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 – Medici.tv
A newly acquired service currently being piloted is Medici.tv 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 Medici.tv

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 Medici.tv 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 Medici.tv

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 informationdigital@edinburgh.gov.uk.

Stay at home family history help

We’ve lost count of the number of times people have told us that they would love to start researching their family histories, but simply don’t have the time, well, now might be the chance.

There’s a wealth of online resources out there to help you either get started or help you in your research. We have pulled together some online resources that we hope you’ll find useful.

Findmypast – we announced a couple of weeks ago that during this period of Libraries’ closure, we’re able to offer home access to Findmypast! Findmypast is a genealogical database giving access to millions of records including UK parish records, census records, Irish records and British military records.
If you’re just getting started with Findmypast, there is some excellent guidance in their ‘Help and more’ section within the site and they also have a YouTube channel where you’ll find wide-ranging video tutorials.

Scotland’s People – Scotland’s People is the official online source for parish registers, civil registration and census data. Also wills and testaments 1512-1901 (free). You will need to buy credits which entitle you to view indexed pages or facsimiles of records.

Family Search – this website enables you to search worldwide for your ancestors. It is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Salt Lake City who hold the largest genealogy collection in the world.

Edinburgh Libraries heritage resources – your Edinburgh Libraries membership gives you access to more wonderful resources from home including The Scotsman Digital Archive and Scran. There is also a helpful guide on how to start your family tree.

National Library of Scotland – have a whole section on their website dedicated to family history research and many tools to help you. Check out their superb maps section where you will be able to view thousands of maps of areas where your ancestors lived. Special mention also for the Scottish Post Office Directories online where you can search more than 700 directories from 1774-1911.

Scottish Genealogy Society – although the specialist library is closed at present their website and Facebook page has lots of tips and information.

Currently some organisations are even offering free online courses and research aids:
Strathclyde University are offering a free 6 week online course ‘Genealogy: Researching Your Family Tree’.

Who Do You Think You Are? The monthly BBC magazine (available from our libraries via Rbdigital) has 8 family history activities to do at home. RBDigital gives access to back issues of magazines so you can look back at previous editions for loads of family history searching tips!

The National Archives – loads of information available here! Check out their research guides, blogs, podcasts, learning resources, online exhibitions and ‘boredom busting’ activities.

Are ye dancin’?

If you’ve been dancing around your living room on your own, now you can take inspiration from the many dance companies streaming performances and making classes available online.

Start with the Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet School perform Matthew Hart’s Peter and the Wolf, choreographed to Prokofiev’s charming music, as part of the Royal Opera House’s #OurHouseToYourHouse series. For a real classic watch the Krelim Ballet perform Swan Lake.

You can learn more about the history of ballet and find more step-by-step techniques of classical ballet with BBC Arts Origins of Ballet.

If classical ballet is too formal for you and hip-hop or contemporary dance is more your thing – at BBC Arts Hip-Hop Dance and BBC Arts Contemporary Dance here’s your chance to learn some classic moves and the history of hip-hop and contemporary dance.

If all this inspires you, join Royal Academy of Dance teacher and Silver Swans expert practitioner Sarah Platt as she brings her motivational ballet classes directly to you at home. This is the first in a series of classes aimed at the over 55s, giving you the knowledge to unleash your inner dancer, with new sequences to learn and remember each week. Try this as a family!

Scottish Ballet have launched Dance Health and Wellbeing Classes especially for people with Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, dementia and other conditions – but the classes are suitable for many of us new to dance.

Sadler’s Wells Take Part series have launched a series of Family Dance Workshops. Although designed for younger children we can all enjoy learning how to balance, move like your favourite animal and dance the way colours make you feel.

Do you love musical theatre? Each Friday Andrew Lloyd Webber is releasing a musical available to watch for 48 hours to keep us entertained at the weekend. Check out The Shows Must Go On! Tune in tonight, Friday 10 April for Jesus Christ Superstar!

Read another blog post giving staff recommendations for enjoying music concerts online.

Discovering history online

The Edinburgh and Scottish Team at Central Library share some online resources for discovering history and heritage.

Image: David C. Weinczok @TheCastleHunter/ Twitter

Some residents of Stockbridge have been finding novel ways of keeping themselves busy/entertained in these times of social distancing, see above photo, however if you are stuck inside and looking for ideas here are some suggestions with a history and heritage focus.

Let’s start with anniversaries. April is an important month for two monumental events in the history of Scotland. April 6 marked the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath and there is a fantastic radio programme made by Billy Kay to celebrate the document and assess its impact and importance. ‘The Declaration’ was broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland this week and is available for one month on the BBC Sounds app. For younger people interested in the document, Historic Environment Scotland and National Records of Scotland have collaborated to produce this excellent free printable illustrated activity booklet.

The second anniversary of note this month is the bicentenary of the Scottish Radical Rising of 1820. We were all very sad to have to have to postpone the wonderful Maggie Craig’s talk at Central Library this month, but we encourage you to check out her great blog and new book on the topic. The aptly titled ‘One Week in April’ is newly published by Birlinn.

For the family tree researchers out there – an exciting development from Edinburgh Libraries has arrived. Free access to Find My Past has been extended to home users for the duration of this lockdown period. This was previously only available at a physical library site. For more information on how to access from home please visit our Your Library website.

The National Library of Scotland maps team have been busy producing this very nifty and useful digital map overlay. This allows you to see a comprehensive range of the maps of Edinburgh and its environs, what they cover and within what time period they were produced.

Now for any budding archaeologists out there (young or old…) Dig Ventures have made a fantastic online learning course available for free (usually costs £49.00!) and the next course begins on the 14 April. Archaelogy Scotland have also produced a handy toolkit of resources too.

The always excellent Battle of Bannockburn Experience has created an online classroom, which may be of interest to those currently partaking in home schooling (- we salute you!)

For those of us that perhaps can’t commit or aren’t interested in a formal learning experience but are really missing being able to go out and enjoy visiting a great museum or gallery, please have a look at these virtual options. A very comprehensive list has been produced by the MCN in the US. There are a great many to choose from all over the planet all free to access and enjoy.

Finally bringing things a bit closer to home and in case you missed it – episode 1 from the BBC Scotland series ‘One Night in the Museum’ was recently aired and available for the next month on BBC iPlayer. It follows three groups of primary school aged children on a journey of discovery as they are able to explore the National Museum of Scotland’s collection at night and free from adult involvement. It is adorable and well worth a watch.

Visiting art exhibitions from your armchair

This blog is written by Bronwen, Librarian in the Art and Design Library.

“Working in the Art & Design Library we are keen to promote access to exhibitions and make a point of collecting catalogues of the major shows around the UK. This year is a little different but with art museums having their virtual doors open we’ve pulled together some of the many online exhibitions and galleries you can visit without leaving home.

Tour some of the world’s greatest galleries with Google Arts and Culture!

The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in Google Street View

With Google Arts and Culture you can take virtual tours around some of the best art museums in the world from the British Museum to MoMA in New York to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris – you can zoom in far closer on individual works than you ever could in real life! You can even take a tour of our National Museums Scotland.

Close to home explore the collections of the National Galleries Scotland; explore their featured artists and art works and get some ideas for getting creative.

Catch up with the latest videos from The Royal Academy, London including virtual curator-led tours and artist interviews and explore the Royal Academy collections from home. The Royal Academy Gauguin and the Impressionists was due to open on 29 March: the Royal Academy are bringing a taste of the exhibition to you at home.

Tate Modern may be closed but you can view their series of Online Displays.

Watch an online-only performance by the Congolese choreographer and dance artist Faustin Linyekula in the Tanks at Tate Modern My Body, My Archive is a performance re-invented for the particular situation of this exhibition and its closure to the public. It combines segments of his works Sur les traces de Dinozord 2006, Statue of Loss 2014, Banataba 2017 and Congo 2019.

Image from the Dai Nippon (Great Japan) exhibition on Capital Collections

Ever wanted to get the National Gallery London all to yourself? Now you have a chance with their series of virtual tours. Tours link directly to painting pages where you can find out more information on the art works on display.

Dai Nippon (Great Japan) is an online exhibition of beautiful Japanese prints on Capital Collections. The artworks are taken from the Henry Dyer Collection of amazing artefacts gifted to Central Library by his family.”

Enjoy music concerts online

With concert halls and opera houses closed many orchestras are now entertaining us with streaming channels. The staff of the Music Library have put together some suggestions for listening at home.

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra launched their Friday Night Club on the 27 March and are making concerts free to view. Join RSNO at 7.30pm on Friday nights. You can also watch an earlier performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No.3 Eroica recorded in February 2020.

Love opera? Join the Polish National Opera where you can watch performances for free, live and on demand.  The Met Opera are making available nightly opera streams to suit all tastes: watch Rossini’s Barber of Seville or Bellini’s Norma. The Royal Opera House in London have put together classic clips from their Covent Garden home for watching remotely.

For more of a range of musical styles one of our latest favourite sites is Arte Concert – lots of music, concerts and art-related documentaries with a bonus that you can navigate the site in different languages.

This is an ever-updating list of times that various musicians and artists are performing livestreams over various platforms collated by NPR Music.

Classic FM have collated an amazing range of orchestras from across the globe streaming music to keep us entertained: this list is being regularly updated.

If you want to play music, Jess Gillam has started a Virtual Scratch Orchestra for all instruments and abilities. A great way for people to keep playing in a community at a time we physically can’t be there.

Singer and pianist Myleene Klass is giving music lessons from home Myleene’s Music Klass and you don’t need instruments! Myleene with the aid of her daughters is teaching us basic rhythms, teaching the difference between major and minor, and learning about dynamics. Great for all ages!

And don’t forget, your library card gives you access to Naxos Music Library and Naxos Jazz to stream or download classical and jazz music. No visuals but good for creating your own playlists.

Keep listening. Keep playing. Music has the power to lift our spirits through difficult times.

Read another blog post giving staff recommendations for watching and taking part in dance online – Are ye’ dancing?

Your Library top ten of 2015

As the year draws to a close let’s take a look at which of our online services you used the most during 2015. Here’s the top ten:

1. Zinio

No surprise that this is our most popular resource. Free online subscriptions to over 100 magazines including New Scientist, Hello and Amateur Photographer. What’s not to like?

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2. OverDrive

eBook and audiobook downloads continue to increase at a phenomenal rate (up a whopping 56% from 2014!) helped in part by the addition of some blockbuster titles for you to download – need we say it – free.

3. Capital Collections

Showcasing the image collections of Edinburgh Libraries, museums and galleries, the fantastic online gallery draws visitors from all over the globe.

4. Your Edinburgh

The best place to find out what’s on in your area.

5. Edinburgh Collected  NEW!

A brand new space for you to share, explore and discuss your memories of Edinburgh. Don’t miss out – get involved!

6. Our Town Stories

The history of Edinburgh in words, pictures and maps featuring the ever popular then and now photographs.

7. OneClickDigital

Reflecting the increasing popularity of audiobooks, downloads from OneClickDigital have almost doubled in the last 12 months!

8. Edinburgh 4 Community

If you’re looking for funding, as many of you are, this is the best place to start.

9. Theory Test Pro

Essential for learner drivers, this theory test simulator also gives more experienced motorists an opportunity to put their knowledge of the rules of the road to the test.

10. Library Press Display NEW!

Another new entry, Library Press Display is a window onto the world’s press, offering library members the chance to catch up on the daily papers without leaving the house.

That’s our top ten, but your library card gives you access to many, many other online resources besides. Visit Your Library to see the complete list.

(Top ten based on average monthly use during 2015.)