I was puzzled about what to do with this Straight D Trumpet (or “Bach Trumpet”) left behind by my father when he died last year. Although it’s getting on for a hundred years old, it’s still playable, just about. These days, there are occasional schemes allowing you to donate old, unused instruments to schoolchildren. But I didn’t think this one was quite right for Year 7; I could imagine it quickly becoming a Bent D Trumpet or even a Shorn Off Eb Piccolo.
Luckily I had the chance to ask the advice of exactly the the right person; the great trumpet virtuoso, John Wallace, whose playing my father absolutely revered. I imagined John would say ‘put it on Ebay’ or ‘place it in the metal skip’. But in fact he pointed out that the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, which he directed with great elan until his recent retirement, now has an Archive including 800 historic instruments, whose company he warmly invited my dad’s trumpet to join.
It was a happy day when I and the trumpet visited the RCS and its gracious archivist, Stuart Harris-Logan. I myself taught at this college about thirty years ago (when it was the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) and I never knew we had any archives at all. We were just getting used to having moved into the present building on Renfrew Street, which now I remember, was an exhausting effort, just as it is for anyone moving house. Stuart has been building up a collection which covers all the RCS artforms – music , drama, film and dance, but also reflects Glasgow’s past as an important arts location from the 19th century on. I was particularly delighted to see its references to panto and music hall. On the wall of his office, Stuart had a variety bill headlining Dave Willis, a Scottish comedian often mentioned by my dad (who played as a part-time theatre musician at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen in the immediate postwar years – the final years of music hall, just before everyone bought a television for the Queen’s coronation in 1953 and the whole thing was over.) I left the trumpet behind, relaxing amongst old friends.