Tag Archives: Encyclopedia

Wild Christmas in Wales

Mild it was, and autumnal in the yellow-browning, tumble-downing leaves of Glasgow, when the siren call of a writing opportunity assailed my ears.  Greedily, I scanned the call for articles and selected one, then two potential headings. My heart plummeted as I sought a third: my own specialism had already been assigned.

A more prudent soul might have been content with two short articles: one would write itself, and the other posed an enjoyable challenge.  Not for me the easy way. My ethic is never to turn away an opportunity, and what is a challenge but another way of forcing oneself to learn something new?  I chose to write about Welsh music, a subject about which I am certainly not ignorant, but which is definitely not my specialist topic.

By now it was December.  Finishing the second article, I gleefully filed it and took our youngest teen to the cinema to celebrate reaching my two-thirds milestone. However, I soon realised that a fairly solid grounding in two centuries’ worth of Welsh music left me feeling about as exposed as a pole-dancer encountering Santa Claus in his home environment; moreover, we all know that December is the month when working mothers traditionally do a full week’s work, then as much again juggling the responsibilities of making Christmas happen at home.  Worst of all, I had left the longest article until last, so I was, in effect, only halfway through my challenge.  Migraines and digestive disorders followed in close succession, but I manfully (womanfully) ordered appropriate literature from Amazon, sorted out Christmas presents and cards, rehearsed and led a choral service of lessons and carols, then settled down to the file full of notes that I’d compiled a couple of years ago whilst researching Welsh and Irish song collecting contemporary with the Scottish activity that my PhD had been based on.

Last King of WalesWild it was and wintry now, and the clouds outside were nothing compared to the fog of panic enveloping me indoors.  I now possessed a shiny and magnificent book about The Last King of Wales: Gruffudd ap Llewelyn c.1013-1063 (the back cover alluded to his patronage of the arts, which sounded distinctly hopeful); not to mention a tatty Penguin book about Giraldus Cambrensis, but the history of Wales was, so the supplier informed me, on its way from the USA – by canoe, I imagine, or a carrier-pigeon coasting his way downhill to retirement.

I drafted an outline, wrote a few headings, and began my mini-bibliography.  Certain that I could not commence my task without the pigeon-bound history book, I went to the University Library on Christmas Eve, where the soothing silence of Level Eight lulled me into a semblance of security.  Five books came back with me, and I now had no excuse but to get on with it.  I had five days left, and Christmas would take care of one of them.  Ruefully, I reflected that Handel had written his Messiah in a panic, to get himself out of horrendous debt.  If desperation could yield such inspiration, then surely I could manage 2,500 words for no monetary reward?

By the end of Christmas Eve – just before I headed out to play for the midnight carol service – I had written two-thirds of the article.  Christmas in our house was immeasurably fraught, and on top of that, our hot water boiler, repaired three weeks earlier and surely certain to avoid Christmas chaos, had packed up again.  I crawled into bed at 7 pm, unable to deal with any further crises.

Welsh bard saved as jpgBoxing Day dawned, and there was no excuse: the rest of the article had to be written.  I had written the easiest sections, and left the parts that I knew most about; I wanted to do them justice with the full benefit of the insights that I was able to draw upon.

Cold it is, and dark again.  I finished the last sentence and baked a turkey pie.  What else would I be doing at Boxing Day dinner-time?  (It was a very good pie, with a suet pastry crust, I might add.)  Then I watched a bit of TV, before re-reading, doing a final edit, and choosing the headwords.

Halleluia (click HERE.)

I’ve just filed the third and final article – three days early.  I’m still in Glasgow.  I didn’t actually need the library books – though my new Gruffudd book was definitely useful – and I’m still watching out for that pigeon.  But my late, Welsh father would have been proud of me.  For to my mind, this entire festive season has simply been – my wild Christmas in Wales.

POSTSCRIPT: My History of Wales arrived a mere twelve hours too late.  Shame!

Church of Scotland Organist Focuses on Wales

I’ve just updated my “Organist” page on this website, but now I must reach for the ring-binder that contains my notes on Welsh music.  I have an encyclopedia article to write!  I’m awaiting three books from Amazon to supplement the material I already have – this for a comparatively small article – but I might as well plan a structure for the piece and leaf through what I’ve amassed so far, so I know what exactly needs filling in.

Yes, there IS a link between “Church of Scotland Organist” and “Wales”: my father’s family were Welsh Baptists, and long before I took up the organ, Dad was a church organist before I was even born!

You Only Have to Offer: How I came to author Two Encyclopedia Articles

When my professional organisation forwarded a call for contributors to a new encyclopedia, I glanced very briefly at the email then closed it. Music in the Social and Behavioral Sciences?  Surely I was hardly qualified to write for an encyclopedia in which only one of the subjects meant  anything to me?  But then curiosity got the better of me.  Should I not look to see WHAT they wanted contributors to write about, before ruling myself out?

Well, I’m glad I looked again. In fact, I looked twice – I certainly had plenty to say about bards, including much that I’d researched but not actually used, comparatively recently.  Things were looking up.  I got to the letter Z, found nothing more, and went back to the beginning.  Well, I never!  It had never occurred to me to write about arranging music, but I’ve actually arranged quite a bit – albeit on a small scale – and I’ve probably pondered about song settings and piano arrangements far more than the average punter.  Maybe I would dare to contribute something about that, too.

I offered.  They accepted.  No kidding – in the short space of a few hours, I was contracted to contribute two articles to a new Sage encyclopedia.

As is my usual modus operandi, a bit of time had to pass before I felt the urge to actually write my entries.  I had other projects under way, and I could see I would have to spend quite a bit of time on the encyclopedia entries.  I booked a week’s holiday, gathered a few armfuls of useful textbooks, and locked myself away.  The bards piece wrote itself.  I had a ball!  Then I turned to the arranging one.  With a sinking heart, I began to realise that there was much more to it than I’d expected.  Not to arranging, per se, but to arranging as a subject that I had undertaken to write authoritatively about.  How wide would I cast my net?  Well, there was piano, orchestral, choral … okay, I could handle those.  And then there was jazz.  I wasn’t going to go to work on my holiday, but I am a librarian, and I knew we had more books than I had brought home.  I sallied forth and borrowed a few more.  Eventually, it was time to sit down at the laptop and see what ended up on the page.  I returned to work the next week having uploaded my two encyclopedia entries.  Only one needed editing – and not that heavily, either.  I breathed a sigh of relief and pretty much forgot about the whole experience.

Last week, I was surprised to find that the encylopedia is now available for purchase in two big, fat volumes!  I learned I’d soon be able to logon and see my entries in print, and I’m entitled to books from the Sage catalogue to a reasonable value.  I’m still deciding which!  But there is a moral to all this, which is why I decided to blog about it.  It definitely pays to seize opportunities when they come your way.  If I had just deleted that email, I wouldn’t now have another publication (okay, contribution to a publication) to my name.  What’s more, it’s proof that you shouldn’t automatically decide you’re not cut out to do something.  Me, a social and behavioral science author?  I don’t know about that.  But I proved to myself I could pull the rabbit out of the hat when the need arose!

Music in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: an Encyclopedia

Music in the Social and Behavioral Sciences an Encyclopedia