Saturday Afternoon at the Library of Congress

Review by Carol Barth

On Saturday, November 8th, fourteen AMSF members and guests met at the Madison Building for a tour of the Music Division of the Library of Congress. After registering for reader's cards, which allow one to use the vast resources of the Library, we were met by our tour guide, Walter Zvonchenko, and his colleague, Dr, Denise Gallo. Mr. Zvonchenko provided us with an overview of the Division's vast holdings and also explained the Division's collection and preservation philosophies and plans for handling the ever-growing volume of materials. Dr. Gallo showed us some rare manuscripts from the collection including The Secret Red Book of Nicolo Paganini, Mozart Piano Concerto K. 595 (in his "neat hand"), Beethoven Piano Sonata no. 29 (along with a drawer that contains x-rays of the piece and a description of how the manuscript was acquired), Clara Schumann Cadenzas for Mozart Piano Concerto K. 466, Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue, Schubert Lieder, and the conducting score of a Stravinsky Piano Concerto.

Carolyn Lincoln felt that the most impressive part of the AMSF Library of Congress tour was the enthusiasm of the tour leader. Walter Zvonchenko is one of those fortunate people who gets paid for pursuing a hobby that he loves. He got so excited that words just tumbled out. Marcia Kozub added that Mr. Zvonchenko was very generous in sharing his time and knowledge. The informal discussion covered a wide range of topics as he patiently answered many questions from our group.

Marcia also said, "As a new member of AMSF, the tour of the Music Division of the Library of Congress is the first special event I've attended. Walter Zvonchenko and Dr. Gallo, staff members of the Performing Arts Reading Room, shared a real insiders' view of the resources available for research and encouraged us to use them. Obviously, this is not like using your local library. A request form has to be submitted for any item you want to see. The materials can only be used in the reading room, not checked out."

Susan Rudy echoed other AMSF members' sentiments when she noted that this visit had reminded her of how lucky we are to have such easy access to the Library of Congress. With a small investment of time, one can examine hard-to-find musical scores, references and ephemerae. She suggested that with the eagerness of the Library staff to help visitors locate the materials they are seeking and to provide useful research strategies, the biggest challenge in using the Library of Congress is finding a place to park! But that need not be a detriment to visiting since there is a subway stop (Capital South, via either blue or orange line) nearby.

AMSF founder Matt Harre also joined the tour. Afterwards, he said, "Though a music professional in Washington DC for 40 years, I never went to the music division of the LOC. Why--time, interest, intimidation? I don't know. Anyway, I went when AMSF offered this special event. I'm glad I went. Walter, our contact there, could not have been more enthusiastic, informative, and gently welcoming. Good events challenge us to go to new places and feel new (and old) feelings. This did and I wish more had been there."