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.
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!