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Sharon Bill Author & Music Tutor

The Beauty of Music - In Every Respect

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When father papered the parlour (or when I papered Handel's Messiah everywhere). Papering here, papering there. Paste and paper everywhere…

It’ll come as no surprise when I say that I have a lot of shelves full of music. It’s pretty obvious that I’ll have plenty of piano, flute and choir music. Of course I have music so that I can read it and play it but my obsession with music manuscript goes so much further than that!

I absolutely love the look of music, even in an abstract artistic sense. I think that the visual effect of notes printed on a page is a beautiful thing. I feel the same way about other books - of course I love to read, (I have plenty of reading books and text books too) but I think that the printed page has beauty in its own right. This passion of mine has overspilled throughout my home.

It all began with a really old choir copy of Handel’s “Messiah." Its was the Prout Edition which is never used anymore. It was so old and falling apart, and the pages had turned a delicious sepia colour. This seemed the answer to the problem of an old chipboard bookcase that was less than pretty. I couldn’t really afford to lose the shelf space but wanted a nicer piece of furniture. Some hours later after a pot of border adhesive and a tin of varnish had been applied I had a fantastic bookcase. I particularly love the fact that the music had the conductors notes to the choristers scribbled in the margins. Directions such as “breathe here”  or “SIT”  along with lots of circled notes and performance tips are all marked in pencil from a bygone performance (the book had belonged to my friend’s mother). After that no piece of furniture was safe.

I have also given the adhesive treatment to an old dictionary that I found with nicely yellowing pages. I used the pages to cover a bookcase which I use for my non-music books. However, I have to admit that the music is my favourite. In the past I even made a paper bouquet of flowers as a gift because the music looked so pretty. 

I don’t only save music to rip up and stick onto old furniture. In addition to the everyday music books that I have I also have a small collection of picture music books. In my collection is a really lovely Brambly Hedge record book (Jill Barklem’s artwork is so lovely) and an illustrated Lullaby & Song book from when I was a child. I also have several illustrated carol books. My favourite of these is a very old Christmas carol book which is inscribed as a gift to my mum “Christmas 1951.” One day I hope to get the binding attended to as it really is in bad shape.

I must clear my name and stress that it is my rule that music scores and books must be beyond their original usefulness - I could never tear up a book which still needed playing. Lovely as it is from an aesthetic point of view I still hold true to the fact that books are for reading and music is for playing. But if it’s past that point, then isn’t it good for it to live on? Much better than becoming pulp!