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Playing the sleigh bells: the story of Joan Stonehewer

Christmas is drawing near and we are thinking about the sounds of the festive season. Nothing says Christmas music quite like sleigh bells. We have some wonderful sleigh bells in our Musical Instrument collection that once belonged to the musician Joan Stonehewer.

  • Playing the sleigh bells: the story of Joan Stonehewer, The sleigh bells belonging to Joan Stonehewer, now in the Horniman Musical Instrument collection. Object number M5-1987.
    The sleigh bells belonging to Joan Stonehewer, now in the Horniman Musical Instrument collection. Object number M5-1987.

Joan made her living as a ‘concert artiste’ by playing the saw and other novelty instruments including the sleigh bells. Her variety theatre performances were of a type that was very popular from the turn of the twentieth century up to WWII.

  • Playing the sleigh bells: the story of Joan Stonehewer, Joan Stonehewer is seen on this postcard at the height of her popularity with her sleigh bells, saw and cello bow and a zither. The inscription in black ink reads, 'with love from Joan'. The saw was specially made for her in c.1930 by Jedson, England. The sleigh bells, made at about the same time, are probably from France.
    Joan Stonehewer is seen on this postcard at the height of her popularity with her sleigh bells, saw and cello bow and a zither. The inscription in black ink reads, 'with love from Joan'. The saw was specially made for her in c.1930 by Jedson, England. The sleigh bells, made at about the same time, are probably from France.

Joan appeared at the Royal Variety Hall and the BBC, performed at dinners, receptions and cabarets and her repertoire included songs such as the "Waltz" by Victor Herbert.

  • Playing the sleigh bells: the story of Joan Stonehewer, With Europe teetering on the brink of war, this New Year's Eve 1938 dinner party programme evokes the ambience of a passing era. Held at the Chiltern Court Restaurant NW1, Joan Stonehewer provided the entertainment together with Mahomed Ali. Lending an air of daring exoticism to the evening, he was billed as a Magician, Hypnotist, Pickpocket and the World's Fastest Act. Both Artistes highlight the fact that they have performed before Royalty. The French names for the various dishes camouflage their essential Englishness.
    With Europe teetering on the brink of war, this New Year's Eve 1938 dinner party programme evokes the ambience of a passing era. Held at the Chiltern Court Restaurant NW1, Joan Stonehewer provided the entertainment together with Mahomed Ali. Lending an air of daring exoticism to the evening, he was billed as a Magician, Hypnotist, Pickpocket and the World's Fastest Act. Both Artistes highlight the fact that they have performed before Royalty. The French names for the various dishes camouflage their essential Englishness.

Joan was an extremely successful self-publicist. She had many professional business cards that she would give out to drum up her own publicity and was determined to succeed in her career.

  • Playing the sleigh bells: the story of Joan Stonehewer, Four of Joan Stonehewer's business cards. She lived at the given address in Wimbledon from 1939 until 1956 when she moved next door. Clearly enjoying the company of children, she had two of her own for whom she wrote stories. These were later published and read, at her suggestion, on BBC radio. On the back of one of the cards she advertises to perform at children's parties.
    Four of Joan Stonehewer's business cards. She lived at the given address in Wimbledon from 1939 until 1956 when she moved next door. Clearly enjoying the company of children, she had two of her own for whom she wrote stories. These were later published and read, at her suggestion, on BBC radio. On the back of one of the cards she advertises to perform at children's parties.

She made it very clear that she would not stop working when she got married – which was quite an extraordinary thing to do in the 1940s – when she had her wedding photos taken holding her musical saw.

  • Playing the sleigh bells: the story of Joan Stonehewer, On her wedding day, Joan Stonehewer and her husband, Henry Townsend, are surrounded by friends and relatives. She married during WWII which explains the number of men in uniform. The presence and prominence of the musical saw conveys her determination to continue in her chosen career: an aim she realised fully.
    On her wedding day, Joan Stonehewer and her husband, Henry Townsend, are surrounded by friends and relatives. She married during WWII which explains the number of men in uniform. The presence and prominence of the musical saw conveys her determination to continue in her chosen career: an aim she realised fully.

After her wedding and in the years to come, variety theatre started to become less popular. As television became more readily available and tastes changed, work was harder to come by.

In the Horniman archives, we have letters Joan received from the BBC showing that she had contacted them about future work – an offer which was politely declined.

  • Playing the sleigh bells: the story of Joan Stonehewer, A letter from the BBC responding to Joan's request about future work. The letter also mentions her children's stories she sent in, which were read out on BBC radio.
    A letter from the BBC responding to Joan's request about future work. The letter also mentions her children's stories she sent in, which were read out on BBC radio.

Joan retired from the stage in the early 1960s but she still appeared in a list of The Concert Artistes’ Association in 1968, the year before died.

Much of what we know about Joan was found in documents given to the Museum with the sleigh bells in 1987 by her son, Francis Townsend. It is wonderful to know the story behind the instrument and to learn more about this talented and engaging musician.

  • Playing the sleigh bells: the story of Joan Stonehewer, Listen to Joan Stonehewer play the musical saw in our Music Gallery
    Listen to Joan Stonehewer play the musical saw in our Music Gallery

Visit our Music Gallery to hear a recording of Joan playing her musical saw.

What's your favourite 60s Rock song?

The Museu da Imigração in São Paulo Brazil have been inspired to put on an English-themed music concert in their Gardens.

  • Museum of Immigration, Music in the Garden concert at the Museum of Immigration − ©  Museu da Imigracao
    Music in the Garden concert at the Museum of Immigration

This summer we had a Brazilian theme to our events and exhibitions. Our Festival of Brasil celebrated the South American country in all its many colours and diversities.

We met and worked with many Brazilian partners – artists, musicians, dancers and other museums. One museum we worked with is the Museu da Imigração (Museum of Immigration) in São Paulo in Brazil. We discovered that we have similar events to the Museu da Imigração.

Throughout July and August we put on Jazz Picnics and Sunday Bandstand concerts where we celebrated the diversity of Brazilian music, from Samba to Forró, Tropicália to MPB, and Bossa Nova to Choro.

The Museu da Imigração have similar events in their Gardens. Their Música no Jardim (Music in the Gardens) concerts happen once a month and focus on a different theme or place each time. We love seeing the similarities and differences between our events!

As a way of connecting with us, they are going to use one of their Music in the Gardens concerts to focus on English Music – much like our summer concerts focused on Brazilian music.

Their band, Vitroux, will be playing 60s British Rock songs. Their set list will include:

1. Heart Full of Soul - Yardbirds

2. We've Gotta Get Out of this Place - The Animals

3. Ask Me Why - The Beatles

4. Please Please Me - The Beatles

5. Waterloo Sunset - The kinks

6. Afternoon Tea - The Kinks

7. Worksong  - The Animals

8. Blue Feeling - The Animals

9. Wild Thing - The Troggs  

10. Under my Thumb - The Rolling Stones

11. Cool Calm and Collected - The Rolling Stones

12. Chains - The Beatles

13. Tattoo - The Who

14. Our Love Was - The Who

15. My Generation - The Who

We want you to have your say and vote for your favourite song from their list. Which song do you think sums up British music from the 60s? Do you think there are any vital songs they have forgotten?

You can vote by writing your comments on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. We will then share your comments with the Museu da Imigração.

Music and the State in Latin America

 

The Latin American Music Seminar is being hosted this autumn by the Horniman. 

LAMS is a twice-yearly forum, hosted by the Institute of Latin American Studies and Institute of Musical Research, which usually consists of a day of 5 papers/presentations, followed by some form of live performance.

It aims to bring together scholars, students, musicians and interested members of the public to share interest, knowledge, and critical perspectives on Latin American music. 

As part of its special Brazil focus this year, the Horniman will be hosting the next LAMS on 19th November.

The Museum is home to an outstanding collection of musical instruments, which includes the new display of a set of samba drums - as played by the celebrated Brazilian bloco Monobloco.

You can view, download or print the full programme below:

Tickets are £8. Book now

Places are limited so please book by 11 November 2016.

Ask a Curator Day 2016

This year, on Wednesday 14 September, we are taking part in Ask a Curator Day. This is where Museum Curators from all around the world answer your questions on Twitter.

If you have a burning question you want to ask, then you can tweet at us using @HornimanMuseum using the hashtag #AskaCurator.  

We have curators on hand to answer questions about musical instruments, natural history and anthropology. 

The curators we have to answer your questions are:

You can tweet in your questions at any time. We will then gather them up and answer as many as we can on 14 September. 

Broadwood Horniman Harpsichord Competition 2017

12 September 2016 Update:  We have now reached our initial capacity of 15 competitors, but those who are interested may request a place on the Waiting List which is now open.

The second Broadwood Horniman Harpsichord Competition.

Competitors who are accepted will play our wonderful 1772 Kirckman harpsichord.

Details:

Wednesday 19 April 2017 using the 1772 Jacob Kirckman harpsichord in the Music Gallery. 

The Broadwood Horniman Harpsichord Competition is supported through the generosity of John Broadwood & Sons.

Adjudicators: Sophie Yates & Robin Bigwood

Please note that there is no closing date for the competition. Instead, the competition is limited to 15 entrants on a first-come, first-served basis. After 15 applicants have submitted complete applications, we will operate a waiting list system. Incomplete entries will be rejected and the entry process will have to be started again, thus losing your place in the queue for the first 15 places. If you submit an incomplete entry, you are not guaranteed a place in the competition. As we were oversubscribed last year, we recommend early entry.

Please direct all questions about the competition to Festival Director Lorraine Liyanage: broadwoodcompetition@gmail.com

Each entrant is required to submit an online entry form.

Competition Rules:

1. Competitors must be aged 36 and under on the 18th of April 2017.
2. All entrants must attend an Introduction/Audition to the Instrument on 18th of April 2017 at the Horniman Museum. Permission to play the Kirckman harpsichord is at the sole discretion of the Museum and its decision is final.
3. Previous entrants may apply but the 1st place winner is ineligible to enter. Anyone who has previously auditioned on the Kirckman does not need to audition again for the competition but does need to submit a completed registration form.
Prizes:
The winner will receive £100 and prize-winning performances at the Horniman Museum & Gardens and other London venues to be confirmed.
Other Information:
All competitors will perform on a 1772 Kirckman harpsichord. [Kirckman Stops & Registration]

Carnival in Rio

An exhibition of musical instruments played in carnival processions in Rio de Janeiro has opened in the Horniman’s Music Gallery. Our Keeper of Musical Instruments, Margaret Birley, introduces us to the new display.

'The Carnival in Rio exhibition contains examples of instruments played by Monobloco, a band with a huge following, whose annual street parade is one of the highlights of the carnival season. It is part of a larger array of instruments used in seasonal festivals around the world.

When new musical instruments are collected for the Horniman, we always aim to film and photograph them in performance. These images capture not only performance technique but also cultural contexts for performance, and something of their repertoire. The project to collect instruments in Rio last year provided a wealth of opportunities for me to film examples played not only by members of Monobloco, but also by other blocos de rua or street bands from various districts of the city during carnival. Extracts from the films form part of the exhibition in the Music Gallery.

While the streets are the backdrop for the blocos’ processions during carnival, Rio’s Sambadrome, a 700 metre long stadium, hosts the competitive parades of the larger samba schools. Here, each parade has a specific theme, reflected in the large floats and costumed characters of the numerous participants.

The exhibition in the Music Gallery also includes a colourful costume made for the samba school, Imperatriz Leopoldinense for Harlequin, a character from Italian commedia dell’arte.'

  • Carnival in Rio, Stiltwalker with mascot of Monobloco
    Stiltwalker with mascot of Monobloco

  • Carnival in Rio, Chocalos, rattles, Amigos de Catete
    Chocalos, rattles, Amigos de Catete

  • Carnival in Rio, Tamborims, frame drums,  Dragões da Richuelo
    Tamborims, frame drums, Dragões da Richuelo

  • Carnival in Rio, Agogos, bells,  Cardosão de Laranjeiras
    Agogos, bells, Cardosão de Laranjeiras

The Horniman and Pepys

The Horniman has loaned three musical instruments to a major new exhibition celebrating the life and times of Samuel Pepys at the National Maritime Museum.

Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution has brought together a wealth of paintings, manuscripts and artefacts to explore the period from the execution of King Charles I in 1649 to the Glorious Revolution in 1688.

They are exploring a formative era which saw the repositioning of the monarchy and the consolidation of Britain’s place as a maritime, economic and political force on the world stage. It coincides with the 400th anniversary of the Queen’s House, one of London’s most important buildings sitting at the heart of Stuart Greenwich and now the Royal Museums Greenwich.



The exhibition uses the voice and experiences of Pepys, one of the most colourful and appealing personalities of the age. Pepys is well known as a passionate diarist and prolific correspondent, but the exhibition also looks at his character as a master naval administrator, a well-connected socialite, gossip, and lover of music, theatre and fine living.

Music is very important to his story as one of his abiding passions – he played, composed and was an amateur teacher. He is known to have played the played the flageolet, guitar and lute – the three artefacts we have loaned to the exhibition. The Horniman’s instruments play an important role illustrating the types of instruments from this period he may have played.

Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution is on at the National Maritime Museum until the 28th March 2016.

Musical Wonders of India

Among the highlights of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Festival of India this autumn, is a display in the Nehru Gallery of a number of the important and beautifully decorated historic instruments from India in their collection.

  • Our Musical Instrument display, Sophia Spring
    , Sophia Spring

One of our musical instrument displays featuring a sitar

‘Musical Wonders of India’ is also a digital project featuring instruments in the exhibition, and created in partnership with Darbar Arts Culture Heritage Trust. At a symposium at the V&A celebrating the launch of ‘Musical Wonders of India’ last month, I discussed the Indian musical instruments in the collection of the Horniman, and their close connections with the V&A.

  • Indian Symposium Sitar, Darbar
    , Darbar

  • India Symposium, Darbar
    , Darbar

Margaret speaking at the V&A Symposium 

The V&A generously loaned 25 superb instruments to the Horniman which are now displayed in the ‘At Home with Music’ display in the Music Gallery. They also transferred over 150 European, Asian and African musical instruments that were passed to the Museum between 1956 and 1970. These are one of the cornerstones of the Horniman’s collection, which we have since added to and made publicly accessible.

Since the year 2000, the Horniman Museum has developed the South Asian collection by acquiring and commissioning instruments from makers in different regions of India. We have also filmed the instruments in performance, and documented aspects of their manufacture.


Thimila, hourglass-shaped drum made by Cherussery Kuttan Marar, Cherusserry village, Thrissur district, Kerala, 2001

This rudrā vīṇā or bīṇ, made in Patna around 1830 was formerly in the collection of the East India Company. It is a plucked stringed instrument with gourd resonators, which in this example are delicately painted in green and gold.


Rudra vina or bīṇ, Patna, circa 1830

A beautifully crafted 20th century example of the rudra vina by Kanailal & Brother of Kolkata, probably made between 1960 and 1980 by Murari Mohan Adhikar, was given to the Horniman in 2010 by John Larson, a former conservator at the V&A, and demonstrates how the instrument has developed. 

The rudrā vīṇā is traditionally used to accompany dhrupad, a revered and long-established genre of North Indian vocal music. During the 20th century, like many other stringed instruments in South Asia, the rudrā vīṇā was developed to become a solo instrument in its own right.

Ustad Bahauddin Dagar‘s concert on 20th September in London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall vividly demonstrated the high level of virtuosity that can be attained on the rudrā vīṇā, and the instrument’s profound expressiveness. His memorable performance of a morning raga was part of a festival of Indian music at the South Bank organised by Darbar last month.

9 days to African Summer

Next Sunday we launch our African Summer, a series of lively events running throughout July and August exploring the rich cultures of Africa and its influences around the world.

  • Ogoni Masks, A group of Ogoni Masks
    A group of Ogoni Masks

A selection of Ogoni Masks from Nigeria

Our website is enjoying some African object editions, see if you can spot all 12.

  • Snuff Bottle, A South African beaded bottle
    A South African beaded bottle

Snuff Bottle – this South African bottle uses many different coloured beads to create the patterned design. The line of bright turquoise beads at the top act as a useful handle – practical and pretty – you can discover more about South African beading at our Explore Africa event.

  • Online African Objects, A Benin casting of three women
    A Benin casting of three women

Bronze figure – 3 female figures stand around a large bowl, stirring something, it could be beer. This bronze comes from Benin on the West African coast. Our African Summer Hear it Live event will feature the playing of a 21st century West African harp, bringing West African music to the Horniman and we have a performance of West African music on our Bandstand in August.

  • Online African Objects, Moroccan Tbila
    Moroccan Tbila

Tbila – These Moroccan Tbila are usually played with your hands, and the differently sized bowls allow the player to make a variety of different tones and intonations. Drums are found across Africa in a variety shapes and sizes, you can join us to hear live Ghanaian drumming.

  • Online African Objects, An African pipe
    An African pipe

Pipe – this wooden pipe has a tin decoration around the bowl, it comes with a handy metal pick for cleaning the inside of the pipe as well.

These are just a few of the objects we’ve uploaded onto our webpages, have a browse and be sure to experience our African Summer.

A Horniman Harpsichord: The Oriental Miscellany

The Horniman is proud to announce the release of The Oriental Miscellany, the first professional recording to be made in its Music Gallery using the 1772 Jacob Kirckman double manual harpsichord.

The Oriental Miscellany dates from 1789 and was first published in Calcutta. According to its original title, it consists of  “a collection of the most favourite airs of Hindoostan, compiled and adapted for the Harpsichord.” These were transcribed from actual performances by William Hamilton Bird, a conductor, composer and impresario from Dublin, and possibly also Margaret Fowke, an accomplished harpsichordist and avid collector of Hindustani Airs.

  • Harpsichord: The Oriental Miscellany, Ludo des Cognets
    , Ludo des Cognets

Both of these musicians formed part of the British musical circle of the Governor-General of India, Warren Hastings, to whom the first edition was dedicated. The collection also included a sonata by Bird for harpsichord with violin or flute accompaniment which weaves ‘select passages’ from the airs into its various movements. This is perhaps the first work of East-West fusion.

The distinguished performers on the newly released CD are Jane Chapman, harpsichord, and Yu-Wei Hu, baroque flute.

  • harpsichord img 2, A Horniman Harpsichord: The Oriental Miscellany, Ludo des Cognets
    A Horniman Harpsichord: The Oriental Miscellany, Ludo des Cognets

Jane will be launching the CD at a special Hear It Live! event in the Horniman’s Music Gallery on Tuesday, 30 June from 3.30-4.00pm.

She will be playing the recently restored 1772 double manual Kirckman harpsichord featured in the At Home With Music display. Following her performance of excerpts from the CD, Jane will be signing copies for audience members. CDs can be purchased from the Horniman shop or, on the day, directly from the artist.

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