A day in the life of an orchestral librarian

Patrick Williams, RPO Librarian, gives us more insight into what his job involves.

I have been librarian of the RPO since 2001, having previously been librarian of the Halle Orchestra.  The two questions I am most often asked are ‘what does your job actually entail?’ and ‘how did you get to become a librarian?’.  Neither are easy questions to answer, so here goes!

I am responsible for the upkeep and administration of all the music the RPO and RPCO (Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra) play.  We own a lot of it but have to hire some works.  Altogether we store parts for hundreds of pieces.  When you consider that a piece such as a Beethoven symphony consists of about 50 individual parts, that’s quite a lot of paper.  Last weekend we performed three concerts, consisting of a total of about 30 pieces of music, and tomorrow’s Symphonic Rock concert has about 25 pieces alone.  You can probably gather from this alone that the RPO library is a pretty full and busy place to be! I also liaise regularly with my colleagues in the RPO administration – for instance, advising what a particular piece of music might cost to perform and how many players need to be booked as a result of programming it, both of which need careful planning in these financially challenging times.


Disclaimer: NOT the RPO Library...

Orchestral librarians are a very different species to the librarians you would find in a public library.  A musical background is essential – several of my librarian colleagues in other orchestras have previously been professional players.  A vast and detailed knowledge of the orchestral repertoire is pretty essential too – and in my view, one of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to deal at a high musical level with members of the orchestra and even with conductors!

Another good question – ‘where is the RPO library?’  We store some of it upstairs at Cadogan Hall and the rest of it at Henry Wood Hall in South London.  Well, I admit I do have the odd part hanging around in my lounge at home too!


About Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Acknowledged as one of the UK’s most prestigious orchestras, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) enjoys an international reputation for bringing audiences worldwide first-class performances and the highest possible standards of music-making across a diverse range of musical repertoire. This was the vision of the Orchestra’s flamboyant founder Sir Thomas Beecham, whose legacy is maintained today as the Orchestra thrives under the exceptional direction of its new Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Maestro Charles Dutoit.
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