Make music with Natasha from the Music Library

With Make Music Day fast approaching, Natasha from the Music Library reflects on how the department is still very much available to music lovers whilst the building remains closed.

I’ve worked in the Music Library for nearly two and a half years now and ever since my first day I’ve continued to discover a whole new world. When you step into the department, you’re greeted by a huge selection of CDs, DVDs, sheet music, and books – not to mention the vast amount of stock in the annexes! I’ve found it’s so very easy to get lost amongst such spoils, so easy to find the piece of music I need to practise for my choir rehearsals, so easy to browse the CDs for something new, so easy to chat to customers and my colleagues and hear what they recommend. Whilst we’re all unable to visit the building, you could be forgiven for thinking that all of those lovely things about the library stop too. That’s certainly not the case: much can be found, enjoyed and shared through the online resources Edinburgh Libraries offer. I already knew of the wonder of using these platforms and now, through lockdown, I’ve come to appreciate them even more.

Listen – Naxos Classical and Jazz catalogues
The Naxos streaming service gives users access to over 150,000 recordings through the Naxos Classical Music Library and almost 20,000 recordings in the Naxos Jazz Library. This means there is easily something for everyone, with new recordings being added constantly to each. The Naxos catalogues are completely free to use, no adverts interrupt playback and tracks can be downloaded to be listened to offline for 30 days.

At work, the Music Library often has music streaming from Naxos, in particular the classical catalogue. Staff either scour the new releases tab and have a listen to something unfamiliar and intriguing, or perhaps a new recording of a famous work. Often, if we’ve been discussing a particular composer or performer, we’ll find examples of their work to play. It’s a real treasure trove. If classical and jazz music are things you struggle to find a way into, there’s plenty that could appeal. For example, I recently found myself down a rabbit hole of Led Zeppelin covers and arrangements, varying from contemporary jazz to chamber music interpretations. There’s also a huge range of film music and a growing section of a genre I am very taken by, video game music. One album I find I come back to time and time again is Symphonic Fantasies, a live album of orchestral arrangements of music from a selection of Square Enix games – some of which are my absolute favourite games to play, with their music often being a huge factor in my enjoyment.

There’s something so pleasing about being able to switch so easily between Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an ExhibitionThe Lego Movie Soundtrack, classical guitar arrangements of The Beatles’ hits, traditional music from across the globe, and back again. In the absence of communal listenings in the Music Library, this variety is most welcome.

Watch –
A newly acquired service currently being piloted is which has a vast collection of concert and performance videos, documentaries and master classes to be enjoyed. As with Naxos, this service costs nothing to use and is free from adverts during playback.

If you’re like me and are unable to partake in the normal music-making you do, watching some of the masterclasses is a really informative way to learn more about your musical practice and it has certainly helped me feel less ‘out of the loop’; even though I’m nowhere near the mantle of opera singer, I’ve found Joyce DiDonato’s master classes illuminating when it comes to technique and performance.

Master Class with Joyce DiDonato at Carnegie Hall, available to watch on

The range of performances available to view is rather impressive and I am hoping will serve as a gateway for me to understand a little more about opera, a genre that I must admit I am less familiar with. Armed with some recommendations from my uncle – whose car is constantly filled with arias, overtures and symphonies – I also turn my focus to the selections from my colleague Douglas, with whom I naturally talk about music most of the time when in the library:

“There is such a lot to recommend from that it is difficult to know where to stop. I have, so far, had time to watch a few operas and dip into the concerts, recitals and documentaries.

The opera productions seem to fall into two categories: as the composer intended them and the just plain weird. There is nothing wrong with either of these categories, though there is at least one production from the first category that should come with a warning about prevailing attitudes to race, gender and ethnicity which makes it uncomfortable to watch.

One production which would fall into my second category is Puccini’s Turandot, performed by Teatro Regio’s: a stunning, stylised, watchable production with sublime singing, notably from In-Sung Sim as Timor, the deposed King. Puccini died leaving this opera unfinished so it was completed by Franco Alfano. This production stops the action approximately where Puccini laid down his pen and, although he had sketched out an ending which Alfano more or less worked to, the Teatro Regio’s ending seems to make more sense of the work.

Puccini’s Turandot, a production by Teatro Regio Torino, available to view on

On my ‘list to watch’ is Wuorinen’s Brokeback Mountain and Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer. The list grows by the week as I discover more I would like to sample.”

Read – RBdigital and PressReader
In a time where information is instantly available at our fingertips thanks to the internet, it’s easy to forget the simple pleasures that come from reading publications. Our digital publications platforms, RBdigital and PressReader, have access to hundreds of specialist magazines, including the music-specific BBC MusicMojoQRolling Stone, and Billboard amongst many others. An advantage these apps give over print magazines is that you’re able to change font size, background colour and can enable text to speech, making them much more accessible to some readers.

One thing I have enjoyed about lockdown is the ability to revisit things I had overlooked before or felt I hadn’t the time to do before. This has taken the form of finishing knitting projects I’ve left abandoned, drawings I’ve not had the energy to do. The same can be said for music magazines.

I’ve looked back at my RB Digital profile; January 2019’s copy of Mojo has been downloaded, waiting to be read, the front cover emblazoned with a striking image of one of my favourite artists, Kate Bush. Other names that caught my interest are on the cover: Peter Gabriel; Jimi Hendrix; Christine and the Queens; Kamasi Washington. I’d downloaded the issue so I could read through it at my own leisure but, until recently, it had remained untouched. With slightly more time on my hands than usual, I’ve been able to come back and see what I’d missed. Looking through the Best Albums of 2018 List, seeing which of them I’d already borrowed from the Music Library, including the wonderful second albums Fenfo by Fatoumata Diawara and Chris by the aforementioned Christine and the Queens, the latter of which often finds itself played in the Music Library when Rehana and I are on duty together. Finding more albums that I’ve overlooked and making notes that I should definitely borrow them when I can be in the department once again, filling the void of feedback we get from borrowers; libraries are brilliantly communal places that allow a wealth of shared knowledge and experiences. I also finally read the piece on Kate Bush, dotted with images of her in bold costumes and bright knitted jumpers. I found a BBC Music issue I had downloaded that I have no recollection as to why I chose to keep it. It’ll be quite exciting to remember what made it catch my eye, alongside trying to find recommended recordings on Naxos.

There are aspects to music and library life that cannot fully be replaced during this very odd time of lockdown. It has, however, opened my eyes to parts that I perhaps overlooked a little before. Make Music Day takes place on Sunday 21 June and, in honour of that, I shall spend this week in particular celebrating all of the Music Library’s facets.

If you have queries or need help with any of the online services Natasha recommends, please contact

Make Music Day 2020

This time last year, the Music Library team were busy planning and preparing to take part in their first Make Music Day of all-day live music sessions in Central Library. This year things are a bit different. We hand over to Douglas from the Music Library to tell you how Make Music Day will be celebrated later this month.

Douglas with other members of the Music Library team on Make Music Day 2019

Make Music Day is an annual worldwide celebration of live music making, this year will obviously be a bit different, with practically all of the performances being either recorded and broadcast online or live streamed on one of the many social media platforms.

With Make Music Day fast approaching. We thought we would try and highlight some of the ways you could get involved.

There are three main different strands to how you can be involved on the day or in the lead up to Make Music Day on 21 June: Perform, Create, Watch.

The starting point to any of the mentioned strands – Perform, Create, Watch – should be a visit to the Make Music Day website: Once there, depending on how you wish to be involved in the day, there are many guides and pointers on what to do.

If you are a music fan and wish to pack your Sunday 21 June with live streamed performances, Make Music Day’s website has an interactive event map, with a list of all the performances available on the day and links to join them.

If, for the past few months you have been locked down and are looking for new ways to entertain yourself and the folks you may be locked down with, apart from watching, you could take part by joining the virtual choir in a performance of Auld Lang Syne. You can also find instructions for how to make your own various musical instruments courtesy of Bang The Trash!

If you had hoped to perform, either at the library or somewhere else in Edinburgh on the day, there are many ways to do that and again, the Make Music Day website has many useful hints how to achieve that. For those of you like me, not particularly adept with technology, there are many ways to put your performance out there. All the social media platforms have a live element and although that might be something quite daunting it is not to be feared – pressing the LIVE button does not take you LIVE immediately, they all ask a second or even third question to confirm you are ready to go.

The decision on which platform to use, depends on who you wish to reach. Certain platforms may have a different demographic mostly based on age and how people consume their media. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all have pros and cons and all are fairly simple to use.

If you are in a band or group and wish to practise social distancing, there is a program called Streamyards which allows users to appear on the same screen at the same time  but not in the same room.

Once you have a lot of all this set up you could also look at Make Music Day’s official  Facebook Frames and Twibbons to frame your performance. Don’t forget to include the Make Music Day hashtag (#MakeMusicDayUK) and tag Central Library (@edcentrallib) and Make Music Day (@MakeMusicDayUK) so that we can help promote your event in advance.

If you or your group already have a Facebook page and followers there then that might be the best place for your performance. Facebook allows you to schedule a recorded performance or put on a live performance. The same can be said about Twitter and Instagram. You may wish to think about using either YouTube or one of the meeting platforms like Zoom or Jitsi. YouTube has a ‘Creator Academy’ training area which is a great resource. Zoom might serve your purposes but bear in mind that there is a 40 minute time limit on the free version which may limit what you want to do.

Now that you have sorted how to stream your event and on what platform you are going to appear, you should put some thought to the performance. It goes without saying but I’m going to say it now anyway – be prepared, rehearse well and as often as you can. Think about where you are going to perform and how it is going to sound.

Some top tips for making a video:

  • Use a tripod
  • Frame the subject
  • Consider your lighting.

If you don’t have a tripod, something like a music stand might do. Some phone cases or tablet cases turn into stands, which could also be useful. Don’t stand or sit in front of a window as you might end up backlit.

Tips for ensuring good sound quality:

  • Using a phone, tablet or laptop is quick and easy, but the sound can be variable depending on the surroundings and how many players, singers you have round the device. The microphones on devices tend to be Omni directional, recording everything in a radius around the device. The sound loudest or closest to the device may overpower everything else. A separate directional microphone many be preferred.
  • USB microphones can be fairly inexpensive
  • Use a quiet space
  • If you are unable to get hold of a microphone before the day, a pair of headphones or a small speaker can be used as a microphone but check this first as the quality may be no better than your phone or tablet’s microphone
  • Check how it sounds a few times before the real event. Try a few test recordings.

Tips for promotion of your event:

  • List your event at the Make Music Day website
  • List your event wherever they are still providing local events listings
  • Advertise and schedule posts across your social media channels
  • Tell as many people as you can – word of mouth is still a big part of promotion
  • Design a flyer or poster to put up wherever you can. is a great free website for with loads of useful templates for creating eye-catching posters and flyers.

If the music you are planning to perform is not your own you will have to check out the copyright and/or whether you are covered by Performing Right Society (PRS).  One or two of the social media platforms have blanket PRS licence but check all this out before you start.

You could Make Music for Macmillan. Edinburgh Libraries are hosts to Macmilllan Cancer Support with information and support hubs in four of our libraries. If you register your event with Macmillan, you can then ask any attendees to think about making a donation. All events for Make Music Day should be free as that is one of the mainstays of the day, but it is quite within the spirit of the day to suggest a charity to donate the equivalent of a ticket price to.

Make Music Day session in Central Lending Library, 2019


Make Music Day 2019

Play it again, Tam

Rolling Hills Chorus

21 June is Make Music Day, a global celebration of music making. Make Music is a free celebration, launched in 1982 in France as the Fête de la Musique and is now held on the same day in more than 1,000 cities in 120 countries.

Completely different from a typical music festival, Make Music is open to anyone who wants to take part. Every kind of musician — young and old, amateur and professional, of every musical persuasion. All of it is free and open to the public, and one of the main themes this year was music in Libraries.

Ceilidh Caleerie

Last Friday, Central Library came alive to the sound of music! Through word of mouth, contacts and some publicity we quickly put together the main part of a programme. We also invited our colleagues in the community libraries to take part and this call was answered by Stockbridge, Craigmillar and Morningside who put together programmes of local music makers.

At Central Library, we had a programme of, on the day, ten groups or individuals, some graduates of classes at the Scots Music Group, some library users and some who had heard of our involvement through the Make Music Day website.

Nigel’s Allstars

Magnus Turpie accompanied by Linda Cambell and Mike Turpie

On the Mezzanine, we were host to three choirs, two Ceilidh bands and a Button Accordionist. The three choirs were the Rolling Hills Chorus, The Gilmerton Singers and Sangstream. Our library visitors also enjoyed sets from the bands Nigel’s Allstars and Ceilidh Caleerie and a lovely slot featuring accordionist Magnus Turpie accompanied by Linda Cambell and Mike Turpie.

Louise Guy



In the Lending Library we had recorder player Louise Guy, Klezmerists, Kleyne Klezmer Trio, night class graduates Clarinite and Scots music group, Play it again, Tam.

The Gilmerton Singers






Kleyne Klezmer Trio


After the crowd in the lending Library had been completely entertained by the Kleyne Klezmer Trio, they were then treated to a surprise rendition of ‘Bring Me Sunshine’, the Morecambe and Wise hit and the anthem of Make Music Day. This was performed by a flash mob made up of Library staff from all departments.

Unfortunately due to a technical hitch this performance was not recorded, so you will just have to take our word for it that it was brilliant and very well received.



The Afternoon was brought to a close in Lending by Clarinite and on the Mezzanine Sangstream sung us home.




The reactions to the day have been very pleasing with many kind and useful comments left in our audience survey boxes and online and on our social media pages.

Asked – What have you enjoyed about Make Music Day in Central Library? – we got these responses:

“Lots of musical buzz”
“It has created a great atmosphere – it has been very uplifting”
“Enjoyed the variety and particularly the venues on both levels, interesting to watch staff and public ‘dancing’ ”
“Something different – brought people together – smiling faces”
“The surprise spontaneity of it”.

So finally, the Music Library Team, Natasha, Michalina, Bronwen and Douglas, would like to thank all those who came to watch, who helped us put the event on and a special thank you to all those who came and performed, who Made Music for us, simply because they could.

Natasha, Michalina, Bronwen and Douglas from the Music Library Team.

Make Music Day!

Come to Central Library on Friday 21 June to celebrate the longest day of the year and be part of a global music festival.

Make Music Day is a free celebration of music around the world taking place every year on 21 June featuring musicians of all ages, genres and abilities. It’s the world’s biggest festival of free music events taking place in venues and public spaces both indoor and outdoor.

This year for the first time Central Library will host an exciting and diverse programme of community music events. Kicking off at 11.45am in Central Lending and 12 noon in the Music Library Mezzanine, library visitors will be entertained with a programme of music running throughout the afternoon until 4.30pm.

The Rolling Hills Chorus – Edinburgh’s premier male a capella chorus – open the programme on the Mezzanine at 12 noon. Described as one of the highest quality and most entertaining in Scotland and UK barbershop this act is sure to set the toes tapping.

Other highlights include the Kleyne Klezmer Trio performing in Central Lending at 2.00pm featuring Andrew Gardiner on clarinet, Simon Carlyle on tuba, and Jan Waterfield on accordion: there is sure to be a lot of noise to rowse the readers from their usually peaceful browsing.

We’re not forgetting Scotland’s fantastic musical traditions either with performers from Sangstream closing our programme on the Mezzanine at 3.45pm. Sangstream is a Scots folk choir singing traditional and modern Scots folk songs unaccompanied.

It’s not just Central Library! Other libraries around the city are joining in with the fun with Stockbridge Library starting the day at 11am with The Professors of Logic, who will be performing an acoustic set of original songs in a variety of genres, including Country, Blues, Cajun and Jazz, the songs tend to have a humorous bent. The band features guitar, fiddle, accordion and sax (maybe) and vocals.

Craigmillar has a fun-filled day planned with a Rock ‘n’ Roll Baby Musical Rhyme Time event starting at 10.30am and then two special ‘Craigmillar’s Got Talent’ shows on in both the morning and afternoon featuring pupils from Castleview and Niddrie Mill primary schools (am) and local musicians (pm).

Morningside is also getting in on the music fun with The Southside Scratchband entertaining the public from 11am to 12 noon.

The aim of our programme is to provide opportunities for all to enjoy a range a music and to bring various community musicians together for the day. All performers are providing their services at no charge and there is no fee to the public to attend.

Expect some surprises throughout the day. Draw up a chair. Relax and enjoy.

You can view both Central Library’s full programme  and Stockbridge Library’s full line-up online. Contact the Music Library for more information by phone (0131 242 8050) or email