Friday December 22 2017

There comes a time in any festive season when people get the urge to steal away for some quiet time alone. Just in time for peaceful browsing with a mince pie, the BPF archive and library has updated its online catalogue and released some 6,000 new catalogue records into the public domain.

Included in this batch of material are some collections that were heralded in earlier news items. In September, we talked about the Theodor Uppman papers (MSC59), in which the American baritone described his experiences in 1951 creating the role of Billy Budd: this catalogue is now available to browse online here, including images of the correspondence. The letters are a rich, chatty source of information. On 22 December 1951, for example, Uppman describes a frenzied existence trying to keep up with piles of correspondence; says that the previous night’s performance was his best so far, leading to fifteen curtain calls; mentions a recent performance for prisoners; touchingly, relates that Ethel Bridge, the widow of Britten’s teacher Frank Bridge, will be attending a performance in a few days’ time; and looks forward to a carol concert in the Royal Albert Hall.

In November, we highlighted the completed catalogue of John Craske papers (CSK), which document work by the Norfolk artist and former fisherman, and the activities after his death of the people who worked to preserve and publicise his art. Abigail Williams, who catalogued the collection, movingly described the relationship that grew up between Peter Pears and Sylvia Townsend Warner, both guardians of Craske’s work, in her December Object of the Month. One hundred and sixty-five catalogue records now make this collection available to browse.

As noted elsewhere in our News section, the extensive archive of the English Opera Group is being catalogued and information about the sections that have been completed is also now visible online.

We have, in addition, made available many records relating to Britten’s music manuscripts, surfacing over 2,400 new records. Manuscripts now appear in the integrated catalogue for the first time relating to works from all areas of Britten’s career: they include papers relating to major operas (Peter Grimes, Albert Herring, Billy Budd, Gloriana, Owen Wingrave and The Turn of the Screw); shorter works such as A Charm of Lullabies, which includes two songs omitted from the final published version; film work such as Banking for Millions for the GPO and The Way to the Sea for the Southern Railway; and work with W.H. Auden such as Tell Me the Truth About Love.

Next year, of course, cataloguing continues and more material will be exposed on our integrated catalogue. For the moment, however, we hope that this will provide some new things to browse and perhaps some research visits to plan for the new year.

By Dr Christopher Hilton, Head of Archive and Library

Image: Theodor Uppman, his wife Jean and Peter Pears, at the Red House in 1978 (photograph by Rita Thomson)