Read all about it!

2017 advert - Volunteers Needed

A small ad in a local paper, an application, a telephone request to visit, an interview, completed with some amount of bluffing, an offer and a start date for an ill-defined role with no-one sure how it was going to work out, except it was going to be important and, ultimately, defining of a career.

I opted for newspapers: a room full to the right, to the left, up above, around the corner, in the filing cabinet, in that box, tucked under that shelf. Some whole newspapers (these are fun as you can see the day’s football results, latest murder trials, how the cricket is going, local gossip and what’s on TV), some extracts as small as a postage stamp, some cuttings, some photocopies and some in a wide variety of languages. They all had one thing in common – Evelyn Glennie! The whole bundle consisted of interviews, previews and reviews of concerts at home and abroad, articles on her life, career, recordings, lifestyle, likes and dislikes, disability, support for charities of all sorts, a commitment to education and, above all, a history of a life of extraordinary achievements both personal and artistic.

Where to begin?: sort by year, sort by date, sort by topic. Sort on the floor, on the table, in a corner by the instruments and concert clothes, and, at home – during the pandemic – in the bedroom!

Each to have a Unique Reference Number, newspaper name, the name of the journalist, a summary of the article (complete with by-line), the location, the type of event, the orchestras, the conductors, the repertoire, the collaborators, the occasion, extra information. All placed on one giant spreadsheet. Then all safely filed, boxed and stored. One might say ‘suited and booted’.

‘Percussionniste’, ‘Schlagzuegerin’, ‘Perkusjonist’, ‘Slagtojsspiller’, ‘Percusionista’, all words for Percussionist in various European languages which are, of course, the start of articles, previews and reviews. Time to get Google Translate up and working and deciphering the resultant and sometimes mangled English. However, other languages such as Japanese or Chinese await translation by experts. Many a ‘happy hour’ has been spent struggling with these!

What for the researcher? To trace a particular concert, a tour, a piece of music, critical acclaim locally, nationally and internationally, lifestyle articles, disability campaigning, music education in schools and universities, charity support, great occasions, honours and awards? All are there!

Above all, the archive is a story – the story of a young deaf girl playing in local orchestras to a student struggling to overcome disability and prejudice; to a musical phenomenon fuelled by her own determined ambition, musical virtuosity, indomitable spirit and belief, charm, charisma and a personality to entrance and bedazzle audiences around the world; to a commissioner of new compositions greatly enhancing and extending the percussion repertoire to the point of establishing it as an exciting solo set of instruments; to a campaigner for disability rights, musical education and a new way of listening; from Grade 1 piano to prize-winning student, to Scotswoman of the Year, to OBE, to Damehood and an illustrious Companion of Honour.

Written by Peter Horley, October 2023 and published with his kind permission

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