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No. 80 April 2007


The Sabbatical That Keeps on Giving, or, Geez Louise!

By Sarah Dorsey, Music Librarian, University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Sarah Dorsey among the Talma papers (photo by Diane Steinhaus)

When John asked me if I wanted to write something about my Louise Talma work for Breve Notes I must admit I hesitated. I mean, isn't everyone in SEMLA (but me) getting sick of hearing about Louise? He clarified that it should be newsy and I realized he was looking for a narrative about where my Louise research has led me, not *about* Louise (that's what the book will be). That I can certainly do!

So, I'll lay out for you what has grown out of that innocent li'l sabbatical.

The amazing thing to me is that 2.5 years ago I did not know who Louise Talma was, and now I plan to write a book about her. “What happened?” you ask. Well (just in case you did not know), I took a sabbatical from being Music Librarian at UNCG, went to the Library of Congress for 6 months last year, sorted Louise's collection and now she has possessed me from the other side.

And this being possessed thing is really quite a wonderful adventure! It enriches your life, challenges you in new and exciting ways and takes you to places you were not necessarily planning on. For example Peterborough , New Hampshire and Paris , France …but I'm getting ahead of myself.

First of all, the sabbatical ended June 30, 2006 and Anna and I started emailing about what to do at the SEMLA meeting. If you were able to attend that meeting you know what we ended up doing, BUT if you missed it you will be able to read a version of th e presentation (called “Sarah, Anna and Louise – What No Thelma? Discovering Louise Talma and Her Shorter Piano Works”) and the others presented in Columbus in Music Reference Services Quarterly soon. The clever Jennifer Ottervik has turned our SEMLA meeting into a conference proceeding. How excellent!

Next (in the Louise saga) I went back to the Library of Congress a couple of times (actually I went once before SEMLA too). So in all I've been back to visit Louise three times: once in September; once in November; and once in December/January. Most of the work I did on the last two trips was related to preparing for MLA/SAM and the three concerts in March.

In between, I was able to visit the MacDowell Colony in December and here is one of my favorite Sarah/Louise cosmic connections (the rest, well, you'll just have to read the introduction to our book). My sister-in-law, Carolyn Parrott, grew up in Peterborough, NH where the Colony is located. Her first job as a teenager was working at the Colony delivering picnic lunches to the resident artists in their secluded forest studios. Yes, she remembers Louise! How cool is that!?

I had a great time at the conference in Pittsburgh . In addition to being able to see everyone there and go to that cool holy brewery, being able to tell the world about Louise (AND with the Society of American Music there, too!) was very exciting! I have met a new community of scholars through working on Louise and connecting with them was energizing. Also, it was announced at the business meeting that I won the Dena Epstein award to help me with my book proposal. I am so honored and now I am “outed” to the world as Louise's biographer so I really need to do it!

To get ready for the concerts which were just a week after MLA/SAM, I copied pieces out of the collection that had perhaps never been performed in public or maybe not for 30 years. Very exciting. And these concerts, oh my goodness! I've never been an impressaria before and now that it is over I really enjoyed it, but it was a challenge!

The DC programs (at the Library of Congress and the University of Maryland ) were in celebration of the MacDowell centennial (as well as Women's History Month, of course) and the UNCG concert was shared with another Louise (Farrenc) and we called the concert “The French Connection.” Since Louise Talma started her life in France (lived there for her first 5 years), spoke French as her first language and studied (and later taught with) the famous Nadia Boulanger, France is kind of like her adopted country (though she was an American citizen).

Now I am planning the trip to Paris . Pourquoi Paris? Well, there are 265 letters from Louise to Nadia in the Bibliotheque Nationale that I need to see before I can write the book proposal chapter. So I've made the reservations and plan to go there and if there is time later this summer, go to NYC and Yale to peruse various collections in these locations. Then I'll have nothing to do but write.

I am hoping to have the proposal finished before the end of the year, but realizing that the fall semester is pretty full, I might have to let myself finish next summer. I just don't know how long it will take me to write the chapter (and outline the rest of the book). That is the unknown, and part of the adventure that Louise has me on.

But the amazing thing is how much energy I *get* from all of this work. That is what makes me realize it is right. Bringing Louise back to the notice of the world is clearly what I am meant to be doing and, well, if I have to go to Paris to make it happen, oh well. Twist my arm!

So, when you see me in Jacksonville next fall, you know what to ask. How's Louise? And any of you who have experience with biographies, book proposals and such, I am officially interested in your sage advice. Email me at and clue me in.

Sarah Dorsey (Geez Louise!)

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From the Chair

Lynne C. Jaffe At Your Service: Library Contract Cataloging

As I write, spring has arrived in my area of the chapter. I am enjoying the dwarf irises and daffodils. I look forward to the tulips blooming as they are coming up in my yard.

It was great to see so many of you at the MLA meeting in Pittsburgh , even if it was only at the interim chapter meeting. The schedule was jam packed so that I only saw some of you in passing.

Congratulations to Holling Smith-Borne (Vanderbilt University), who is one of the new MLA Members-at-Large. Sarah Dorsey (University of North Carolina Greensboro) also deserves kudos for winning the Dena Epstein Award. Congratulations also to Grover Baker (Center for Popular Music, Middle Tennessee State University) who was chosen as SEMLA's nominee to the MLA Best of Chapter Competition.

The Nominating Committee, chaired by Guy Leach (Georgia State University), is looking for people to run for the positions of Secretary/Treasurer and Member-at-Large. Please contact him ( with your nominations.

Our fall meeting will be in Jacksonville , FL , coordinated by Lynn Jacobson (Jacksonville Public Library (FL)), who is handling both the program and local arrangements. The meeting dates are Oct. 18-20, 2007 . Please contact her ( if you would like to present a paper at the meeting.

Thank you to Grover Baker , Joyce Clinkscales (Emory University), David Guion (University of North Carolina Greensboro), Scott Phinney (University of South Carolina), Jean Wald (Stetson University) and Liza Weisbrod (Auburn University), who volunteered to participate in the MLA Educational Outreach Program.

Thanks to all who gave donations to MLA in honor of Richard Golden's retirement from Emory University.


Lynne Jaffe presides at the chapter meeting in Pittsburgh.

Lynne Jaffe presides at the chapter meeting in Pittsburgh.

David Guion plays a solo with the MLA jazz band.

David Guion plays a solo with the MLA jazz band.

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Member News

Timothy Smolko will be joining the Music Section of the Cataloging Department at the University of Georgia Libraries as of June 4. Tim has accepted a paraprofessional position with us, despite having just earned his library degree last year at the University of Pittsburgh, because he wants to pursue a music degree at UGA in order to become fully qualified to be a music librarian with a focus in cataloging. He spent two semesters cataloging scores as an intern, under the supervision of Jim Cassaro, in the Theodore M. Finney Music Library at the University of Pittsburgh . Tim's wife Joanna Smolko (Hastings) has a masters degree in composition from the University of Georgia's Hugh Hodgson School of Music and is currently completing her doctorate in music at the University of Pittsburgh; her parents live in Stone Mountain, Ga., another reason for their happy relocation. Tim is a member of MLA and attended the recent joint meeting with the Society for American Music in Pittsburgh. I will be encouraging him to join SEMLA a.s.a.p., and I hope you will all welcome him, if or when he is able to travel to a chapter meeting. — Neil Hughes, University of Georgia.

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Call for Papers
SEMLA Conference in Jacksonville

Lynn Jacobson

Now that I've asked for a committee, the committee needs you to volunteer to present a paper or presentation at our annual meeting to be held in Jacksonville, FL, October 18-20th. This year's meeting will be held at Jacksonville Public Library's new Main Library in downtown Jacksonville . The library is equipped with all of the presentation and sound equipment you could possibly want including a piano. We would appreciate input from the full SEMLA membership so please consider submitting your own paper or presentation. We'd also like to hear any presentation or program ideas you have, or any topics that you would be interested in learning more about. Let me know by email ( ) or phone (904-744-6845). More information about Jacksonville and our conference hotel will be coming soon, so stay tuned.

Lenny Bertrand gives an update on Tulane's music library
Lenny Bertrand gives an update on Tulane's music library.

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Call for Proposals

The Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University
invites proposals for presentations in:

A Conference on the Southern Gospel Convention-Singing Tradition
4-5 April 2008

Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro , Tennessee

Southern gospel convention singing is an amateur American musical tradition in which practitioners train at singing schools and gather at monthly and annual singings to sing and play from upright, or octavo, "new books" containing southern gospel songs in seven-shape notation. Historically it follows the four-shape tradition ( Southern Harmony , Sacred Harp , etc.) and has been led primarily by publishers such as Ruebush-Kieffer, Anthony J. Showalter, James D. Vaughan, Stamps-Baxter, Hartford , and others. These publishers also sponsored the largest and best-known singing schools from the 1870s through the early 1960s. Emphasizing new songs in the gospel style, as opposed to the four-shape tradition's more conservative bent, the southern gospel convention tradition also embraces the use of instruments, most particularly piano, to accompany the singers. In addition, this amateur tradition and the publishing and educational industry that accompanies it have been the fertile ground from which has come many well-known songs, and from which has emerged the world of professional southern gospel.

Southern gospel convention singing, in turn, is part of a broader musical phenomenon stemming from the Protestant Reformation and Americans' responses to it: the recreational and congregational group singing of sacred music. This phenomenon has played a central role in the history of Protestant music-making in the United States of America , from the unison and heterophonic psalm-singing of the colonial era through the part-music of the nineteenth century to the unison and homophonic choruses of modern praise-and-worship music. After almost a century of scholarship devoted to this broader musical phenomenon, the southern gospel convention-singing tradition remains little understood by the larger scholarly community--an anomaly, given its popularity.

"Farther Along": A Conference on the Southern Gospel Convention-Singing Tradition is intended to help address this oversight. We expect the conference to include sessions devoted to:

We encourage proposals for papers and presentations on all aspects of the convention-singing tradition and related activities. Topics may include, but are not limited to, studies of:

Proposals should include an abstract of 250-300 words and an indication of audio-visual needs. Electronic submissions are strongly encouraged, but hardcopy submissions will be accepted. SUBMISSION DEADLINE: October 1, 2007

Submit proposals to:
Kym Stricklin
Center for Popular Music
Box 41
Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro , TN 31732
fax: 615.898.5829

Those who do not wish to submit proposals but who want to keep abreast of conference news may join the conference mailing list by sending contact information to Kym Stricklin.

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Call for Nominations
2007 Officer Election

The SEMLA Nominating Committee is soliciting nominations for two offices: Member-At-Large and Secretary/Treasurer . Candidates must be members in good standing of SEMLA. Candidates for Secretary/Treasurer must also be members in good standing of MLA. Detailed descriptions of both offices are available on the SEMLA Website: Biographies of the candidates, ballots, and voting procedures will appear in the August 2007 issue of Breve Notes. Election results will be announced at the conclusion of the business meeting in October.

Please send your nominations (or questions) to any member of the Nominating Committee by June 15th:

Guy Leach, Chair
Georgia State University

Sarah Brooks Dorsey
University of North Carolina-Greensboro

Scott Phinney
University of South Carolina

MLA First-time attendees from SEMLA: Mac Nelson, Heidi Radtke, Abbey Thompson, Michael Fitzgerald, Paul Greitzer.
MLA First-time attendees from SEMLA: Mac Nelson, Heidi Radtke, Abbey Thompson, Michael Fitzgerald, Paul Greitzer.


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