The First Great Virtuoso of the Viola – An exhibition on Lionel Tertis


photo of Lionel Tertis

Lionel Tertis, c.1903

Currently on display in the Jerwood Library are highlights from the large collection relating to the renowned viola virtuoso Lionel Tertis (1876-1975), collected by his biographer John White, and now held in the library archives. Throughout his long career Lionel Tertis worked tirelessly towards raising the status of the viola to a solo recital instrument on a par with the violin and cello. To this end he inspired and performed many new works for the instrument, was a prolific arranger of works originally written for other instruments and even produced his own design for the Tertis-model viola, in pursuit of a stronger, more sonorous tone. The Tertis-White collection comprises Tertis’ manuscript arrangements and annotated copies of music he owned, along with photographs, correspondence, concert programmes and other memorabilia. It was the life’s work of the much-respected violist John White whose definitive biography of Tertis was published in 2006: Lionel Tertis: The First Great Virtuoso of the Viola. 

photo of John White

John White, Tertis’ biographer. ©Melanie Strover



Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music (then Trinity College of Music) played a formative role in the development of Lionel Tertis’ career. He studied piano, harmony and violin at the college on an ad hoc basis between 1892 and 1894. On leaving the school Bradbury Turner, principal at the time, wrote to congratulate Tertis with the words ‘Remember, study is unending’.[1] Much later, at a dinner given in his honour in 1962, Tertis spoke of the ‘benefit and musical enthusiasm’ he had received during his studentship at TCM.[2] In 1966 the college awarded him an Honorary Fellowship and, after his death in 1975 his widow Lillian Tertis donated an important collection of Tertis’ scores to the college library, including many of his manuscript arrangements. Now, with the accession of John White’s archive – generously donated by his widow Carol –Trinity Laban holds the largest collection of Lionel Tertis material publically available anywhere.

Lionel Tertis also has a living connection with Trinity Laban through the professors of viola Roger Chase and Rivka Golani. It was Rivka who made the premiere recording of Tertis’ arrangement of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, the CD of which can be found in the Jerwood library here.


Professor Roger Chase playing Tertis’ 1717 Montagnana Viola. ©Todd Rosenberg Photography 2010

And it is Roger Chase who can be seen in the photo above playing Tertis’ 1717 Montagnana viola. Moreover, Roger’s teacher Bernard Shore, Tertis’ student and friend, would occasionally take him to Tertis’ house for lessons with Tertis himself. This 17 1/8” viola is the instrument that Tertis used at the height of his career and helped provide the inspiration for his later development of the Tertis-model viola, seeking to find something of the deep sonority of the Montagnana but in a form more manageable for smaller hands.


When Tertis began his career he had to work hard in order to overcome public prejudice against the viola as a solo instrument. In his autobiography, Tertis mentions overhearing someone remarking to their neighbour at one of his first solo concerts: ‘I believe a viola is a peculiarly-shaped brass instrument’, such was the lowly status of the instrument at the time. He goes on to implore the ever-increasing number of violinists choosing to take up the viola: ‘strive to enlarge the library of solo viola music, by fair means or foul. Cajole your composer friends to write for it, raid the repertory of the violin, cello or any other instrument, and arrange and transcribe works from their literature suitable for your viola’ – advice that Tertis himself followed throughout his life with the single-minded dedication that was reportedly so characteristic of him.[3] Representing this dedication to enlarging the viola repertoire with arrangements, on display in the exhibition is the original manuscript in Tertis’ hand of his arrangement of Delius’ Violin Sonata no. 2, pictured below.

The original manuscript of Tertis' Viola arrangement of Delius' 2nd Violin Sonata

Excerpt from the original manuscript of Tertis’ Viola arrangement of Delius’ 2nd Violin Sonata

Tertis was a prolific letter writer and on display are a selection of some of the more well-known correspondents from the large collection of letters in the archive. There’s a letter from Edward Elgar discussing and expressing his approval for the viola arrangement Tertis had made of the composer’s much-loved Cello Concerto; a letter from William Walton expressing his thoughts on Tertis’ retirement; an invitation to dinner from British Prime Minister Edward Heath; a note from Ralph Vaughan-Williams apologising for being too old and deaf to conduct a piece for Tertis; a letter from famous pedagogue Nadia Boulanger and a note from Fritz Kreisler, warmly expressing his friendship.

A particular highlight of the collection, and representative of the important role Tertis played in inspiring new repertoire for the instrument, is his copy of the score of Walton’s Viola Concerto, complete with his markings and a note of thanks to Tertis from the composer: ‘[…]for all you’ve done for this work’. The piece was written for Tertis in 1929 at the suggestion of Sir Thomas Beecham, and although Tertis was to become a strong advocate and regular performer of the piece, his initial reception of it was decidedly lukewarm. In fact, it was actually Paul Hindemith who gave the premiere. As Tertis writes in his autobiography:

One work of which I did not give the first performance was Walton’s masterly concerto. With shame and contrition I admit that when the composer offered me the first performance I declined it. I was unwell at the time; but what is also true is that I had not learnt to appreciate Walton’s style. The innovations in his musical language, which now seem so logical and so truly in the main-stream of music, then struck me as far-fetched. It took me time to realise what a tower of strength in the literature of the viola is this concerto.[4]

Many other British composers also wrote pieces especially for Tertis, among them John McEwen, Arnold Bax, Benjamin Dale, York Bowen, Frank Bridge and Harry Farjeon, Vaughan Williams and Arthur Bliss,[5] all of which are represented in the archive.



Tertis also spent much of his life thinking about the ideal shape and size of the viola. If it were built in proportion to the violin or cello it would be too large to play under the chin, yet this smaller size means a compromise in sonority. Tertis’ tone was big, beautiful and powerful and he insisted on playing an especially large viola to help achieve this. In particular it helped produce his desired rich and resonant C-string sound, bordering on the quality of a cello. He had no time for small, nasal sounds from small violas. Seeking to solve this problem for the viola in general, Tertis began a collaboration with the violin and viola maker Arthur Richardson, aiming to develop an instrument large enough to produce a strong, sonorous tone, yet not so unwieldy that it was too difficult to handle. He entered this quest for the perfect size and sound with the kind of single-minded enthusiasm that characterised much of his life, sending plans to makers all over the world and leading to the production of hundreds of instruments built to the specifications he originally developed with Richardson.[6] On display in the exhibition are a selection of plans, diagrams, photographs and correspondence all relating to his famous Tertis-Model Viola.

Although some violas made to the Tertis pattern are still in professional use, in many ways the Tertis-Model has been relegated to an interesting historical development. Many of today’s players get a great sound from violas of various shapes and sizes, giving the player a degree of choice unthinkable in Tertis’ time. Nevertheless, the effort Tertis put into his model has created a huge amount of interest in the whole question of viola size and shape, and has led to the opening up of many new paths of development for the instrument.[7] It is just one of the many ways that Lionel Tertis has left a deep and lasting legacy in the history and development of the modern viola.



[1] White, John. Lionel Tertis: The First Great Virtuoso of the Viola. (Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2006), 3

[2] Quoted in: White. Lionel Tertis, 264

[3] Tertis, Lionel. My Viola and I. (London: Kahn & Averill, 1991), 161

[4] Ibid., 36

[5] Watson Forbes, ‘Tertis, Lionel’ in Grove Music OnlineOxford Music Online, <; (accessed January 23, 2017)

[6]  White. Lionel Tertis, 160

[7] Ibid., 169


Edith’s Choice: 15 years of the Jerwood Library

Display cabinet containing items related to the official opening of the Jerwood Library in 2002 (programme, invitiation, photos and a poem read at the event)

Library display commemorating fifteen years of the Jerwood Library

15 years ago today on 9 January 2002, the official opening of the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts took place, which makes the library officially fifteen years old today. I’ve chosen to highlight this anniversary with a small display in the library this month.

I spoke about the library’s move to Greenwich with Walter Cardew, the only current member of library staff to have worked in both the TCM Library and the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts, and David Butler, who now works in the Jerwood Library but in 2002 was studying for a BMus at Trinity College of Music (now Faculty of Music, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

What was it like moving the whole library to Greenwich?

Walter: When I started here in Nov 2000 we knew the move was coming, and things kicked off in earnest when a new head librarian Rosemary Williamson started in 2001. We visited King Charles Court to see the space the library would be in and got an opportunity to explore the building including the attic spaces and even going out on the roof. Everyone was fascinated by the exposed wooden roof beams. I’ve heard various stories about their origins, including that they were timbers retrieved from sunk Spanish Armada ships, though I’m not sure that holds up to scrutiny…

Rosemary gave me the task of planning how the library stock would be packed and then organised in the new space. I had to plan in great detail and I devised an enormous spreadsheet mapping every single shelf in the old library to a specific shelf in the new library.

How did the new library compare to the old one?

David: Like King Charles Court as a whole, the new library was a lot more accessible for the students than the old one. The old building was a complete rabbit warren and the library was across three floors. The sequence of shelves didn’t feel logical, but the Jerwood Library has the whole collection in one space and all in sequence. I remember the old library having a few computers in the basement which were always busy and not the easiest place to study. I definitely used the library more after the move!

Walter: Because of the three floors staff had to put returned items for shelving in boxes and carry them up and down stairs so we were glad to move to one level. It also made it much easier for students to borrow items and get help from us as we weren’t tucked away on the top floor. The new library had closed stacks for our growing special collections including the Almeida Collection which we’d recently acquired and was a big addition to the library. 

The old buildings in central London were cramped and had been added to piecemeal as the institution grew. There were even some staff offices that could only be accessed from the rest of the site via a rooftop walkway! The move to a single building was unifying and we appreciated having a bit more office space too.

Were you at the official opening?

Walter: Yes, all the library staff were invited. My abiding memory is the actor Timothy West CBE reciting a poem he’d written commemorating Greenwich and the opening, which was very impressive. There was also a commissioned jazz piece performed by Iain Ballamy and others with poetry by Matthew Sweeney.

Representatives from the Jerwood Foundation were there too – the library was renamed the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts when we moved, in honour of the generous grant they made towards setting up the library in Greenwich.

Hawksmoor and Wren, come back
to see your palace now.
Look at its new inside –
this library we are celebrating,
tables where beds were,
the original beams overhead
but with a raised, sunlit ceiling –
all is light now, all light

Excerpt from Black Beams by Matthew Sweeney, commissioned by the Jerwood Foundation for the opening of the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts.

How has the library space changed since 2002?

Walter: The refurbishment was done to a high standard except it turned out no-one had thought about ventilation in the summer months. The library’s skylight windows couldn’t be opened and on a couple of occasions it got so hot we had to close the library completely. Fitting ceiling fans and a remote-controlled mechanism for opening the windows soon fixed that, to everyone’s relief.

David: The computers have shrunk in size and the shelves have filled up quickly! There were lots left empty when the library first opened but now there’s not a lot of free space and we’re squeezing in more shelving wherever we can…

Animated gif showing installation of new shelving in the Jerwood Library, summer 2014

New shelving being installed in the library in summer 2014

Thanks to both Walter and David for sharing their memories of the Jerwood Library’s first year with us.

A display is in the small cabinet in the library showing the programme from the official opening, Timothy West’s poem Ode to Greenwich and other related materials from the TCM Archive, housed at the Jerwood Library.

We’re delighted to have served the students and staff of the Faculty of Music for the last fifteen years and look forward to many more!

Claire’s Choice: on an autumnal theme!


As the mornings grow colder and squirrels are to be seen hoarding conkers for the winter, what better for “Claire’s Choice” than to highlight two songs in the Jerwood Library collection celebrating the venerable chestnut tree.



Written in 1840 by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poem The Village Blacksmith was set to music in 1854 by the English composer and celebrated bass singer Willoughby Weiss. It starts “Under a spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands…” and continues to describe the blacksmith’s daily life. Weiss offered the copyright of the work to a firm of publishers for the sum of 5 pounds, but when his offer was turned down, he decided to publish it on his own account. As luck would have it, it went on to become a hugely popular Victorian parlour song, earning him and his family a considerable income!


Moving forward into the 20th century, the second song The Chestnut Tree, with words and music by Jimmy Kennedy, Tommie Connor and Hamilton Kennedy, was composed in 1938. This popular novelty song was also inspired by Longfellow’s The Village Blacksmith. However rather than focussing on the virtuous, hard-working, church-going, qualities of the blacksmith, it centres on the blacksmith’s daughter and “the spreading chestnut tree”, the goings-on under which certainly didn’t appear in Longfellow’s poem!

But this was only one aspect of the song. In fact, the writers had been specifically commissioned to come up with something that was going to take dance halls by storm. Indeed the inspiration behind selecting The Village Blacksmith as inspiration came from a photograph of King George VI at a boy scout jamboree in which his, and all the scouts’, hands were held to their heads. Further research unearthed that this was part of a performance in which the scouts recited The Village Blacksmith. With assistance from Adele England (who had choreographed The Lambeth Walk) they devised some steps to go with their song, which are illustrated in the printed edition. It became a huge hit, selling over 10,000 copies per day.

This edition comes from the Jerwood Library’s Rita Williams popular song collection. Rita Williams sang with the Billy Cotton Club, among other groups, and was an avid collector of popular songs. The overall collection comprises some 3000 individual songs dating from Victorian times to the 1970s. It is handlisted here. Do get in touch with us if you’d like to see any other hidden gems in the collection.

Items from the Jerwood library collection:

Weiss, W.H. “The Village Blacksmith”. In The Songs of England, volume 1, edited by J.L. Hatton, 245-249. London: Boosey & Co, 1910

Kennedy, Jimmy, Tommie Connor and Hamilton Kenny, The Chestnut Tree. London: Peter Maurice Music Co, 1938

Trinity College of Music Archive Online

Following many months of dust, sweat, and toil, we are pleased to announce that the archive of the former Trinity College of Music (TCM) has been catalogued online and is now fully accessible to researchers for the first time. Thanks to special funding from Trinity Laban and former principal Derek Aviss, we had six months to sort out a lot of boxes…


These boxes were all held in storage, unlisted, and were therefore inaccessible to researchers. We appraised and arranged all the records in a sensible order before describing them on the Archives Hub. Finally, everything was moved into the library’s closed-access storage area, and re-housed in nice new boxes…


The archive covers the period from the foundation of the college in 1872 to 2005 (when TCM merged with the Laban Dance Centre). Records relating to the administration of local examinations and diplomas are included up until 1992 when Trinity College London was established as a separate company. Materials include minutes of meetings, student records, calendars and prospectuses, photographs, concert programmes, and much more…

20160825_16234620160825_15374820160825_162459 (2)Concert programmes re-housed in archival-standard enclosures

Anyone is welcome to view material from the archive, but please bear in mind that some records are closed in accordance with legal requirements. Please contact us in advance of your visit to make an appointment.

Item of the Month: Stanley Black’s film music for “The Young Ones” starring Cliff Richard

20160805_114218This summer’s Item of the Month features items from our Stanley Black archive relating to his music for the Cliff Richard film The Young Ones for which he wrote the music.

A pianist, conductor, composer and arranger, Stanley Black was known primarily for his many film music scores, his jazz and popular music arrangements and his work for the BBC as conductor and presenter of light music programmes. This collection comprises hundreds of autograph manuscript scores as well as ephemeral material including concert programmes, correspondence, contracts and photographs. The majority of the scores are listed separately on the library’s online catalogue – to browse a list of them, choose Stanley Black collection from the source option.

His filmography includes:

It Always Rains on Sunday (1948)
Too Many Crooks (1958)
Make Mine a Million (1959)
Jack the Ripper (1959)
The Battle of the Sexes (1959)
Hand in Hand (1960)
The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)
Sands of the Desert (1960)
The Siege of Sidney Street (1960)
House of Mystery (1961)
The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)
Valentino (1977)

The image above shows a close up of part of the score for reel “5M1” of The Young Ones. The scores give a fascinating glimpse of the working practices involved in producing film music: notice the penciled-in remark concerning the violin solo – possibly made by an arranger or sound engineer.

Vivian Joseph Centenary

Today we celebrate the centenary of Vivian Joseph (1916-2005), cellist and former professor at Trinity College of Music (now Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music).

TCM 12.7.1 Vivian Joseph 1934

Vivian Joseph in 1934. TCM Archive.

Born in Wales, Vivian Joseph took up the cello aged seven after hearing Lauri Kennedy play. He was soon hailed as a child prodigy, winning numerous awards at competitive festivals. A prize-winning studentship at the Royal Academy of Music followed, and in the late 1930s Joseph gave several critically-acclaimed recitals at the Wigmore Hall.

Master Joseph [12], not only carried off the prize for ‘cello playing in his own class … but also in the class for competitors under seventeen, and the senior class. [1]

During the Second World War Joseph enlisted in the army. He rose to become 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Ulster Rifles before being wounded in action in North Africa in 1944.

1944 on crutches

Vivian Joseph in uniform and on crutches after being wounded in action [1944]. TCM Archive.

After a lengthy rehabilitation, Joseph resumed his performing career, becoming a noted chamber musician. Among other groups, he was a member of the London Piano Quartet, the Park Lane Ensemble, and the Dumka Piano Trio. With the London String Trio he gave the European première of Schoenberg’s String Trio (the first performance was at Harvard, Massachusetts).

From 1953 Joseph taught cello and chamber music at Trinity College of Music and was awarded an honorary fellowship in 1965. In 1997 he generously funded a series of prizes to be awarded to college string students.[2] He also taught at the Royal Academy of Music. Joseph died in 2005 and his obituary was published in the Guardian.

In the archives we hold a file relating to Vivian Joseph which includes photographs, a scrapbook and concert programmes. Please get in touch if you would like to see the material.

[1] ‘Boy Prodigies’, Nottingham Evening Post, 11 April 1929.

[2] Trinity College of Music, Magazine, Autumn 1997, p. 8 and supplement.

Animals in the Archives

This week we’ve been celebrating Explore Your Archive week over on Twitter by posting stories, gems and facts from the Faculty of Music archives (go to our Twitter feed @JerwoodLib or browse the #ExploreArchives hashtag). Today, archivists around the world will be attempting to break the internet by displaying the animals in their collections. To kick off, here’s a photo of harpsichordist Christopher Wood with one of his (many) cats.

Christopher Wood with cat

From our Christopher Wood collection (where lots more cats may be found!)

When not cuddling his feline friends, Wood taught at Trinity College of Music (now the Faculty of Music) between 1947 and 1967.

Elsewhere in the archives are many music manuscripts inspired by animals. Another former TCM professor, Carey Blyton, wrote several animal songs including Sally the Pig from his book of nonsense songs Bananas in Pyjamas, Three Bird Songs for unison voices and piano, and The Owl for soprano, violin, clarinet, cello and piano. Also kept safe behind-the-scenes is the manuscript score to Who’s Who in the Zoo by Robert Sterndale Bennett (1880-1963). Rather more sinister is Stanley Black’s autograph score to the 1948 horror film Monkey’s Paw (probably best avoid that one if, like me, you’re a fan of our nearest animal relations).

Monkey's Paw

Poster for the 1933 film adaptation of W. W. Jacob’s 1902 short story Monkey’s Paw. Click on the image to read more about the book’s on-screen history.

Finally, we’ve created a gallery of music-related animal images from our friends over on Flickr Commons. Enjoy!

Music in Wartime: New Exhibition

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of VE Day (8 May 1945), the library today launches a new exhibition: Music in Wartime. With material related to both the First and Second World Wars, the exhibition highlights resources unique to Trinity Laban – extracts from Trinity College of Music’s board minutes of the time (held in the Trinity College of Music Archive), and items from the Charles Kennedy Scott Archive – as well as providing a broader picture of wartime life through passages from The Musical Times and books from the library’s loanable collection.

Trinity College of Music board minutes, 1933-44

Trinity College of Music board minutes, 1933-44

The idea for the exhibition first came to me while I was conducting a stocktake of the library’s holdings of The Musical Times. This involved leafing through every bound volume of that journal (our holdings span from 1878 to the present day), checking for missing issues so that the information on the Jerwood Library’s catalogue is as accurate as possible. But as I looked through issue after issue – with the years moving from 1913 to 1914 and beyond – I couldn’t help but become enthralled by the inevitably stark effect of war on musical activity and thought: evident not just in articles and shorter notes (‘The European War and Its Influence on the Evolution of Musical Tendencies in France’ (1916), ‘Should Teutonic Music be Boycotted?’ (1915), and ‘Music in Ruhleben [internment] Camp’ (1919) are just a few examples), but also in the concert listings, advertisements and letters included in the journal. It provided a reminder of the effect of war on the (musical) lives of those at home, and of the role of music for those either at war or held in prisoner of war camps. And the sheer act of looking through each month’s journal issue brought home the reality of the length of time – season after season, year after year – for which both wars endured.

Material from The Musical Times at the outbreak of World War I presents a complex picture of attitudes towards musicians, music-making and concert-going. Wartime economies meant that budgets all-round were hit, and the general population too experienced a decrease in incomes. One article from late 1914 begins by noting that:

… the outlook for British musicians, although far from being normal, is improving. Many important musical enterprises that were threatened with extinction are being carried on bravely, and influential forces have been mobilized for the purpose of striving for the cause of the British executant. Ultimately the issue depends upon the attitude of concert-goers, who, in common with other classes of the community, have been hard hit financially, and who may not unnaturally have qualms of conscience as to whether musical recreation should be sought during a time when there is so much around us that is stern and grim.
‘The Outlook for British Musicians’. The Musical Times, no 861 (vol 55), December 1, 1914, p. 644.

The moral question posed by engaging in musical activities at the time was conveyed even more keenly in an article the following month, which reported on a paper titled ‘Music in War-Time’ given by Mr H.C. Colles at the first meeting of the Musical Association:

He said that musicians had been conscious lately that they had become less interesting to their fellows than they normally were, and many found, though perhaps ashamed to confess it, that music itself interested them less than it used to do. Yet music remained and musicians remained, and the question was ‘What were we going to do with them?’

‘Music in War-Time’. The Musical Times, no 862 (vol 55), December 1, 1914, p.707.

In contrast was the view that music could serve a valuable cathartic purpose, and that musicians – and their talents and activities – should be celebrated and made use of on those grounds:

Viewed in retrospect, the first half of the current season has revealed the undoubted fact that the War has made us all feel our music with greater keenness – not perhaps with greater zest, because one cannot get away from the fact that music seems an almost culpable joy in face of the European turmoil and desolation – but the message of great music is coming home to the average man or woman as never before, and where heroic feeling is the dominant note, conductor, players and audience have been swept up to heights not before reached in our generation.

‘Manchester and District’ (Music in the Provinces: by our own correspondents). The Musical Times, no 863 (vol 56), January 1, 1915, p. 46.

However, as budgets were hit, and festivals and concert series were drastically down-scaled or cancelled, musicians and their incomes also suffered. Along with a widespread movement against the performance of Austro-German music (for example, the 1915 Proms series contained ‘no German masterpieces’), a rise of protectionistic instincts is clearly visible: for example, the Music in War-time Committee was formed with the aim ‘simply to create or find engagements for the native performer, and to encourage performances’.

The desire to protect against the ‘enemy alien’ was also a prominent theme in Trinity College of Music’s board minutes of the time, which document in October 1914 the resolution that

…  it is undesirable to employ Germans and Austro-Hungarians in positions to fill which competent members of the British Empire can be obtained.

A short time later, in early 1915, two Hungarian students ‘being alien enemies and of military age’ are admitted to the college, only for this offer to be rescinded the next month, after further discussion by the board. Perhaps most striking – and difficult to imagine today – is the removal of contemporary compositions from a Trinity syllabus, on the basis that they had been published in Germany, and therefore that profit received from the printing and sale of these pieces would directly benefit ‘enemy alien firms’.

Entrance Hall to Mandeville Place, showing the War Memorial

Entrance hall to Mandeville Place, showing Trinity College of Music’s war memorial. Nine students and one member of staff lost their lives during World War One.

Trinity College of Music War Memorial, now located in the Hawksmoor entrance of King Charles Court

Trinity College of Music’s war memorial, now located in the Hawksmoor entrance of King Charles Court

While the possible consequences of war for Trinity College of Music were perhaps initially  underestimated by the board during World War I (for instance, they rejected the idea of insurance against aerial bombardment in October 1914, to later take out a policy in mid-1915), the College’s preparations for the implications of World War II seem impressively planned. In May 1939 plans are already under consideration ‘for transferring a portion of the College Staff, together with important documents and records, in the event of a National Emergency’, and among the numerous plans noted at an emergency meeting held on 1 September 1939 (the day war was declared), the Principal reports that ‘in order to provide for his complete general supervision of College administration during the period of hostilities, he has taken up residence at the College.’ A bomb-proof basement shelter was built, an air raid warden appointed, a rota of night-time fire watchers put in place, wartime economies were continually considered and salaries reduced… but teaching, examinations, rehearsals and performances continued between 1939 and 1945.

To end this post, a first-hand account of life at Junior Trinity during the Second World War highlights how the spirit of the college was able to prevail, even under the most challenging circumstances:

Common chords are never really common when learnt in our beautiful Lecture Hall with its panelled walls, organ, pianos, and blackboard and Miss Puttick’s magical teaching; but when learnt in a basement shelter, tightly packed on backless forms, with your neighbour’s gas-mask container digging into your ribs, there is something heroic about them, an echo of the Song of Roland (Norman-French Ballade) under the drone of planes and roar of anti-aircraft guns.


There were, of course, a few instances of homework not being done. Manuscript books have a way of getting lost when one’s home is bombed; and being flung across the room by blast – which happened to two of our small boys.


On September 17th 1940 a heavy bomb demolished property adjacent to the College. Dust, plaster, and broken glass filled the building and it was obvious that the new term could not begin on the fixed date. But here again, very little time was lost. All members of the clerical staff valiantly got down on their hands and knees and scrubbed; in a week the College re-opened. It was rather subdued and deserted, but nonetheless Trinity College carried on.

[extracts taken from ‘The War Years (1940-1942)’ (author unknown – found amongst Miss Puttick’s papers). In Junior Trinity 100 Years: 1906 ­– 2006, written and compiled by Anne Cassal. Anne Cassal: 2006, pp. 6-7.]

The Music in Wartime exhibition also contains items usually available for loan from the Jerwood Library, including the following books, CDs and DVDs:

Proof through the night: Music and the Great War, by Glenn Watkins
788.08 WAT

War Letters, by Ivor Gurney
789 GUR

Inherit the truth: 1939-1945: the documented experiences of a survivor of Auschwitz and Belsen, by Anita Lasker-Wallfisch  
789 LAS

War’s embers: songs by composers who perished or suffered in World War I, sung by Michael George (bass)

Great songs of World War II : classic songs from the World War 2 era, featuring Vera Lynn, Glenn Miller, Flanagan and Allen and George Formby

You must remember this, directed by Sue Mallinson

Oh! What a lovely war, directed by Richard Attenborough

The Reichsorchester: the Berlin Philharmonic and the Third Reich, a film by Enrique Sánchez Lansch

Music in Wartime will be on display from 8 May to 2 July and can be found in the Jerwood Library of the Performing Arts at the music faculty of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (directions here). If you are coming from outside the institution, please sign in at the main reception desk and a member of library staff will come to meet you.

Charles Kennedy Scott: Fifty Years On

“His ideals were of the highest, he lived and breathed music, and his life and work will remain a continual inspiration” Harold Rutland

Charles Kennedy Scott, by unknown artist, owned by Trinity Laban

Charles Kennedy Scott, by unknown artist, from the collections of Trinity Laban (via BBC Your Paintings)

Our latest exhibition, now on display in the library, celebrates the life and career of Charles Kennedy Scott (1876-1965), a former member of staff at Trinity College of Music (now Trinity Laban), who died 50 years ago. Described by Sir Thomas Beecham as ‘the greatest choir-trainer in the world,’ Scott was a hugely influential musician, music director, writer and educator. Over a long career he made important contributions to the revival of early music, and to the promotion of contemporary choral composition. This exhibition showcases material from our Charles Kennedy Scott archive including some of Scott’s personal papers and unpublished music manuscripts, along with material relating to his choirs and his involvement with Trinity.

The Oriana Madrigal Society, founded in 1904, was perhaps Scott’s greatest project. His chief object was to perform English madrigals from their Elizabethan heyday and in so doing made an important contribution to the early music revival. The choir was initially comprised of amateur singers, who were expected to pay a subscription fee, but Scott nevertheless demanded high standards and the choir quickly gained respect and prominence. His book Madrigal Singing was written as a kind of manual designed especially for his singers’ private study. He also published the Elizabethan repertoire they sang in the Euterpe series which ran from 1905 until 1914.

Programme for the Oriana Madrigal Society’s first concert on 4 July 1904

Programme for the Oriana Madrigal Society’s first concert on 4 July 1904 at the Portman Rooms

“The Oriana Madrigal Society under its conductor Mr Charles Kennedy Scott gave a concert of exceptional interest at Wigmore Hall on Tuesday evening” The Times, 7 July 1947

Although always staying true to their madrigal-singing origins, Scott soon allowed the repertoire of the Oriana Madrigal Society to diversify and they became important proponents of new vocal music. They were invited to sing, for instance, at Balfour Gardiner’s series of concerts in 1912 which promoted contemporary English composers. Over the years Bax, Delius, Holst and Vaughan Williams all wrote works for the choir. Scott continued to conduct until 1961 when he retired at the age of 85 after a concert at the Wigmore Hall which was attended by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Alongside the long-running Oriana Madrigal Society, Scott was busily engaged with several other projects. In 1919 he founded the Philharmonic Choir and with them gave, among other significant performances, the première of Delius’ Requiem. The choir was disbanded in 1939 at the onset of the Second World War but its singers reformed in 1946 to become what is now the London Philharmonic Choir. In 1926, in a move towards historical performance practice, Scott set up the Bach Cantata Club. At that time it was usual to perform Bach’s work with huge forces; instead Scott wanted to perform the works as Bach intended, on a smaller scale. The Phoebus Singers, another group set up by Scott, was notable for performing concerts during the Second World War, often at Trinity College of Music (now Trinity Laban) which continued operating throughout the war.

Programme for Phoebus Singers concert, 14 February 1945, Trinity College of Music

Programme for Phoebus Singers concert, 14 February 1945, Trinity College of Music

As a member of staff at Trinity from 1929 until 1965, Scott was an influential figure. He conducted the college choir, taught singing, examined for the college and was a member of the corporation and board. Lectures in plainsong and a choir devoted to singing plainsong were both innovations of his, and contributed towards making the college renowned for its early music teaching. Scott was known for his somewhat strict manner in classes and rehearsals, but was nevertheless remembered with great respect.

“Singing plainsong with CKS was a remarkable experience … his own passion for the music flowed from his hands, hardly moving, as he conducted us”. Barrie Wyse (former student)

Several of Scott’s students went on to enjoy high-profile musical careers, including Dame Margaret Price (soprano) and James Gaddarn (conductor). After his death in 1965 Charles Kennedy Scott’s legacy lived on at Trinity with a centenary concert in 1976 and through the annual Kennedy Scott Prize.

In conjunction with this exhibition we have catalogued our Charles Kennedy Scott Archive in full. You can see the full catalogue here on the Archives Hub. If you wish to view any of the material from the archive please get in touch with us to make an appointment.

Previously unknown Peter Pears letters and other treasures in new archives acquisition

We are delighted to announce the recent acquisition of an archive belonging to the singer and former Trinity College of Music staff member Morag Noble (1931-1993).

Morag Noble c.1950.

Morag Noble c.1950s, MNC 7/3

During her career Morag appeared at the UK’s finest opera houses including Sadler’s Wells, Covent Garden and Glyndebourne. She made her debut at Covent Garden as a page in Lohengrin in 1963 and two years later took the role of one of the virgins in the British stage premiere of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aaron under Sir Georg Solti. As a recitalist she gave regular broadcasts for the BBC working frequently with the pianist Paul Hamburger. Morag was also a well-known singing coach giving lessons and master classes at numerous schools and colleges including at the Britten-Pears School for Advanced Musical Studies where she taught at the personal invitation of Peter Pears. She was professor of singing at Trinity College of Music for many years and was awarded an Honorary FTCL in 1985.


Letter from Peter Pears to Morag Noble, 10 September 1978

Peter Pears to Morag Noble, 10 September 1978, MNC 2/3/3 © Britten–Pears Foundation

The archive is a treasure trove of material relating to Morag Noble’s career from the 1950s to the very last years of her life. Amongst the material are reports, certificates, newspaper cuttings, correspondence, photographs, adjudication papers and concert programmes. Of particular interest may be letters to Morag from composer Elizabeth Poston (1905-1987), musicologist Hans Keller (1919-1985) and tenor Peter Pears (1910-1986).

The letter shown here was sent by Pears from New York in 1978 during rehearsals for the Metropolitan Opera’s first staging of Billy Budd. He writes ‘nice to have Ray Leppard conducting – and everyone at the Met. is extremely nice and helpful’ but goes on to complain of the heat and humidity. He was by then 68 and it proved to be his last major operatic appearance.

Further details of the collection can be found on our catalogue here. If you wish to make an appointment to view any of the material please contact us on