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The Concert Programmes Project: An Introduction

1. Scope
This database is the result of a three-year project (October 2004–October 2007), funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and hosted by the Royal College of Music and Cardiff University. It provides collection-level descriptions of concert programme holdings at leading libraries, museums and archives in the UK and Ireland, including the British Library, the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music in London, the Bodleian Library, Oxford and the national libraries of Scotland and Ireland, as well as repositories in Birmingham, Bradford, Cardiff, Leeds and Manchester. The coverage is extensive but not complete: a full list of the locations covered can be found by browsing the database by Institution.

In cases where collections have been, or are being, subjected to detailed cataloguing, only a skeletal record exists in this database. For more detailed information, users should follow the links to the individual collection website/catalogue. The principal such collections are:

- John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, Bodleian Library, Oxford:

- Raymond Mander and Joe Mitchinson Theatre Collection, Trinity College of Music:

A number of the major libraries covered – notably the British Library and the Bodleian Library, Oxford – may also house a range of individual concert programmes. These are not included in this database of collections but may be found by searching the catalogues of the relevant institutions (see and

2. Collection-level description
The principal aim of the database is to allow for high-level searches across large quantities of material, providing enquirers with entry points into collections via fully searchable free-text descriptions which indicate the strengths of the collection and include records of the principal agents documented and the type of material contained therein. This will enable scholars to locate material with potential relevance to their work and help library professionals to identify priorities for collection development and preservation.

No attempt has been made to provide listings of the contents of programmes, meaning that the database does not offer the opportunity to search for individual works, or to re-create specific concert programmes.

3. User notes
The most comprehensive searching can be achieved through the free-text description provided for each collection. The advanced search options allow users to restrict their results to information provided in the Collection Title field, by time period or by the location of the holding institution (please note that the advanced search options will be refined and expanded in due course).

Users may also browse the database by the following headings:

Information provided here includes the names of both individual and corporate bodies associated with the collection. The former might include prominent performers or conductors or the name of the original collector whilst the latter incorporates the names of concert series, performing ensembles and/or musical agents. Unless a concert/collection is devoted to a single work/the work of a single composer or includes a notable 'first performance' (see Subjects below), the names of individual composers will not normally appear here.

This allows users to browse by holding institution. In the case of major institutions, such as the British Library, separate labels have been created for the various departments. These appear as subsets of the principal heading, meaning that the British Library can be searched under British Library: Humanities and British Library: Music Collections whilst the Royal College of Music has been divided into Royal College of Music: Centre for Performance History and Royal College of Music: Library.

Institutional records provide all relevant contact details and information regarding public access.

Spatial terms have been constructed hierarchically, allowing users either to search the database for a specific concert venue or to browse by town, city or country.

When browsing, users should be aware that countries have been defined by their present-day boundaries, meaning, for example, that the constituent parts of the former USSR will appear individually under the heading Europe. Locations in the United Kingdom have been grouped under the headings England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, whilst London is divided into the City of London and the 32 surrounding boroughs.

The construction of individual terms is such as to place the name/type of venue before its geographic location, meaning that the Town Hall in Leeds appears as 'Town Hall, Leeds' rather than as 'Leeds Town Hall'. Churches are filed under the distinct part of the name, resulting in 'St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Hove' rather than 'Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Hove' and 'Ely Cathedral' rather than 'Cathedral, Ely'.

In the case of multiple concert venues and sub-venues, terms have been created so as to ensure that all venues within a single building/institution are filed together. Thus, the Emma Cons Hall and New Studio Theatre at Morley College appear as 'Morley College: Emma Cons Hall' and 'Morley College: New Studio Theatre' respectively.

Notable exceptions to this rule are the constituent colleges of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. These have been treated as semi-independent bodies and are presented as 'Wadham College, University of Oxford' rather than as 'University of Oxford: Wadham College'. Faculty buildings and other locations within the University are treated as outlined above, however, i.e. 'University of Oxford: Faculty of Music'.

When searching for a specific location, users should be aware that the names of countries appear in the accepted anglicized form whilst towns and cities are given in their indigenous forms: see:

When browsing by time period, users should note that collections spanning more than one time frame will appear under all relevant headings. For the purposes of this project, the labels 'World War I' and 'World War II' have been used less as historical markers than as an opportunity to highlight collections with particular relevance/connection to these events. Examples of such collections include the programmes relating to the Ruhleben Concentration Camp (1914–18) and the National Gallery Concerts (1939–46), held at British Library shelf marks and Cup.404.c.1/1-11 respectively.

This feature allows users to browse by both the musical and physical qualities of the collections. In doing so, however, one should be aware that these labels have been used only when the qualities they describe constitute a prominent part of the collection.

In respect of the musical qualities of the collection, it should be noted that the term 'first performance' has been used to identify collections containing programmes documenting outright premieres and works being given for the first time in a particular, town, city or county. Where this is the case, the name of the composer will also appear within the text description.

The term 'analytical notes' has been taken to refer to programme notes which are either given that title in the original document or which have been deemed to attempt to say something about the structure of the work(s) concerned: many such notes include 'musical examples' but this does not always need to be the case. 'Programme Notes' refers to the inclusion of historical, descriptive and/or biographical material.  

4.  Contact details

For additional help or questions relating to the site, please contact [email protected]


Cardif University (Prifysgol Caerdydd)Royal College of Music LondonMuseums, Libraries and Archives Council