Connections: How I came to own a Liber Usualis



When I studied at the Guildhall School of Music in London, one of my principal teachers and mentors was N.H.*, an incredible musician who managed to find an untapped area of early music performance and become an authority on it.

She was an American who had been in England for nearly two decades, but prior to living there, St. Louis was the city where she resided during a period of graduate study. At some point before moving to England, N.H. lent her personal copy of the Liber Usualis to a friend who, I suppose, intended to return it.

Unfortunately, that never happened and the friend ended up selling it to a used bookstore.

Fast forward…

A year or two ago, I had a conversation with an acquaintance from St. Louis. He was finishing the residency portion of his doctorate at IU and had a few requirements left to go. Our chat was about his hometown and, in particular, George Washington University, a hot bed of early music study during the ’70s and early ’80s.

When I mentioned to him that I knew someone who’d gone to GWU and that she was an early music specialist, his eyes lit up. He immediately recalled seeing her name in one of his copies of the Liber Usualis. Apparently, he has a few, is a collector, and keeps an eye out for them.

Sure enough, when he gave me N.H.’s lost copy (signed and dated 11/71), I was surprised by the way it connected two people who’ve never met but happen to have owned the same book and derived a lot of pleasure from it.

And that’s how I came to own a Liber Usualis.

Learn More: What’s a Liber Usualis?

*Name withheld out of respect for privacy.

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