I’ve been sourcing, buying and hiring music for my chamber choir for over five years now and I’ve always found it a frustrating process. Here are some of my particular bugbears. If you’ve encountered any of these annoyances, you’re not alone.
1. You don’t know what it’s going to sound like
When you buy a score online, either as a digital download or as a printed product delivered to your door, you don’t know what it will sound like when your choir sings it. If you’re a good pianist, you can play the vocal parts through. However, most of us are stuck with trying to sing through a line at a time and put it together in our heads.
The music publishers don’t help with this. Why not let us hear the whole thing, even if it’s only in MIDI format? Tiny excerpts are no help to anyone.
2. You can’t see potential problems of range or difficulty
Most of the time when you’re buying digital scores, you don’t get to see the whole thing, only the first page or so. That means there could be extremes of range, nightmarish harmonies or even inappropriate lyrics lurking about the corner.
3. You don’t get any support
If you’re a trained, competent musician, you can muddle through the process of taking a score and turning it into a teaching plan. If you’re new to choir leading, or your music-reading is rusty, it can be a real chore to learn the piece thoroughly and decide how to present it to your choir.
And almost no choral music comes with recorded accompaniments or rehearsal tracks, so if you don’t have a pianist and you don’t play yourself, you’re probably not going to be able to do the piece, however fabulous it is.
4. You never have the right number of scores
I’ve got this wrong so many times! My choir has grown steadily over the last few years. It’s intended to be chamber choir, so we’ll always keep a lid on the number of places, but we’ve gone from about 20 to start with to about 36 now. People have left, taking their scores with them of course, and others have joined, needing new scores.
I try to keep a range of standing repertoire that the choir can perform at very little notice. We keep these pieces at roughly performance level by singing through them occasionally at the end of a rehearsal. So when a new person joins, they need a bundle of about 20 scores to get them up to speed, plus anything new we’re working on.
We don’t have the funds (or the storage space) for a large stock of music, so most of the time, when I invite a new person into the choir, I have to go back to the music website from which I purchased the original set of scores and get another one. And I have to repeat that on several different websites, some of which are abroad and take AGES to deliver. It’s all a bit of a faff!
5. What’s the answer?
If you’ve been following Total Choir Resources over the last few months, you’ll probably have heard about our new project: a digital music store. And it won’t surprise you to learn that we think we’ve got the answers to these music-buying headaches.
We’ve commissioned a composer to create brand new arrangements of well-known songs, which will be available from 1 June 2017. And we’ve come up with a wholly new way for choirs to buy music.
Print as many copies as you need now. And more if you need them later.
This was our first and most important idea. Instead of using the old music publishing model (based on printed paper products) that you have to buy a score for each singer, and buy more in the future if you need them, we’ll be selling our arrangements ‘per choir’. No more stock. No more running out of scores. No more clandestine photocopying! If new people join and you want to revisit a piece – just print more.
We’ll support you
We know from experience that sourcing music for your choir isn’t simply a question of choosing a piece and handing it to your singers, particularly if your choir learns by ear. There’s a ton of work that goes into preparing a piece for rehearsal. We want to help with that, so all our arrangements will come with:-
- Rehearsal tracks
- Accompaniment tracks
- Lyric sheets for teaching by ear
- Full and vocal scores
- Piano reductions for unaccompanied pieces
- Teaching notes
We think it’s about time the world of choral music caught up with the 21st Century, and the diverse ways in which modern choirs learn, rehearse and perform. We hope you’ll come with us on what should be a very exciting journey.