“Make Music Day”, a festival first established in France as “Fête de la Musique” in 1982, is a free celebration of music taking place all over the world, in all venues, for all participants and onlookers. The first festivals were played from local parks, street corners, gardens – even from shop fronts and rooftops – this celebration of music and its makers is now a national holiday, that can only be experienced every 21st June. This year, Manchester Central Library took part in showcasing the unique sounds of several participants in this worldwide celebrated festival. From school choirs to hard-edge rockers, soulful songbirds and upcoming grime artists, giving just a small insight into what music is being made today and what might be to come.

In true spirit of bringing all musical abilities together to collaborate, we were joined by Öli and the two Richards, just a few regulars from a local, weekly Jam Session hosted at our very own Henry Watson Music library. Mixing electric and acoustic guitars to create raw and earthy sounds, blending together in a single, extended set that generates the kind of atmosphere most often felt in a motion picture set on some dark and desolate back-road in America. Continuing in a solo set, bass and vocal artist Öli returned to switch things up, beginning with a solely electric based rendition of Robert Cray’s “Time Makes Two of Us”, once again leaning into darker and grittier tones.

In a more upbeat set we met folk duo, “Sons of Twins”, supported by their mothers proudly boasting printed t-shirts promoting their sons. Their set of four songs, featuring humbly vocalised harmonies with unflinching yet modest lyrics, presented with a great blend of acoustic guitar, keyboard and single vocals, made for a highly easy-going and enjoyable audience experience.  Relaxing back into earlier jazz vibes, from the aptly named “Neil C. Young Jazz Band”, was a wonderful treat of sublime, seamless and effortless collaboration between the three band members. A far cry from the perhaps unfair, collective belief that jazz is nothing more than background music, this set didn’t fade into the background in the slightest, instead allowing the audience to sit back, recharge and enjoy a crafted and polished performance.

Next we heard from singer-songwriter Martha Pryer, a solo artist accompanied with nothing but the soft beat of a backing track, unashamedly stilling the room into stunned silence – even in a library. Modest in her standing and in her manner, her vocals still achieved richness of soul and powerhouse levels of strength, even while remaining completely effortless, flowing against crushing lyrics about heartbreak, self-observation and bittersweet goodbyes. Her vocal power inescapably conjuring thoughts of singular voices such as Adele and Paloma Faith.

Then we met Tom Poggi, accompanied by two guests supplying instrumental guitar and accompanying vocals to complete a flawless experience of beautiful acoustic sounds. Perfectly arranged songs perfectly paired between each support act, created an infectiously enjoyable set made even more so by the pure joy of sharing his music so clear throughout his performance. The artful structure of his music creating vibes of Ben Howard and Hozier, pairing atmospheric and honest storytelling, with a distinctive sound able to transport you beyond the space of a single room.

Lastly, and by no means least, we saw home-grown rapper and grime artist T-Bone 92K bringing our day of incredible music to a close. Oozing personality from the off, T-Bone won over the crowd with his natural style and easy interaction with the audience both during and in-between sets. A quality most professional performers strive for. Rallying the crowd with catchy and interactive lyrics for one last celebration of what makes ‘Make Music Day’ the long-standing global event that’s been going strong for almost four decades.

A big thank you to all the artists who joined us on the day. If you would like to see all the artists, the videos can be viewed on Facebook @ManchesterLibraries

Good News Story! Great to be welcoming Music Library volunteer Öli to the team as Music Library Service Development Coordinator.

A few words from Öli – I came to Manchester in 2015 to undertake a Professional Musicianship BA (Hons) course at BIMM Manchester. In the first term, I was sent for a tour of the Henry Watson Music Library (HWML), led by Ros Edwards. Of course, I could not have known how involved I would become over the ensuing years.
I soon found that the library’s facilities were very convenient – indeed, they proved invaluable to me, enabling me to conduct research and complete coursework when my university’s resources were otherwise engaged or I simply wanted to work in a different environment. I did not have my own computer and I relied on a combination of the two buildings; without either of the two, I would have struggled to complete various assignments on time as I was constantly rehearsing and performing.
After graduating, I continued to use the library to pursue my own work and interests; it is a great place to sit and read (obviously) and I have spent a lot of time in the HWML with headphones on, practising and learning whatever bass-related things happen to be occupying my mind. The combination of playing bass in the music library and performing at some of the library’s musical events led me to volunteer to host public jam sessions.
The sessions take place in the Henry Watson Music Library; everyone is invited to come and play, regardless of musical experience and ability, in an informal and welcoming setting. They provide opportunities to play with an array of musicians (as anyone can turn up), they are different every time and the informal setting is great for anyone who feels apprehensive about performing live as it feels somewhere between a closed rehearsal and a small show. The sessions run from 16:30 to 18:30 every Tuesday.
I am very pleased indeed with the way the jam sessions have gained popularity. When I began volunteering, I would usually be playing with one or two regular guitarists. These days, I am quite regularly joined by drummers, keyboardists, saxophonists, flautists and more. I am very happy indeed to be joined every week by newcomers and by a steadily growing community of regulars. I often find myself very pleasantly surprised by what such groups of musicians – very few of whom, usually, are professionals – can achieve in these improvisational sessions.
When I extended my volunteering beyond the jam sessions, I found myself involved in a wide variety of events; I often set up sound systems, I have taught instrumental sessions and even engaged in some light luthiery. One of the most significant events I was involved with was the 2019 Make Music Day UK event, at which I performed and for which I sourced several acts. This event, in particular, showed me how much of a positive effect the HWML can potentially have on people; the event ran very smoothly and all practically went well, but what particularly struck me was the fact that everyone in attendance – performers and audience members alike – were visibly happy throughout. It was simply a really good day and I have brought an ethos of trying to make more such days happen to my new role of Service Development Coordinator.
In this role, I am eventually to take over from Ros Edwards. I am very fortunate to have her here to show me how to go about the many and various aspects of the job. There is much for me to learn and I am very happy to be granted such an opportunity to organise events, to provide opportunities for musicians, to promote music throughout Manchester and beyond and to raise awareness of the library and its resources. I hope to welcome as many new people to the library as possible and I hope that my insight as a library user and student will help me to do so.