least, the first soundtrack by an African American, paving the way for those to follow, like Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock.

In the 1967 film ‘The Graduate’, Mike Nicols took the ground-breaking decision to use previously released songs as the soundtrack to his low budget comedy-drama. If asked I would have said that the soundtrack was by Simon and Garfunkel but they should share that credit with Dave Grusin.  

There are some famous examples of films with no music score, where perhaps silence or non-musical sounds are used to highlight the tensions. Alfred Hitchcock, who I would always associate with the composer Bernard Herman, chose in his ‘experimental’ film ‘Rope’ to have no score. In the film ‘The Birds’, another Hitchcock classic, Herman is a sound consultant with sound designers Sala and Remi Gassmann. The only pieces of music in the film are when one of the characters is playing some Debussy on the piano and children sing a folk tune in the playground.  

Fritz Lang was seemingly no great fan of the soundtrack and in the 1931 classic ‘M’ he dispenses with one altogether using silence to create his suspense.

A film I watched for the first time recently and didn’t realise until I was researching this article didn’t have a score, is Sidney Lumet’s 1975 ‘Dog Day Afternoon’. 

Allow me to digress once more, there is a little gem of a film by Sidney Lumet called ‘The Offence’ which was a vehicle for Sean Connery made in 1973. This film and one other were used to sweeten the deal when Connery reluctantly agreed to play James Bond one more time. A fantastic tight, tawdry little drama adapted from a stage play of the same name, with a great central performance from the recently departed Sean Connery. Another interesting thing about this film is its soundtrack by the British composer Harrison Birtwhistle. 

The growth of the soundtrack continued in all directions, using many different genres of musical styles and techniques of music production, some in keeping with the time and place the movie was set in, some a complete juxtaposition.  

In the seventies, the soundtrack made a return to the through composed roots it had started with in the thirties. The now 89 year old John Williams produced soundtracks for the great movie franchises Jaws, Star Wars, Indiana Jones etc etc etc.  In his sixth decade as one of the pre-eminent film composers he has perhaps done more than most to establish the soundtrack as an artform. 

When I started writing this article/history I sat and wrote a list of film composers whom I liked, with films I have enjoyed or even just enjoyed the music and have now forgotten the film. This is what remains of my list after I have removed all the composers I have already mentioned –

Hans Zimmer, Bernard Herman, Elmer Bernstein, Ennio Morricone, Alexander Desplat, James Horner, Henry Mancini, Maurice Jarre, Howard Shore, Miklos Rozsa, Nino Rota, Phillip Glass, James Newton Howard, Clint Mansell, Lakota Schifrin, Jerry Goldsmith, Thomas Newman, Danny Elfman, Jocelyn Pook, Rachel Portman and Delia Derbyshire. 

I should point out that this list is in no order and if you chose any of these names you are guaranteed a fantastic soundtrack. To point out a few names there are only three women on the list, not completely surprising in the white male world of film. Delia Darbyshire not a great name in movie soundtracks but should always be remembered for the wonderful Dr Who theme music and the incredible work she did in the BBC’s radiophonic workshop, and Jocelyn Pook who composed a wonderful soundtrack for the film Brick Lane, which falls into the ‘better book than film’ category and also ‘better soundtrack than film’ category.  

Available to stream or download from Naxos

It would be wrong to single anyone out for praise, but I will. Of all the greats listed in the article we have read over the last few weeks, I have one whom I come back to, over and again. Elmer Berstein studied composition with Aaron Copland and Stefan Wolpe, produced numerous concert works and appeared as a pianist and soloist. In a 50 plus year career in film composition, he has scored some of the great films of the fifties to the noughties. The greatest of all of those is perhaps the score for one of the best films ever made. That’s a bold statement, but I think ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is a great film, a wonderful adaption of a great book with a wonderful score, which I return to often and is available at Naxos.

Now, one last digression which has nothing to do with anything except the Elmer Bernstein score for the movie, The Great Escape, another fine score.

In the mid eighties, I worked in a small theatre called Theatre Workshop which was in Hamilton Place in Stockbridge. I was the Box Office Manager and in my Box Office was the tannoy system which meant I had control of the music that was played in the foyer. Whenever we had a member of staff leaving or a visiting company, that we liked, moving on or an intern coming to the end of their stay, we would often have a little get together at the Box office for speeches and thank yous.

Sometimes, in the long hours and very late nights of working in small scale theatre we would dream of ‘The Great Escape’. So, at these, leaving get togethers, and to entertain myself, for usually no one else got the reference, I would play the theme from ‘The Great Escape’ on a loop. Forgive my woeful sense of humour but that made me smile.  

On our Naxos music streaming service, search for any of the composers listed in this article and a complete film score or a selection of their work will be listed. 

You can also watch concerts such as ‘Morricone conducts Morricone’, ‘Fantasymphony: One concert to rule them all’, music from fantasy in cinema and ‘Galaxymphony: music from sci-fi cinema’ on Medici.tv, our free streaming service for classical music, opera and dance videos.

If you want to discover more film music, Saturday early evening on both BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM is the time to catch up with music from the world of film and game soundtracks. 

Or try Film music: a very short introduction by Kathryn Kalinak 

Short back and sides

We are going to open the pages of a brilliant new scrapbook from our Edinburgh Collected website – “The 69 year old story of the history of “Bobs” the famous Family Hairdressing Dynasty”. This scrapbook was put together by Patrick McCole and features an Edinburgh barbers through the years from its opening at 116 West Port right up to 2020 when the then current owner retired.

First Barber Shop-West Port

The barbers opened at 116 West Port by Bronislav (Bob) Malinowski in 1951 with just 3 Barbers chairs. When that shop was due to be demolished as part of redevelopment, they set up business at 13a Brougham Place in 1963. Bob was killed in an accident in 1968, and the business was carried on by his 2 sons Ben and Robin in premises at 99 Lauriston Place and 69 Comely Bank Road. Ben retired from Lauriston Place in 2019 and Robin from Comely Bank in 2020 after 48 years at that location.

Promotional poster for Bob’s

Famous Edinburgh hairdresser Charlie Miller served his apprenticeship in the West Port shop and went on to build up his own hairdressing dynasty.

Take a look at the history of “Bobs” scrapbook, and browse eighty picture memories from the collection.

Maybe you have photographs of places or industries in Edinburgh where you worked that you could share on Edinburgh Collected to help record the city’s past?

Film music – Part three: Britain and its Golden Age

Douglas from the Music Library continues his personal history of film music. In the third of a series of posts he will take us through the ‘history’ of how the film soundtrack became what it is today.

Britain’s film industry or the music side, seems at the casual glance to be a microcosm of the Hollywood model. After the early silent movies, films of the 30s and on, employed the very great talents of the great and the good of the British classical composers. The earliest of these, possibly great works, is a now lost score/soundtrack for a film called ‘The Bells’. The score was written by Gustav Holst in 1931 three years before the composer’s death but still very much at the height of his powers.

Available to stream or download via Naxos

The first great British film soundtrack available to us, is for ‘Things to Come‘, Alexander Korda’s first sci-fi film from the book by H.G. Wells, ‘The Shape of Things to Come’, with a score by Arthur Bliss. Korda had bought the rights to the Wells novel but Wells was allowed to retain a great amount of artistic control over the making of the film. One of those controls was the employment of Bliss as composer of the soundtrack. Wells also asked Bliss to write the score first, to allow the film to be based on it rather than the other way round. This novel approach appealed to all Bliss’ modernist ways and he duly produced the score before the film was started, however Bliss refused to edit any of his work to suit the film, this cutting and fitting was left to composer Lionel Salter.  

As the British Film Industry grew from successful release to even more successful release, the industry called upon the great and the good of the musical world to provide the go-to scores for the go-to movies. Vaughan Williams, William Walton, Malcolm Arnold and Benjamin Britten all made significant contributions to film and documentary making from the forties onward. Arnold provided scores to very many films of the fifties and sixties including ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’, ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ and ‘Hobson’s Choice’. Vaughan Williams provided the score for ‘Scott of the Antarctic’, which became the basis for his Seventh Symphony, also known as Sinfonia Antartica. One of the most important and often mentioned works of that period is the Famous ‘Night Mail’, a documentary film from 1936 from the General Post Office Film Unit with a screenplay/ poem W.H. Auden and a score by Benjamin Britten.

In a precursor to the film/music relationship between Patrick Doyle and Kenneth Brannagh which we will come to, the cinema of the forties, fifties and sixties saw the pairing of director/actor Sir Lawrence Olivier and Sir William Walton in the films Henry V, Hamlet and Richard III. Walton also produced the scores for ‘The Battle of Britain’ and many other noteworthy British films of that time.

As with the film industry throughout the world, the scales which had been weighed on the side of composers from the concert hall who dabbled in film, the weight changed and swung in the direction of composers whose specialism was film.

In that camp, were composers like John Barry, Ron Goodwin, Laurie Johnson, Stanley Myers, Richard Addinsell, Robert Farnon.

Available to stream or download via Naxos

John Barry is well known for his work on the James Bond franchise amongst others. Ron Goodwin provided the soundtrack for the ‘663 Squadron’, ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and over 70 other movies. Laurie Johnson scored over 30 films but is maybe best known for his TV output which includes ‘The Professionals’, ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Animal Magic’ which was reused as the theme for the wonderful ‘W1A’. Stanley Myers another who worked in both film and TV, including ‘Prick up your Ears’, ‘Wish You Were Here’ and ‘The Deer Hunter’. Amongst Richard Addinsel’s many highlights include the score for the best film version of ‘Scrooge’, the 1951 Alistair Sim outing, ‘Blythe Spirit’ in 1945 and his Warsaw Concerto for the 1941 film, ‘Dangerous Moonlight’. Canadian born Richard Farnon lived in Britain for most of his life and produced much light orchestral and film/TV music.

Available to stream or download via Naxos

As mentioned earlier, Scottish born Patrick Doyle and Knight of the Theatre, Kenneth Branagh have collaborated on many films. Like their illustrious predecessors Olivier and Walton, they have also made versions of ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Henry V’ as well as ‘As You Like It’, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and non-Shakespeare outings like ‘Sleuth’, ‘Thor’ and ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.

Perhaps more importantly, Patrick Doyle was my piano teacher when I was at Hillhead High School, Glasgow in the mid 1970s. 

Join Douglas next week for the fourth and final part of his film music ‘history’.

An interview with Bob and Sigrid from Lavender Menace Bookshop

Today’s article is written by Nikki from Corstorphine Library who tells us about her chat with Bob and Sigrid from Lavender Menace Bookshop.

“This February I decided to look into Edinburgh’s LGBT history, and discovered an interesting new community project along the way. It didn’t take long to find mentions of The Lavender Menace Bookshop, which opened just two years after homosexuality was decriminialised in Scotland. I got in contact with the founders and to ask them about its beginnings, their favourite reads, and the shop’s recent reincarnation as a free-to-use community archiving project.

Hi Bob & Sigrid! So first off – tell us a bit more about the Lavender Menace.

Lavender Menace Bookshop was Scotland’s first lesbian and gay community bookshop, opened by us, Sigrid Nielsen and Bob Orr, in Edinburgh’s Forth Street in August 1982. We were part of a wave of new lesbian and gay writing and publishing which blossomed in the 1970s and 80s and one of many lesbian and gay bookshops in the USA, Canada, continental Europe and the UK. Gay’s the Word were a great support before and after we opened. Back then the acronym LGBT+ hadn’t yet come into use, although we knew some bisexual and trans people and also catered for their interests.

You suffered from book seizures throughout the 1980s. How did you work through this at the time? 

Bob – The books that were seized were those that we imported from the USA and Canada. There was a double standard in use by HM Customs then which betrayed their prejudices. We imported titles by authors that were out of print in the UK, although other titles of theirs were available here. Titles by Christopher Isherwood and Jean Genet spring to mind. Customs had the power to seize the whole consignment if they thought that only one title was obscene.

We had a lot of support from the gay press such as Gay Scotland, Scotsgay, Gay News and the free sheets that were published in London. This meant we were able to get the news out that we were being targeted. We also had small consignments sent to our home addresses using names of characters from some of our the titles we stocked.

Sigrid – The names were Marianne Woods and Jane Pirie. They ran a girls’ school together in the early 19th century and were accused of being lovers. During the mid-1980s, we had imported books sent to us in their names because Customs & Excise were seizing packages addressed to the bookshop and to Gay’s the Word in London. 

Tell us more about the Lavender Menace Archive. What’s the main aim, and how can people support this project?

Lavender Menace Queer Books Archive came out of our revival of Lavender Menace as a pop-up bookshop on the back of the success of James Ley’s play Love Song To Lavender Menace, and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. We worked closely with LGBT Youth Scotland during History Month two years ago and discovered that there were many authors and titles which were unknown by the young people we were talking to. LGBT Youth have a small library of titles which were under used because they weren’t familiar to them.

We realised that authors and their titles which we stocked in Lavender Menace and its successor West & Wilde were now out of print and in danger of being forgotten. The nature of publishing is to create something new. Reprinting titles is risky and very expensive.

We realised that the LGBT+ community were in danger of losing some of their history. Setting up an archive would conserve books, their authors and publishers many of which were no longer in business. We have set ourselves up as a community interest company to support the LGBT community by promoting the archive as a valuable resource.

The archive will also have a digital presence at lavendermenace.org.uk. We want to make the site interactive so readers can leave comments and mark their favourites.

Have you seen noticeable changes in how diversity is embraced or celebrated since Lavender Menace was founded in 1982? What barriers do you feel remain in place?

Lavender Menace was one of the few places where people could be themselves without sexual pressure or the use of alcohol. Customers were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to be in the shop given its small space.

Queer spaces, rather like sexual identity have to be seen in their social context. While social attitudes have changed perhaps beyond recognition since the 1980s, there is still prejudice in society and within the LGBT+ community. While we don’t have a public space yet, for access to the archive, I think the best we could do, given that possibility in the future, is to make a space as welcoming as possible by recognising the diversity of the community who will use it. A smile can sometimes be enough.

Lastly – 2020 was a tough year, to say the least. What books got you through it?


  • Humankind: A Hopeful Journey by Rutger Bregman, is an exploration on the fundamental goodness of human society.
  • Box Hill by Adam Mars Jones, a mesmerising novel of coming out, dependency and self-realisation. 
  • I’m currently reading Feminism is Queer by Mimi Marinucci and Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart awaits.


  • The book Scotch Verdict by Lillian Faderman has more information on Marianne Pirie and Jane Woods, as mentioned above. It sold well in the shop. It’s about Pirie and Woods, and also about the research Faderman did in Edinburgh in order to reconstruct their story. 
  • As far as getting through 2021 is concerned, I’d recommend the YA Novel – Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo.

Thank you to Sigrid and Bob for their time!” 

You can join Sigrid and Bob for a Live Lavender Menace Q&A event on Wednesday 24 February at 6.30pm. Book your free ticket at: bit.ly/lavenderquestion

And if you’d like to hear your question answered by Sigrid and Bob at the event, email it to informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk or tweet @TalesOfOneCity with your #lavenderquestion

Film music – Part two: Hollywood, the Golden Age

Douglas from the Music Library continues his personal history of film music. In the second of a series of posts, he will take us through the “history” of how the film soundtrack became what it is today. 

We stopped last week at 1927 which was an interesting date to land on as this was the date of the first full length Hollywood film with synchronised sound. The films mentioned to this point had soundtracks performed live or if recorded, this recording was not linked or synchronised to the film.

The Jazz Singer is acknowledged to be the first film to have synchronised speech and music and led to a period of consolidation of techniques in the film industry, the next milestone of interest in the history of music for film, brings us to the dawn of what is known as the golden age of Hollywood, a period from the early 1930s to the mid 1950s.  

In 1933, a European emigre, one of many to work in Hollywood in that time, Max Steiner wrote the first complete, through composed, score for the film “King Kong”.  

By the phrase “through composed” Steiner uses techniques used by the great composers of the 19th century who wrote for the stage, and the concert house like Berlioz, Wagner, and Puccini to name only three. These three and many others used the idea of introducing characters or ideas with tunes, the “leitmotif” or “idee fix” – a theme for the star-crossed lovers or a theme for developing menace. When Scarpia, the baddie, in Puccini’s Opera, Tosca, appears, musically you know that the villain is on stage likewise, and I always link these two excerpts, when Darth Vader appears for the first time in Star Wars, A New Hope, you know you are in the presence of evil.  So the familiarity of the theme helps us to recognise the character and/or underpin what that character is going through.   

Allow me another digression, or perhaps this is an illustration not a digression.

A long time ago, I went to see “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg”, five hours of glorious Wagner opera. If I was trying to be a smarty pants, I would say that if you wanted to listen to this opera just listen to the overture, all the tunes you are going to hear for the next five hours, rolled into ten minutes, but that is my point, the artistry is expanding those themes, inverting them, reversing them, changing the key or the time signature or changing major to minor, the sheer invention is astounding. Without the aid of subtitles or surtitles all of the goings on in the lives of Hans Sachs, Sixtus, Eva, Walther and the rest are played out before you and explained musically. Before you have looked at your watch, five hours has disappeared. 

You could say that the skill of the film composer demonstrated first in the golden age of the 30s, 40s and 50s, was the skill of the accompanists of the silent era just before that, which was the skill of the nineteenth century composers whose works they all would have studied. The art of sometimes taking very little and making it say or do or last, more then it might have been intended to.

As already said, Max Steiner was the one of the first of many Europeans who ended in Hollywood at that time and here are a number who were fortunate to be able to flee Nazi Germany at a time when their religion made it an extremely uncomfortable place to be. 

Names like:
Franz Waxmann – Taras Bulba, The Spirit of St Loius, Bride of Frankenstein, Rebecca.

Portrait of composer Erich Korngold
Erich Korngold, by Georg Fayer, via Wikimedia Commons

Erich Korngold – A Midsummers Night Dream, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essax, The Sea Hawk.

Portrait of composer, Kurt Weill
Kurt Weill from Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-2005-0119 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE, via Wikimedia Commons

Kurt Weill – The Threepenny Opera, You and Me, Where do we go from here, One Touch of Venus. 

Max Steiner – King Kong, Little Women, A Star is Born, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Young Man with a Horn.  

Composer Dimitri Tiomkin sat at a piano
Dimitri Tiomkin from International Photographer, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Dimitri Tiomkin – Lost Horizon, High Noon, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Guns of Navarone.

Portrait of composer Ernst Toch
Ernst Toch, Anonymous/Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Ernst Toch – Catherine The Great, The Cat and The Canary, The Unseen. 

Hans Eisler – Hangmen Also Die!, None but the Lonely Heart. 

Nearly all of the names on this short list were Austrian/German Jews encouraged by friends and family to leave their country while they were still able. Some of the above list and many of their colleagues whom I have not mentioned made the switch from composing for the concert hall to composing for the screen and back again comfortably, the most well-known is perhaps Erich Korngold many of whose non-cinematic works have been regularly performed and recorded.

Some had suffered directly at the hands of Nazi aggression, some simply saw what was to come and decided to move on, winding their way across Europe via Paris and London, then to America. Few returned. 

One who was forced to return was, Hans Eisler. 
Hans Eisler wrote music for some minor Hollywood films and is best known for writing the East German National Anthem. In his homelands and throughout the world he was perhaps best known for his long association with the playwright Bertolt Brecht. One of the first artists placed on a Hollywood blacklist and interrogated by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He was later deported from the USA in 1948. All the support he had received from the likes of Charles Chaplin and Leonard Bernstein had failed to secure his place in America. On leaving from LaGuardia Airport, he made this statement,
“I leave his country not without bitterness and infuriation. I could well understand it when in 1933 the Hitler Bandits put a price on my head and drove me out. They were the evil of that period; I was proud at being driven out. But I feel heartbroken over being driven out of this beautiful country in this ridiculous way.” 

Another composer with long association with Bertolt Brecht was Kurt Weill.
Weill fled Nazi Germany in 1933 moving first to Paris then to New York and to Hollywood. His brief stint in Hollywood and America was marked by more theatre collaborations with Brecht and some film scores. Weill died in 1950 shortly after his 50th birthday. 

All of the above list made significant contributions to the great movies of the 30s, 40s and 50s. The most significant contribution was perhaps the accidental composition lesson that those Hollywood emigres gave the world during this golden age. The films of this age were seen by the widest numbers imaginable and it is in no doubt that lots of these very fine films have been studied and dissected by film and music students too. It was through this schooling, that having learnt the lessons, Hollywood could then throw away the lesson plan and rewrite how to score a film.

The most significant contribution all these composers made was their input to a continuing musical education and growth. Only in knowing and understanding, and demonstrating their ability in what has gone before, can you then dispense with all that you have learned, then can you reinvent and renew.

Film music: Part one

Over the next few weeks Douglas from the Music Library says he will take us through what is probably the briefest, most subjective, and ill-informed “history” of film music you will read. In a series of posts, we will take a short hop through the “history” of how the film soundtrack became what it is today.

“In the recent weeks and months a lot of us have been working from home using the time as usefully as we can. 

I have spent my home working days in the last weeks, reading and acting on my emails, attending zoom meetings and online tutorials, writing blogs to highlight all the wonderful electronic resources we have. My colleagues and I not only write about our resources, we also use them. During these lockdown and home working periods we have all been going through, I have used our Family History resource, Find My Past, to expand my family tree and when I have been reading I have mostly used our Overdrive to either read or listen to books, and I have gone back to listening to music, to which the library’s Naxos music streaming service is such a great resource.

William Perry’s Music for Great Films of the Silent Era, Vol. 2, available on Naxos

In between all the work things, I logged onto our Naxos music streaming service and worked my way through some favourite film soundtracks. 

As I mused on the wonderful soundtracks, I got to thinking about where they came from, and about all the composers throughout the years, who provided this fine body of work.  

The first performances of the moving picture were unaccompanied by any kind of soundtrack. In an early kind of audience feedback, the two dimensional, black and white, and mostly, except for the clatter of the projector, silent images, was, said by the audiences to feel, unreal or incomplete. This was countered in early outings of silent productions, when phonograph records were sent out with the film to be played at the same time as the projection.

As the format grew and travelled the world and was adopted in many different countries, the need for sound, often music but not always, to highlight what was being watched, was introduced. In Japan, early performances were accompanied by live narration but the sounds were often the music of the countries in which the films were being viewed. In America and Europe this was western classical music.  

It is always assumed that the musician who played for these early cinematic performances were adept improvisers and they were, but this was not a complete picture of this kind of music making.  

There a few notable firsts to add to the story so far. In 1908, the first score written specially for a film was penned by Camille Saint-Saens for the short film “L’assassinat du Duc de Guise”. Erik Satie provided a frame by frame soundtrack to the short surrealist film Entr’acte by René Clair, which was given as an intermezzo for the Ballet “Relache” in 1924. 

Large volumes of music were written to accompany short sections or scenes in a film. The pianists and the small groups who provided the accompaniment, would be sent a playlist with the film, a scene by scene breakdown of the film with an indication of the characters or the moods to be conveyed at that time.

Alternatively, they watched the film they were to work with and prepared their own playlist of music snippets which they would improvise links to, to get them from one snippet to another snippet. These snippets of music were different in length from seconds to minutes, therefore, another tool in the arsenal of the film accompanist was the ability to lengthen or shorten these nuggets of music to suit the length they required.

This music was generic and ultimately disposable, which was unfortunately what happen to a lot of it. Some survives and is collected by libraries and used to recreate performances of silent film.  

Birmingham City Libraries have a collection of music for the silent cinema with titles like:
The Vampire by Sol P. Levy 
Serenade by A. E. Titl 
A.B.C. Dramatic Set No. 17 by Ernest Luz which is subtitled ‘A classy illustration of agitation with a sorrowful or plaintive aftermath’ – all of which happens in about a minute’s worth of music. 
Symphonic Incidentals No.15 which is subtitled “Sinister”.
And other titles like the Mob, Smugglers, Tender Appeal, The First Kiss, The Spectre and To the rescue. Also in the collection is a piece specifically written for an actor rather than a mood, a piece entitled Marche Grotesque for Charles Chaplin. 

In K. Kalinak’s book Film Music – A very short introduction, there is a short list of “Musical Encyclopaedias” which contain music catalogued by their dramatic mood: 

Giuseppe Becce’s Kinothek series published in Berlin from 1919 to 1929 
J.S. Zamecnik’s Sam Fox Moving Picture Music Series, 1913-1914
Erno Rapee’s Motion Picture Moods for Pianists and Organists, 1924 
And the Encyclopedia of Music for Pictures, 1925. 

Musicians also made use of famous or well-known pieces of music. There were, I imagine, less checks by copyright enforcers so they could use chunks of a pieces of music which suited their purpose.  

To digress, an “en pointe” digression, from the, so-called, history. I attended a performance of a silent movie called “The Lodger”, an early Alfred Hitchcock film, starring Ivor Novello, which on this occasion had a recreated score performed by a small group of Edinburgh musicians. They coupled together some of the music from editions like the collections mentioned above and intertwined them with sections of “The Rite Of Spring” by Stravinsky. This live score was arranged for violin, trumpet, clarinet, cello, piano and theremin. This use was appropriate as the Rite of Spring was composed in 1913 and the film was made in 1927. This is a great point to stop, 1927 and a period of time which saw the first of the sound films, the Talkies, and the last of the silent movies. The Jazz Singer released in 1927 is credited with being, the first full length Hollywood film with synchronised sound.”

More on this and The Jazz Singer next week, when we pick up with Douglas in part two of his film music history.

Lights, camera, action!

The last few months of closed cinemas have been a melancholy sight in Edinburgh. Our latest story on Our Town Stories offers the chance to reminisce about going to the pictures, with a hope that we’ll be able to return to them again soon.

From the first purpose-built cinema built in 1912 to the new Everyman Cinema which will be part of the new St James Quarter development, Edinburgh has a long history of going to the cinema.

We have also produced some very famous faces of the silver screen. We all know about Sean Connery, but we highlight some other familiar faces born in Edinburgh too.

Cameo Cinema

Our newest story on Our Town Stories takes you on a virtual tour of Edinburgh’s cinemas past and present, taking in some famous Edinburgh film locations along the way.

Be the light in the darkness

Join Edinburgh Libraries’ staff and library members for an evening of reading, listening, and remembering tonight, Wednesday 27 January, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

We will be reading a selection of short passages from fiction and non-fiction books about the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and the genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

Library staff have each chosen a poem, or a short passage from a book that has helped us learn and understand about the experiences of people who survived the Holocaust and genocide.

All the works from which we will be reading this evening are available through Edinburgh Libraries, either in print or as an ebook or audiobook.  

See Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website for suggested titles or browse our online collection of downloadable ebooks and audiobooks.

At the end of the ceremony, there will be an opportunity for everyone to light a candle and take part in a minute’s silence, so please have a candle ready if you would like to participate.

This event will take place online via Zoom starting at 7pm.
Book your free ticket via Eventbrite.

Celebrating Burns and the Scots language with Edinburgh Libraries

Join Edinburgh Libraries in celebrating Scotland’s national poet, Rabbie Burns this week. Born in 1759 in Ayrshire, he was the son of a tenant farmer who went on to become one of Scotland’s greatest heroes. To celebrate his literary legacy and lasting impact we have a range of resources for you to discover and enjoy.

Robert Burns – Poet, by Alexander Nasmyth, 1839

Burns Night Quiz
Each year on the 25 January, Burns night is celebrated across Scotland and the world. Despite the lockdown, this year should be no different! Please join Carol from Stockbridge Library as she presents to you a Braw Burns Quiz. Test your knowledge of Scotland’s Bard and the Scots language on Monday 25 January at 7.30pm on the Stockbridge Library Facebook page.

Scots language collection of ebooks and audiobooks
The Mither Tongue’ collection is a new selection of titles we have chosen for our ebooks and eaudio service, OverDrive/Libby app. The collection goes beyond Burns to also celebrate the best of modern writing in Scots, including newly crowned Booker Prize winning title ‘Shuggie Bain’ by Douglas Stuart.

Further fantastic resources from Edinburgh Libraries
The Robert Burns in Edinburgh story on Our Town Stories describes Burns’ time in Edinburgh and his connections to the city.

Also on Our Town Stories, is the story of William Creech and his publishing legacy. Creech was a significant member of Edinburgh’s society during the Enlightenment and is best remembered today for publishing Robert Burns’ poems.

Robert Burns on Capital Collections – this exhibition represents some of the Burns related artworks available in Edinburgh Libraries.

Burns’ Objects and Images on Capital Collections – an exhibition of portraits, documents and personal objects including Burns’ own writing desk and a plaster cast of his skull from the collections of Edinburgh Museums and Galleries housed at the Writer’s Museum on Lady Stair’s Close.

The Cotter’s Saturday Night by Robert Burns – in another Capital Collections exhibition browse John Faed’s illustrations which vividly depict the story of Robert Burns’ poem, ‘The Cotter’s Saturday Night’. The poem was written over the winter of 1785 – 86 when Burns was 26 years old.

The Cottar’s Saturday Night, illustration for verse 2 by John Faed, 1853

Ode to a Mouse – Sean Kane reads one of Robert Burn’s most famous and best-loved poems in Edinburgh Central’s Reference Library.

Immortal Memory: A Burns Night Celebration – just one of the fantastic Burns music titles we have on the music streaming service Naxos and available for free with your library membership.

Marking Holocaust Memorial Day with Edinburgh Libraries

Join us this month to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

Lighting up the Darkness
Edinburgh Libraries have adapted the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust’s photography project to allow us to grow our Edinburgh Collected online community archive. We hope to gather some extraordinary memories and photographs which will be able to share for many years to come.
Find out how you can contribute to the Light up the Darkness photography project on Edinburgh Collected.

Wednesday 27 January at 11am – Bosnia and beyond
HMD 2021 – Bosnia and beyond: in conversation with Denis Rutovitz and Jeanne Bell, co-founders of Edinburgh Direct Aid

Carol Marr, Library Development Leader will host a pre-recorded event on Stockbridge Library’s Facebook page discussing EDA’s work as a grass roots charity based in Edinburgh. This includes work in Bosnia, Denis and Jeanne’s own personal involvement, the role and commitment of volunteers and about EDA’s work today in Lebanon working with Syrian Refugees.

Wednesday 27 January at 7pm – Reading Ceremony
Join Edinburgh Libraries’ staff and readers for an evening of reading and remembering.

We will be reading short passages from a number of fiction and non-fiction books about the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and the genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

At the end of the ceremony, there will be an opportunity for everyone to light a candle and take part in a minute’s silence.
Book your free place for this Reading Ceremony via Eventbrite.

Wednesday 27 January at 7pm, Holocaust Memorial Day UK Commemorative Event
The UK Commemorative Event acts as a spotlight for all of the Holocaust Memorial Day activities in the UK. The ceremony is be open to everyone and it is hoped that as many people as possible will watch and engage with the event to honour survivors of the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution, and the genocides which followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur and to resolve to learn lessons from the past to create a safer, better future.
You can register to watch the ceremony on 27 January.

Edinburgh Libraries are marking Holocaust Memorial Day with Edinburgh Collected

Edinburgh Libraries have taken inspiration from the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust photography competition (now closed) on the theme of Be the Light in the Darkness to enable us to record pictures and memories on our online community archive, Edinburgh Collected.

We are looking for original images focussing on the people, groups, images and objects which light up the darkness. Photos are immediate and capture the contemporary situation faster than any other creative medium. They also give us extraordinary insight into past events.

Think about what the ‘darkness’ and the ‘light’ have been for you, or for others in the past. How would you capture this in a photo? Who or what has been a source of hope, inspiration or support through dark times?

Photojournalism has been used to document the horrific conditions of concentration camps and the atrocities of genocide and war and has served as a powerful testimony for combatting Holocaust denial.

However, there have also been recent discussions on the inappropriate use of distressing images. Do not try to recreate any images from past conflicts, do not photograph people in distressing situations, instead, focus your image on what has been the light rather than the darkness.

1. Get to know the 2021 Holocaust Memorial Day Be The Light In The Darkness theme and read the life story of a survivor of the Holocaust or one of the more recent genocides on the Holocaust Memorial Day website. You might like to read about the experiences of Mussa, a survivor of the Genocide in Rwanda, who sees his passion for photography as a tool for change.

2. Think about how this theme is relevant to you. What is the ‘darkness’ and what is the ‘light’?

3. Research how other photographers have used themes of light and dark visually in their work for inspiration.

4. Be creative! Make your photo as unique to you or your group as possible. We are looking for original, relevant and diverse images.

5. You can use phone filters if you want to but remember not to use any editing software like Photoshop or Illustrator.

6. Create an account on www.edinburghcollected.org and share your photos on the Be the Light in the Darkness theme.

You can upload in time for Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January, however Edinburgh Collected is there for you all year round.

If you want more information or any help getting started with Edinburgh Collected, please contact informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk

Discover the history of Portobello on Our Town Stories

Portobello is Edinburgh’s bustling seaside town, well known for its beach and views over to Fife.

A new story on Our Town Stories uncovers some facts about the area you might be less familiar with.

Did you know that it was once home to many industries, including a chocolate factory?

Where were the Marine Gardens, home to the Empress Ballroom, speedway racing, a zoo, ornamental gardens and maze?

Can you name which of Scotland’s most famous entertainers was born in Portobello, or which resident was the first Scot to swim the Channel?

Why not delve into Our Town Stories and dip your toes into some fascinating facts about Portobello’s history and landmarks?

David T. Rose’s pictures of Edinburgh

Our latest Capital Collections exhibition showcases the beautiful watercolour paintings by Scottish artist David Thomas Rose held by Central Library.

Cockburn Street, c1942

David T. Rose was born, grew up and studied in Scotland but his working life as a civil engineer took him further afield including to Malta, Yorkshire, Wales and London. However, he regularly returned for family holidays visiting his sister in Edinburgh and other relatives in Fife. It’s believed the watercolours of Edinburgh and environs in this collection were painted on these trips. The exhibition features scenes of city life encompassing diverse areas including the Old Town and Craigmillar, Joppa and Leith.

Calton Hill, looking west, c1942

To view the complete set of 70 artworks, visit the wonderful David T. Rose’s pictures of Edinburgh exhibition on Capital Collections.

Craigmillar Castle, c1942