The CounterTenor Project is a collaboration between the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), RLUK and US-based countertenor Reginald Mobley. It was inspired by a scoping study commissioned by RLUK, in partnership with the AHRC, to explore and celebrate the contribution of academic and research library staff to knowledge creation and research. Published on 30 June 2021, the report is a testament to the skill, expertise and dedication of research library colleagues and their capacity to enrich the research ecosystem.

In between performing the role of Ottone in Monteverdi’s last opera l’incoronazione di Poppea in Budapest, Geneva and Vicenza, Reginald will be in the UK, exploring musical collections held in major research libraries and museums, including the British Library, the Brotherton Library (Leeds), the Borthwick Institute for Archives (York), the Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge) and the International Slavery Museum (Liverpool). Working with archivists, librarians, and curators, Reginald will bring to light works by lesser or little-known composers, using them as a lens through which to interrogate and reimagine the concept of ‘musical canon’.

These visits were facilitated by CLB Management Ltd.

The project will complement a series of AHRC-funded projects that recognise and celebrate the contribution of seven classical composers from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

‘This fascinating collaboration between practice-led research, the skills of the archivist and the wealth of untapped historical sources is a classic AHRC project. We are delighted to be able to bring together collaborators from across the research ecosystem to develop this very special project and help to expand the boundaries of the musical canon.’ – Professor Christopher Smith, Executive Chair, AHRC

‘RLUK is thrilled to partner with AHRC and Reginald Mobley to showcase the creative interplay between collections, communities and research and celebrate the role of libraries, archives and museums in the making and sharing of new knowledge’.  – Dr Jessica Gardner, Chair of RLUK and Cambridge University Librarian

‘At the cross section of research and practice is the opening of a path to meaningful change and progress. With this exciting partnership with AHRC and RLUK, I see a chance for change… equitable change in the Arts. Especially in reference to rigidity of our Western Classical canon. But within the many archives, libraries, and collections in the UK, lies a wealth of music that must be impatiently waiting for the chance to do it’s part to help facilitate this long overdue effort. Because of that, I couldn’t be more pleased, and honored, to be invited to participate and offer my unique perspective and skills in collaboration with some of the leading researchers and scholars in the field.’ – Reginald Mobley, Countertenor

Further information:

Details of project partners and participants are as follows:

British Library

Richard Chesser, Head of Music, British Library

University of Cambridge

Victoria Avery, Keeper of Applied Arts, Fitzwilliam Museum

Suzanne Reynolds, Curator of Manuscripts and Printed Books, Fitzwilliam Museum

Catherine Sutherland, Deputy Librarian, Pepys Library and Special Collections, Magdalene College

International Slavery Museum, National Museums Liverpool

Julia Bryan, Education and Participation Lead

Jean-Francois Manicom, Lead Curator Transatlantic Slavery and Legacies

Francoise McClafferty, Head of Partnerships and Strategic Relations

University of Leeds

Joanne Fitton, Head of Special Collections and Galleries

Rhiannon Lawrence-Francis, Collections and Engagement Manager (Rare Books and Maps)

University of Liverpool

Freya Jarman, Reader in Music

Catherine Tackley, Professor of Music,  Head of the Department of Music

University of London

Karen Attar, Curator of Rare Books and University Artworks, Senate House Library

Catriona Cannon, Librarian and Programme Director, Library Transformation Programme

Richard Espley, Head of Collections, Senate House Library

Andrea Meyer-Ludowisy, Academic Librarian: European Art and Culture

University of York

Gary Brannan, Keeper of Archives and Special Collections, Borthwick Institute of Archives

Robert Hollingworth, Anniversary Reader, Department of Music; DIrector, I Fagiolini