Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sharing a review of UK Choir of the Year

This from Fiona Maddocks in the UK Observer:

Choir of the Year 2010 – review

warwickshire county boys' choir

‘Heartwarming’: the Warwickshire County Boys’ Choir with their inspirational conductor Garry Jones. Photograph: Oliver Dixon

Walking into the Royal Festival Hall last Sunday afternoon, it was as if one had stepped backstage by mistake. In a mood of pre-show frenzy, the entire audience seemed to be straightening shirts, brushing down jackets, fixing up hair, combing, smoothing, pinning, crimping, ready for the big moment when, each with their choral comrades, they filed on stage to give the performance of their lives for the title of Choir of the Year 2010.

It was only partly an illusion. The auditorium had indeed become a kind of vast green room. Sitting in groups, brightly attired and surrounded by family supporters wearing their colours or waving flags, the six choirs competing dominated the swarming interior. They were chosen earlier this year from 150 ensembles involving 6,000 singers. Four were category winners, two were invited as "wild cards", good enough as runners-up to earn a place in the final, which was presented with cheerful grace by Aled Jones assisted by Josie D'Arby and the BBC Singers.

Perceptions about choral singing have shifted radically since Bill Kallaway founded the biennial competition in 1984 with sponsorship from Sainsbury's. Back then, no one accepted the idea that stuffy old choirs could be fashionable, as well as socially inclusive with everything that expression implies. TV activists such as Howard Goodall and Gareth Malone, not to mention the American teen hit Glee on Channel 4, have engendered a fresh and informal, still highly disciplined, enthusiasm.

Another cool advocate, Brian Eno, who sings in an a cappella group each week, makes it sound obligatory pleasure: "Singing is the key to long life, a good figure, a stable temperament, increased intelligence, new friends, super self-confidence, heightened sexual attractiveness and a better sense of humour." And he should know. Think about that as you reach for the latest snake oil.

The niche days of blazer and club tie, or surplice and cassock, are over. Now anything goes. The bright-toned and glamorous schoolgirls of the Holles Singers from Hampton, Middlesex – youth category winners – could find alternative careers on the catwalk if they tire of traditional Georgian music or their fine Cabaret medley. The equally chichi yet entirely different all-female Rainbow Connection Singers from Doncaster, aged around 18 to 24, who sang music from Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds, could complement any musical. They already all look like Tallulah Bankhead. I particularly enjoyed the University of Central Lancashire Chamber Choir, all students, who put gutsy, riveting energy into Mozart ("Dies Irae" from his Requiem), Bob Chilcott and Broadway. How many pub nights did they skip to achieve this expert drill?

Bill Kallaway still runs the competition, though Sainsbury's dropped out in 2002. Whatever the reasons, the new partnership with Radio 3 is fruitful, with radio broadcasts and a televised BBC4 showcase. Arts Council England and Sing Up also give support. The judges, chaired by Operatunity's Mary King, included the chart-topping composer and YouTube Choir guru Eric Whitacre. They had a difficult job. (Having been a jury member, and a parent of two children in different choirs in different years, I have a pretty nervous, stomach-churning relationship with the whole enterprise. Last Sunday it was a relief simply to sit in the audience and grin inanely.)

The Choir of the Year 2010 title went to one of the wildcard finalists, the Wellensian Consort, ex-pupils at Wells Cathedral school where they had been beneficiaries of the UK's unrivalled collegiate choral tradition. Now all are pursuing varied careers but still reunite to follow their first love: singing. Their passion and enjoyment translated into emotional, professional-quality performances of John Rutter's "A Choral Fanfare", Rheinberger's "Abendlied" and the spiritual, "Didn't the Lord Deliver Daniel?".

Yet it was the two children's choirs who really stole the show, both, remarkably, formed only two years ago. The dedication of any choral director cannot be overestimated, but especially those working with the young. The tiny New Forest Children's Choir, winner of the children's category, is run by Alison Russell-Hayward. It has 20 singers aged five to 12, from different schools and backgrounds in the Christchurch area. A talented girl soloist in Howard Goodall's tricky "The Lord is My Shepherd" hit every note, pure and bell-like. Even the smallest child opened her mouth as wide as a new bird awaiting worms.

Most heartwarming of all was the "wildcard" Warwickshire County Boys' Choir, set up in 2008 as part of an open access project. Persuading eight- to 13-year-old boys to comb their hair, let alone join a choir, is a tough call. It takes a particular kind of popular genius. Choir director Garry Jones is one. Of the 60 boys, from 40 different schools, many have suffered social or educational problems, including ADD and dyslexia. Most had never sung before. A few have endured playground taunts for choosing to.

A single father, currently unemployed, whom I met by chance, said he had feared the costs would be too high for his nine-year old son to join. But the uniform is simple – a blue waistcoat with school shirt and trousers – and most expenses are covered. I also met the boy. What did he enjoy best? "The breaks," he replied, all smiles. Second best? "Firefly" – referring to a hushed, delicate song by Andy Beck which they sang with unembarrassed, relaxed beauty. "Maybe that was the most charming thing in my life," commented Eric Whitacre from his judge's chair, struggling for words. Gathering himself, he managed to add: "This is our future."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Across the ocean!

I'm here in Grinnell Iowa where the Grinnell College Singers directed by John Rommereim will sing my extended work El Limonar Florido (The Lemon Grove in Blossom) later today, with texts by the 20th century Spanish poet Antonio Machado.

And as I look at the hits from around the globe on my website, what pops up but this- a hit, looking at real pieces by moi- so therefore not a totally accidental error hit, by someone in Fuchal, on the island of Madeira! Madeira is the Portuguese controlled island out in the Atlantic Ocean, where my Portuguese ancestors (yes, the Carey dude is not totally Irish) lived for I don't know exactly how long. And it's that Portuguese bloodline that subtely influences my family, in some Portuguese noses, skin tone, and in my love for Portuguese/Spanish, ie. Iberian music. So how cool is it to see a hit show up on my stat counter from this tiny island, which for centuries has been famous for the fortified wine called Madeira, and more recently as a swanky resort destination.

The world keeps shrinking, usually in good ways! Also, btw, just now another hit-- this one from the Catalonia region in Spain, looking at my arrangement of the Catalonian Christmas Folk Song El Noi de la Mare, and then apparently exploring my wacky All Cat Love Song!

Here is a map of recent webpage hits- Madeira is that hit right in the middle, out to the west of Spain and Portugal in the Atlantic:


And here is a link to the webpage for my piece "El Limonar Florido":


And if you'd just like to see the beautifully lyrical texts here they are:

I. Tal vez la mano, en sueño
del sembrador de estrellas,
hizo sonar la música olvidada
como una nota de la lira immense,
y la ola humilde a nuestros labios vino
de unas pocas palabras verdaderas.
Perhaps the hand in dreaming
of being a star sower
made forgotten music echo
like a note from an enormous lyre,
and to our lips a tiny wave
came with a few true words.
II. Tarde tranguila, casi
con placidez de alma,
para ser joven, para haberlo sido
cuando Dios quiso, para
tener algunas alegrías…lejos,
y poder dulcemente recordarlas.
Tranquil afternoon, almost
with placidity of soul,
to be young, to have been so
when God willed it, to
have had some joys…far away,
and be able tenderly to recall them.
III. Desgarrada la nube; el arco iris
brillando ya en el cielo,
y en un fanal de lluvia
y sol el campo envuelto.
Desperte. ¿Quien enturbia
los magicos cristales de mi súeno?
Mi corazón latía
atónito y disperse.
…¡El limonar florido,
el cipresal del huerto,
el prado, verde, el sol, el agua, el iris!...
¡el agua en tus cabellos!...
Y todo en las memoria se perdia
como una pompa de jabón al viento.
The torn cloud, the rainbow
now gleaming in the sky,
and the fields enveloped
in a beacon of rain and sun.
I woke. Who is confounding
the magic crystal glass of my dream?
My heart was beating
aghast and bewildered.
The lemon grove in blossom,
cypresses in the orchard,
the green meadow, the sun, water, rainbow,
the water in your hair!
And all in my memory was lost
like a soap bubble in the wind.
IV. Luz del alma, luz divina,
Faro, antorcha, estrella, sol…
un hombre a tientas camina;
lleva a la espalda un farol.
Amoche soñé que oía
a Dios, gritándome: ¡Alerta!
Luego era Dios quien dormia,
y yo gritaba: ¡Despierta!
Soul light, holy light,
beacon, torch, sun, star.
A man stumbles on a road,
a lantern on his shoulder.
Last night I dreamt I heard
God shouting at me: Take care!
Later, God was sleeping
and I shouted: Awake!

I'm totally looking forward to the performance today- which also includes works by Arvo Part and the very talented Tarik O'Regan.

Adios for now,


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blogging for my Daddy, by Aidan

Me at the quad, short for quadrangle, at Grinnell College (a quadrangle is like a triangle but with four sides)

Okay, so my name is Aidan Matthew Carey, and I am Daddy's son and I am seven. Dad says do I want to go on a road trip and I said sure, when are we leaving for Disney World or maybe Alaska or even like New Zealand to see where they filmed the Lord of the Rings movies, and dad says no we are going to Iowa, Aidan. And I thought, umm Iowa, isn't that just corn fields and where the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum is and isn't Hoover better as a vacuum cleaner than a president, Dad? Well Dad says there is a great college there called Grinnell and that his friend John is the choir teacher there and and they even know like dotted half notes and something like German demented sixths I think he said, and so I said, well yeah let's go and can I take my football and my Bakugan and my Pokemon cards and Dad rolls his eyes and says, yeah I guess.

So Mom packed my stuff for me, and I know I will miss Mommy and my cat Poka a lot but somehow they will survive all their tears of woe and I'll be back Sunday night anyway, Mom.

So Dad and I took off this morning from Oak Park, IL to go to Ioway. And here is the cool stuff we did today and what we saw:

Stuff we saw:

Big wind farms and I even told Dad how I would invent solar power with millions of tiny mirrors and stuff
the Oberweis ice cream factory (yum)
a Nestles chocolate factory (oh I am hungry now)
sheep in a truck
sheep playing football with real uniforms and a scoreboard (kidding)
winter wheat
a tractor store with tractor sculptures
a Baby Ruth truck (hey, hungry again)
Dole banana truck, even with a mascot called Bobby Banana on the side (Bobby is a banana who is kicking a soccer ball- how does he not have humungous bruises on his shins?-- I mean he is a banana and we all know they bruise like crazy- maybe he should choose an easier sport, like mahjong?)
The world's largest truck stop on Route 80
A sign for a town called "What Cheer", and I am thinking yes, what cheer? Just tell me, what is the cheer? Come on, just fork over the information I tell ya.

So here is stuff we did in the car:
I quizzed dad about Pokemon for at least an hour straight, and then I taught him stuff about Pokemon for about two more hours. Dad is a really good listener about the Pokemon stuff I know. I know he is a good listener because he is always saying like "yeah...uh-huh...oh I see...oh", and even more "uh-huhs". So you know he must really be paying good attention. Then Dad decided that he was really getting lots of good Pokemon knowledge and decided to have me tell him all the prime numbers from 1-100. So I did that and Dad said I could have a prize for doing that and we discovered some cool number tricks about primes.

Then we had lunch at Burger King in Iowa City (where Gramma met Grampa about 500 years ago I think) because I like the mac and cheese there better than McDonald's chicken nuggets and besides Ronald McDonald scares me and he should scare you too. And then we finally got to Grinnell. It's a little town but lots of pizza places (dad says college kids eat lots of pizza), and coffees shops and even a Pizza Hut right near our B and B which is a crazy place where somebody has weird strangers live in their house (well I'm not weird but I bet lots of those other people are) and they give them breakfast but don't feed them anything else all day- I mean how unfair is that? I am going to starve at this B and B thing unless I can get Dad to take me to the Pizza Hut. I bet the Pizza Hut likes the B and B because everyone is starving and almost breaking down the doors at the Pizza Hut.

So we took all our stuff into the B and B place and actually our room is cool and my bed is cool and the blankets are softer than anything in the world and we discovered one of the wooden "poster" things on one of the beds is loose and you can take it right off and we laughed like crazy about that. And then we went over to this guy John's choir thing.

John is conducting a piece by my Dad about lemons or something- it's in some other language like Spanish which I know a little because my school teaches us about 1 word of Spanish each week. By the time I am 100 I will know lots of Spanish I think. I'll for sure know twice as many words as all the 50 year olds and they will have to ask me all sorts of stuff about Spanish and then I will be famous for my Spanish, even though I wish I didn't have to wait to be 100 to be famous. So Dad liked the choir and they liked him, but he told the boys to sing with their hearts more and made some comment about they should sing like they wanted to get a girl to like them (most of the boys my age don't like girls and think kissing is gross, but actually I think it's kind of sweet and lovey) or sing it like they really wanted a pizza with lots of meat on it. They laughed at my Dad's joke but I'm not sure I got it. Of course most of my Dad's jokes I don't get or they are so dumb that I have to punch him.

Anyway, then they sang some piece by a guy called Part and there were like a million cello players, I guess Part likes cellos or he likes girls too because most all the cello players were girls, except one was older, so she was a lady not a girl. And then they played a song with a guitar and it was really cool and it wasn't even electric guitar which is what I want to play.

So here is the best part- we went to a Mexican restaurant with John and we ate some food and it was okay I guess but I was getting tired and Dad and John were just talking about onsets, and warmups, and overt tones or something (not anything about Pokemon, can you believe it?) and I was getting sleepy and bored, but then this lady named Angela walked in and she is married to John, but she is really way cooler than John because she likes math like me and we talked about cool number tricks and prime numbers and stuff. Wow- she was so cool. And then she discovered there was a dessert menu at this restaurant and she found a little slice of heaven - vanilla ice cream with corn flakes and chocolate sauce, and whipped cream and a cherry. So we both got an order and she even gave me her cherry. I think she has a crush on me because she gave that to me and there are girls at Lincoln school that have a crush on me too and I guess I like them too. So all of a sudden I wasn't tired or bored anymore because Angela was so much fun and you know ice cream can solve all the problems of the world, right?

Me and Angela!

So that was day one of our four day trip to Grinnell, Iowa and it was way better than going to Disney World.

If Daddy lets me I will blog again tomorrow though I don't really know what blogging means- I think it just means typing what you did even if nobody ever reads it sometimes, I'm not real sure.

Good night,


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hearing the Music, Honing the Mind

Via Scientific American:

Science Agenda | Mind & Brain
Cover Image: November 2010 Scientific American Magazine See Inside

Hearing the Music, Honing the Mind

Music produces profound and lasting changes in the brain. Schools should add classes, not cut them

Image: Wendy McMurdo

Nearly 20 years ago a small study advanced the notion that listening to Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major could boost mental functioning. It was not long before trademarked “Mozart effect” products appealed to neurotic parents aiming to put toddlers on the fast track to the Ivy League. Georgia’s governor even proposed giving every newborn there a classical CD or cassette.

The evidence for Mozart therapy turned out to be flimsy, perhaps nonexistent, although the original study never claimed anything more than a temporary and limited effect. In recent years, however, neuroscientists have examined the benefits of a concerted effort to study and practice music, as opposed to playing a Mozart CD or a computer-based “brain fitness” game once in a while. Advanced monitoring techniques have enabled scientists to see what happens inside your head when you listen to your mother and actually practice the violin for an hour every afternoon. And they have found that music lessons can produce profound and lasting changes that enhance the general ability to learn. These results should disabuse public officials of the idea that music classes are a mere frill, ripe for discarding in the budget crises that constantly beset public schools.

Studies have shown that assiduous instrument training from an early age can help the brain to process sounds better, making it easier to stay focused when absorbing other subjects, from literature to tensor calculus. The musically adept are better able to concentrate on a biology lesson despite the racket in the classroom or, a few years later, to finish a call with a client when a colleague in the next cubicle starts screaming at an underling. They can attend to several things at once in the mental scratch pad called working memory, an essential skill in this era of multitasking.

Discerning subtleties in pitch and timing can also help children or adults in learning a new language. The current craze for high school Mandarin classes furnishes an ideal example. The difference between m¯a (a high, level tone) and (falling tone) represents the difference between “mother” and “scold.” Musicians, studies show, are better than nonmusicians at picking out easily when your m¯a is ing you to practice. These skills may also help the learning disabled improve speech comprehension.

Sadly, fewer schools are giving students an opportunity to learn an instrument. In Nature Reviews Neuroscience this summer, Nina Kraus of Northwestern University and Bha­rath Chandrasekaran of the University of Texas at Austin, who research how music affects the brain, point to a disturbing trend of a decline of music education as part of the standard curriculum. A report by the advocacy organization Music for All Foundation found that from 1999 to 2004 the number of students taking music programs in California public schools dropped by 50 percent.

Research of our brains on music leads to the conclusion that music education needs to be preserved—and revamped, as needed, when further insights demonstrate, say, how the concentration mustered to play the clarinet or the oboe can help a problem student focus better in math class. The main reason for playing an instrument, of course, will always be the sheer joy of blowing a horn or banging out chords. But we should also be working to incorporate into the curriculum our new knowledge of music’s beneficial effect on the developing brain. Sustained involvement with an instrument from an early age is an achievable goal even with tight budgets. Music is not just an “extra.”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Dutch cabinet scraps four professioanl ensembles/music education

From the internet: The coalition agreement of the new Dutch cabinet includes the statement that the Netherlands Broadcasting Music Center (MCO) is to be scrapped.

Without any further explanation the future of four highly renowned broadcasting ensembles has become uncertain. The rug is being pulled out from under a distinctively Dutch music culture that can be heard in abundance via radio, television, online, and live in well-filled concert halls such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Vredenburg Leidsche Rijn in Utrecht, at the Holland Festival, Pinkpop and the North Sea Jazz Festival.

The three radio orchestras and the Netherlands Radio Choir will have to disappear from the scene after 65 years of distinctive artistic work. The music library will be closed and MCO Education will have to disappoint hundreds of pupils in the region.

Please prevent the Music Center from closing down, and support our musicians. 38174 have preceded you and by doing so are sending politicians a clear signal.


You can go to their page to sign a protest- go to www.mco.ni/mco_page/actie/eng/

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Brady Allred unexpected resignation, via Deseret News

Published: Monday, Oct. 25, 2010 6:06 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah has named a guest conductor to lead its choral studies program after last week's unexpected resignation of Brady Allred.

The university had been using graduate students to fill in for Allred after he took a month's personal leave and then resigned for "unexpected personal and family circumstances." On Nov. 1, conductor, pianist and teacher Barlow Bradford will step in as a visiting professor of choral studies at the U.'s School of Music.

Like Allred, Bradford will be responsible for leading the University of Utah Singers and the A Cappella Chorus and will supervise the graduate choral conducting program as well as other teaching duties. Bradford co-founded the Utah Chamber Artists in 1991 and is its current artistic director. He was also music director of the Orchestra at Temple Square in Salt Lake City and associate director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir until 2003.

Allred's departure meant the canceling of a few concerts, but Robert Baldwin, the interim director of the University of Utah's School of Music, said he was determined to keep the quality of the experience for the students. "I'm very optimistic. I'm actually really excited about the opportunities that (the change) provides," he said. "It does open opportunity to things that can be, frankly, revolutionary for the coming year. It will be a different experience for the students … a really positive experience."

Part of that positive experience involves recruiting well-known guest teachers like Bradford.

While the search for a permanent replacement for Allred continues, Bradford will conduct for scheduled December and February choral programs and assist with two planned guest residencies. One of those guest residencies is conductor James Jordan. A prepared statement from the UU. said Jordan was "one of the most influential conductors in America" and the author of 17 textbooks and recordings. He'll visit the school in January and again in the spring. The other guest residency is pending.

Edgar Thompson, an emeritus faculty member, will teach the graduate choral conducting class this fall. Bradford and Jordan will teach the spring classes and seminars. Candidates to replace Allred will come to the UU. in March for interviews and also a mini-performance. Baldwin said students would be heavily involved in choosing Allred's successor.

Baldwin remembered a similar situation when he attended the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz. to study under a specific conductor only to have that conductor retire after one semester. That professor's leaving opened up opportunities for Baldwin to study with a variety of conductors. "For me it was an incredible experience."

Baldwin is confident that the guest conductors will do the same for Allred's former students.

Last week, former students of Allred expressed shock an disappointment that he resigned, but said he had their continuing admiration and support.

"We haven't been told anything about his resignation," said Kat Kellermeyer, avocal performance major. "The only thing I do know is that he is a fabulous teacher; he is the reason I came to this school. Everyone is sad to see him go."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

26th Annual High School Women's Choir Festival soon!

Dr. Nancy Menk (in white coat)

For anyone with a HS women's choir in the Indiana/Michigan/northern Illinois area, you should be attending the St. Mary's College annual festival, founded by Dr. Nancy Menk. I was one of the clinicians last year and it was a great event. Here's some quick background on last year, the plans for this year, and as a bonus-- how Dr. Menk kept busy, busy, busy last season!

26th Annual High School Women's Choir Festival coming up soon!

Last fall, the 25th annual High School Women's Choir Festival was held November 19 and 20, with 20 choirs from 4 states participating. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the festival, all participants premiered a new work by Canadian composer Eleanor Daley, commissioned especially for the occasion. “How the Flowers Came,” for SSAA and piano, is published by Alliance Music. Daley rehearsed the massed choir on her new work, and also served as a commentator along with composer-conductors Paul Carey and Lee Kesselman.

This year’s festival will be held on November 18th and 19th, 2010 with commentators Paul, Caldwell, Sean Ivory, and Barbara Tagg.

What my friend Dr. Nancy Menk was up to last year- whew, busy, busy!

Dr. Nancy Menk, Mary Lou and Judd Leighton Chair in Music, conducted the 120-voice Northwest Indiana Symphony Chorus and members of the orchestra in 2 performances of Handel’s Messiah this season. She also prepared the Chorus for the Holiday Pops concert, a concert version of Puccini’s Turandot with DuPage Opera, Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man, and a concert of the music of Cole Porter.

Menk led the South Bend Chamber Singers in their 21st season of concerts as an ensemble-in-residence at Saint Mary’s College. You may read more about the SBCS in this edition of Overtones.

On Valentine’s Day, Dr. Menk conducted over 175 singers and orchestra in a sold-out performance of Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna at Carnegie Hall. Members of the Saint Mary’s College Women’s Choir, the South Bend Chamber Singers, and the Northwest Indiana Symphony Chorus participated, along with the LaPorte High School Treble and Mixed Chorales (Tom Coe, director), the Northwood High School Choir (Jeff Cramer, director), and the El Segundo High School Choir from California.

In October, Menk gave a talk to the Michiana Music Teachers Association on working with an accompanist. Menk attended the American Choral Directors Association Central Division conference in Cincinnati in February. She conducted a reading session on medium-advanced repertoire for women’s choirs. In the spring semester she served as choral clinician at Culver Academy and LaPorte High School, and she served as an adjudicator for the Michigan School Vocal Music Association’s state choral contest at Holt, MI.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Count Singing- an underused tool?

I have been meaning to post about count singing for awhile now. I will have to admit that I had not even tried it until the summer of 2009, since, as some of you may know, I am pretty much self-taught as a conductor (as my professional training was as a composer) and have only gradulally been exposed to everything that a professional conductor with a master's or doctorate degree from a quality school has been. I don't apologize for this, as I am actually quite proud of my conducting and communication skills as I approach it from a very different direction than most people and honestly, how many conductors try to branch into composing and really do the work to be truly good at it? At this point I'm a multitasking, ambitious person always looking for ways to improve myself and learn things from the conductors I observe and truly admire (many, many people) out there.

My first desire to attempt to using count singing began as I was about to leave Chicago to teach the choir at the North Carolina Governor's School for six weeks in the summer of 2009 (a position I am excited and proud to continue to hold), and just before that there was a post, with many responses, about count singing on the ChoralNet site:


From what I could see, it sounded like many directors don't know this approach well, but it was certainly obvious that those high level professionals who had sung for Robert Shaw or were around Shaw proteges sure knew the approach and could talk at length about how to do it and talk about its benefits. While I knew the basic idea of count singing I had not ever tried it, but now was obviously the time to try it out, I said to myself. So with a little reading in the Robert Shaw Reader and some personal one-on-one advice from some quality folks I knew, I used it at Governor's School in 2009 (and again in 2010) - a LOT. The reason that I found it was extremely helpful for this particular gifted high school all-state choir was this- while many of the singers were phenomenal, various members really did not know how to breathe properly and they also had little sense of how to keep long legato lines spinning/moving forward(of course, that might be one and the same problem and it also is something that, as a diligent choral composer, I am very aware of as I write for the voice).

Count Singing???

Beside the usual mention of count singing benefiting both rhythm and intonation, came for us the benefit of keeping long notes of phrases, and thus the full long line, alive as the beats went by energized by the counting-- and this also made my singers much more aware of how they began a breath and especially how they managed that breath.

So we did a lot of count singing but I also took care not do it so much that they would hate it- we did it just enough to get its benefit without making it drudgery. It's now a major conducting tool for me and I hope that someone with a lot of expertise in this area will do an interest session on it at a major ACDA event (anyone listening out there...maybe pick up the ball on this?).

For a perspective beyond my own, here is a link to blogger Sarah Johnston's post "Why I love count singing", and within her blog there are some references to Shaw that you can follow.


Thanks for reading!

A great presentation on choral arts and communication

Conductor Philip Copeland

When I attended the ACDA southern conference in Memphis this past spring I heard a lot of great musicmaking, but certainly one of the most memorable moments was hearing Philip Copeland's University of Alabama/Birmingham choir sing AND watching Philip conduct. While Philip and I have developed a friendship mostly through ChoralNet and e-mail I had never actually seen him conduct until Memphis. I was totally blown away by his style, conducting the gesture and the line, rarely simple beat patterns. I asked him about this later and he told me it was due to the great influence of his teacher Jerry Jordan. You can see what I said about the UAB choir at ACDA by clicking here:


Some background on Mr. Jordan via Ole Miss on the internet:

Jerry Jordan is Professor Emeritus at the University of Mississippi where for twenty-one years he led one of the most active and accomplished collegiate choral programs in the United States. Choirs under his direction or supervision performed to standing ovations at National and Southern Division Conventions of the American Choral Directors Association each of his last five years at Ole Miss. His Concert Singers have won seven major international choral competitions in Europe – more than any other American choir.

Recently I noticed a post of Facebook in which Philip mentions a presentation he gave recently about Jerry Jordan's ideas about choral musicmaking. I took a look at this slide presentation and really wished I could have heard the live verbal presentation that went along with it. I hope that Philip can share it with more people. In the meantime, I highly recommend you view the slideshow by going here


I got a kick out of slide number 15 and then was surprised and pleased he mentioned a piece of mine at slide number 66 .

So, see what you think- there is much to ponder and learn from here, without a doubt!

P.S. Philip is now the new director of choral studies at Samford University. We should all look forward to hearing his new choirs from Samford.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Whittaker's field guide to page-turners!

(Pianist Billie Whittaker)

A quick reference to a great blog- freelance pianist Billie Whittaker's take on the various sub-species of page-turners! It is a very funny read, especially for those who are (or were!) working pianists.

I discovered Billie's blog (she is a DC/VA area musician) while doing some research on this whole "collaborative pianist" tag. I intend to blog about the issue, and am looking for opinions about what it means, etc. It was fun to find some humor as I do a lil research!

A Brief Guide to Page-Turners

Amid the crunch of recital preparations, many pianists forget to secure a page-turner, leading to last-minute recruiting from friends, friends-of-friends or from random strangers in the recital hall. Unsurprisingly, when the only real qualification is 'warm body', using potluck volunteers often has mixed results. The most common kinds of turners, both good and bad, are listed below* with corresponding identifiers for easy reference.

Crowders sit unnecessarily close at all times (sometimes practically in your lap).

Helicopters hover with a hand on the music, regardless of incredibly slow tempos or flat-laying scores.

Human Obstacles
attempt to turn from the bottom RH side of the music, blocking the view and inspiring thoughts of violence.

Music Civilians are mystified by the black and white dots scattered on the page and find what you do closely akin to magic. They are usually terrified of making a mistake and stare at you, unblinking and tense, for each nod. Oddly enough, they are one of your better options.

Space Cadets are either caught up within the music or contemplating what to have for lunch as you turn your own pages. They may also forget to show up to the concert at all.

Heart Attacks turn the pages too soon or too late (sometimes two at a time . . .) They incite panic and frantic slapping of pages.

turn with enough force to rip music or fling scores to the ground.

Silent Critics
are usually pianists of equal or higher chops. They're great at turning, but unfortunately also cause acute self-consciousness with every wrong note and bad fingering.

are a category I have never experienced, but a colleague of mine once worked with someone who liked to hum along with the melodies during performances.

The Best Page-Turning Award goes to:

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Page-Turner
. The ninjas among page turners, they sit completely out of one's peripheral vision. They rise with smooth motions approximately 1-2 lines from the bottom (depending upon tempo), turn the page lightening-quick and retreat back to invisibility without a whisper of sound. Their non-presence allows you to focus on the performance instead of on enabling someone to allow you to perform music.

And let's not forget:
Terrifyingly Clueless with questions like, "Which side should I sit on?"

Here is the url for her blog:


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Boys Power Sing-Amazing Rote Singing and Drumming

Boys Power Sing!

I’m blogging live from the Young Naperville Singers “Boys Power Sing “held at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Illinois. (Visit www.neuquamusic.org)In an effort to get more boys singing (yay- there is more to life than football, yes?), Angie Johnson’s Young Naperville Singers organization (visit www.youngnapervillesingers.org ) sponsors this event every fall and invites their own boy singers as well as any boy in the community who wants to attend (and hopefully they will want to join a Young Naperville Singers choir after the experience).

The boys started out doing some great fun call and response and African style drumming led by Neuqua Valley High School chorus director Ryan Rimington. The event started at 9 AM and runs until 12:30 or so. There are over one hundred attentive boys in attendance- mostly in the eight to twelve year old range.

After Ryan’s call and response drumming session the boys started doing some very cool quasi-yodeling of an Austrian folk song, led by Jay Kellner, also from Neuqua Valley High School. For those of you who don’t know about Neuqua Valley, it’s one of the leading high schools in the country, both in teacher/student achievement and standards and boasts tremendous school physical facilities as well. The music department has been recognized nationally by the Grammy organization as a “Singnature” school of excellence in 2000, 2001, and 2005. So far everything has been taught by rote, by repetition, bodies are moving, and the boys are engaged and paying attention.

Shifting gears now, Ryan is back in charge, talking to the boys about what instruments they have around the house, how much fun it is to talk or sing with a microphone, and being silly with them. Now he’s taking some of the kids’ names and they are making up cool vamps/call and responses based on a kid’s name- great fun! He has continued on and actually has them singing in three parts, all by rote, and sounding very cool! Body motions and helping then feel some inner rhythms are part of the deal- and there still isn’t a piece of sheet music in sight.

Jay Kellner is back up front and has brought out about thirty male singers from the high school. They’re now singing the Austrian folk song that Jay started teaching the young boys awhile back. This gives the young boys a chance to see how much fun guys can have singing (the choir is hamming things up a bit!). They then launched into a Ladysmith Black Mombazo song. After they did this, Jay let some of the young boys try to conduct a few phrases of the song- imagine that, ten year olds getting a chance to conduct a group of over one hundred voices (and they did well).

Another change in gears- letting go of the young virile cave man drumming/ethnic folk thing and learning the very sweet, yet fairly angular melody of “Let me call you sweetheart”. This went well and fine doing the melody in head tones “loohs”, but when Jay introduced the lyrics young boys were giggling and gagging—“love”, “sweetheart”?-- kind of icky, right? Actually a pretty humorous moment, but Jay stuck with it and they learned the tune!

A break for pizza, juice, and a cool game at the lunch tables with the HS boys supervising nicely (my son Aidan especially liked interacting with the HS boy at his table), and then back to more singing and fun.

Finally, around 12:15 there was a quick run-through of all the mini-tunes and then a mini-concert for the 200 or so parents and siblings reassembled to listen and then take their boy home. The program went really well, the audience really appreciated everything , and it really was amazing- in three hours over one hundred young men, many with almost no singing experience learned (without sheet music) enough songs to put on such an entertaining mini-concert full of fun and positive energy- quite incredible. Let’s hope that a fair number of these boys now join Young Naperville Singers or at least consider joining their school choir.

Congratulations to Ryan Rimington and Jay Kellner for their inspired leadership during the day and also to Angie Johnson and the Young Naperville Singers organization for putting on this event, now in its ninth year.

Let’s all of us music leaders around the country do our part to get more and more boys and men singing. It’s only a recent US societal phenomena that playing or just being a couch-potato observer of highly competitive sports seems to have become an obsession in the minds of boys and men. Not that long ago singing was considered very manly, very virile. We need to get back to that viewpoint and refuse to give in to the idea that the only manly thing there is out there for boys and men to do are embracing sports where now only winning matters and succumbing to the mindset that winning at all costs in the business world is also an honorable thing. I actually get up on my soapbox at any of my guest conducting gigs and talk about this- even if I’m in front of a women’s choir (I ask then to recruit the boys/men in their life into joining a choir). We can turn the tide if we all work together and talk about it! If we ignore this issue, we will not have male singers for our mixed choirs before long- we all have to work on this NOW for the sake of the future.

I’m going to next look into what Charles Bruffy has done for awhile out in Phoenix and try to blog about his big men’s and boy’s power singing event as soon as I know more about it. And if any of you know of similar events, let me know about them please.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, September 27, 2010

When Jesus Wept- in sixteen voices?

Hugo Distler, 20th century German polyphonist
(who died way to soon)

I'm feeling the need to write something really out there- even if it's still just new ideas (for me) in extended counterpoint and lots of voices. I have always had this weird idea of doing a 40 voice piece a la Tallis' Spem in Alium though maybe not that extreme! The tune I have thought would be cool treated like this is Billings' "When Jesus Wept", which obviously is already a simple four part canon. So I am finally going to give it a shot- maybe 16 voices at max? Any university folks want to read this through if and when I get it done?

Part of this is a concern that I may become more and more pigeonholed as a children's choir and women's choir composer. In a few months I will have four new releases (from Roger Dean and Walton) and all four are for treble voices. It's not like I haven't submitted mixed pieces- but they just haven't accepted the SATB stuff lately. In general I feel I need to keep writing more and more SATB pieces at various difficulty levels.I am excited that the Atlanta Sacred Chorale is doing my piece Morning Person (SATB/piano 4 hands) in October. It's a setting of a delightfully creative poem by New Orleans poet Vassar Miller. This is one of my SATB piece which I think is highly successful, and is published by Roger Dean.

Anyway, as I work on this mostly polyphonic When Jesus Wept I am going to try to do some edgy stuff in the sense that it will be truly polyphonic and may wander into strange tonal areas- I am going to try to write individual voices first and only later try to reconcile them to each other. I may even write some of them on scraps of paper and then patch some parts of the piece together- a process I used to some extent WAY back in college. In other words, write very individual voices, and as scraps of paper, they exist only in their own world- then later, throw them together and adjust them as little as possible to reconcile them. We'll see where this goes, but this will be a piece I am writing for myself- kind of like a unique 15 minute piece I wrote called "1944", which sets a WWII poem by Hilda Doolittle and incorporates elements of the Bach Christmas Oratorio (yes,the bombing of London, Bach, and Christmas- well it's all implied in the H.D. text). I was really fortunate to get a performance by Tom Koharchik in Pittsburgh of this piece but zero performances since then. It's for SATB and strings and pretty visceral at times. As I said, composers write things like this for themselves most of the time-- we know that traditional publishers run screaming from this kind of music.

Update: I have started the piece and to many folks it may seem actually pretty conservative- for me the biggest challenge is to not fall into my own musical cliches and to push myself to write these independent voices. I have decided on using two SATB choirs and to write in eight voices for each choir- thus I will at times be in sixteen voices plus have the added amazing potential of polyphony between the two choirs. I am even toying with having one of the choirs be textless part or all of the time- perhaps that choir is simply commenting musically without words on what the "with words" choir is singing and saying? This all has to be worked out!

As I said earlier,I'm really going to try hard to write things where the meter in some voices is set apart, as if voices coexist in sound but not really in meter. To prepare for this I have been looking at some of Hugo Distler's music and been asking advice on ChoralNet about music without bars, dotted barlines, multiple meters, bracketed phrasings (such as brackets marking hemiolas)a la early Baroque music and all this stuff. I've already received some great advice both on how the music could be notated and how easy or hard some of those notations may be to grasp by anyone rehearsing and singing the piece. I'm also not in a hurry to write the piece an I am liking the idea that I can putz away at this now and then without feeling like I have to be in a hurry.

More updates as I continue, for those who may be interested!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

More Choralnet give and take on music publishing trends

In defense of music publishers
Date: September 23, 2010
by Allen H Simon mail icon
A recent ChoralBlog post by Philip Copeland discussed the changes to the publishing industry brought about by technology and accused music publishers of sticking with a 20th-century model. Many of the commenters to that thread suggested that the best solution would be self-publishing.

Without taking a stand on Philip's main point for the moment, I'd like to point out some of the difficulties with the self-publishing model. While I'm sympathetic to composers who want to cut out the middleman and evade the bureaucracy, from a consumer perspective it's kind of impractical: there are a million composer websites, they're all different, lots of them are filled with crap (or with music unsuitable for my group for one reason or another), and it just takes forever to look for music in them. So while the self-publishing and electronic-delivery model has great potential for ordering music, it makes it much more difficult to choose music.

When I go to an ACDA convention, I riffle through the racks at music store booths such as Music Mart*. There are many things which speed up this process, but one of the principal ones is publisher identification. I've learned that there are some publishers whose music I never like (or is at the wrong level for my group) and I can quickly skip over those. Those which might be of interest I can quickly glance at the first page of; this allows me to eliminate 90% of the other stuff. Then I buy a single copy of the interesting ones so I can file them at home for future use.

Compare this to the process of using the web to look through composer websites.

* Start with a directory of such websites, such as ChoralNet's, and go to a composer's site.
* Figure out the navigation of that site so you can get to the listing of titles (which is often surprisingly difficult to find).
* Click on each title one at a time and see if there's a sample page, usually in PDF format, and see if it looks interesting.

Once you've spent a long time doing this, move to the next composer's site and start over.

The problems are manifold: it takes a long time, the navigation is different on every site, only some sites provide sample pages, each site only has a small number of pieces, and most of the stuff is junk.

There are online storefronts such as Sibelius, which is kind of a vanity press, or rather a flea market, for self-published music. It provides a consistent interface for listening and viewing samples, along with handy tools such as the ability to transpose. But there's too much junk. It's like trying to get your choir outfits by browsing garage sales. Publishers provide a valuable service: using their editorial discretion to filter for quality.

Sure, these sites could allow users to rate pieces, the way Amazon or Netflix does. But the small number of likely users allows the subjects to game the system; just like on Yelp, the person whose item is being evaluated can get a bunch of his friends to go on and rate everything five stars, thus boosting his overall rating.

There are also exclusively-online publishers such as Graphite (which Philip described in his subsequent post) or Handlo. These publishers provide some of the quality control while keeping a consistent user interface. But still, it's only one publisher; it would be like going to Hal Leonard's site, and then to ECS's site, and then to Oxford's site, and then to SBMP's site; still much more work than browsing through Music Mart's stacks. We need to get to the stage where sites like JWPepper aggregate sales of works published by online publishers.

In short, I don't think self-publishing is the answer; the drawbacks far outweigh the advantages. There's not going to be any quick and easy answer.

One plea: for composers and publishers who provide previews (which should be all of them): please consider creating your previews in GIF format rather than PDF; they download MUCH faster, print much faster, and the slightly lower resolution is sufficient for those of us who want to print them out and plunk through them on the piano, without being good enough to tempt people to try to copy them for choir use.

*Thank you, Music Mart, for preparing the reading-session packets for ACDA conventions for so many years.
Replies will be publicly viewable once approved. To reply privately, click on the author's name above.
Reply >>
Michael McGlynn on September 23, 2010 2:15
This thread seems to run and run under various guises...and it has opened a degree of debate, although, I note, not that much from actual writers, the producers. Rather it is from the angle of the consumers, and US ones only at that.

I need to point something out - the term Publisher from the composer's point of view is not exactly what the consumer would take it to mean. I am published by Warner Chappell, but I publish my own sheet music. Same word, but a very different concept and I think that is one of the keys to understanding this issue more clearly.

The job of a Publisher includes

- Promotion of a composer's work
- Collection of royalties
- Protection of copyright
- Pursuit of copyright infingers by legal means
- Protection of integrity of copyright
- Negotiation of mechanical licences and synch licences

among other things. You give your Publisher a whack of your percentage to do this for you. The smaller the whack, the more control you retain over your catalogue. Sheet music may form part of your agreement with your Publisher. If it does, then very, very rarely will your Publisher be the same as your Sheet Music Publisher. That is as it should be, as one can be used to beat the other over the head with. Hopefully all this makes sense.

A Sheet Music Publisher from a US perspective [gleaned from what I can see on this site and various discussions with US based choral people] appears to have the following function :

- to make titles available online or as hard-copy to interested parties. This may involve re-transcription of scores for clarity.
- to promote those titles to the public including at conventions and at choral gatherings.
If I've missed out anything, please let me know, but I would assume/hope that Sheet Music Publishers will actively through legal means protect copyright infringement.

Let me draw your attention away from this for a moment to the Music Industry. While the odd time something turned up that was exciting and new, much of what was cutting-edge and exciting was ignored simply because you couldn't access it, while single artists were puffed up and shoved down our throats. Then along came MySpace, YouTube, Garageband, self-releasing CDs, CDBaby and that was that. The entire industry collapsed, and is currently, and happily, approaching its final gargle... now Cyberspace is an exciting music place. Niche groups such as my own have seen significant increases in visibility and music sales simply because consumers can access us by typing the word into Google.

This is exactly what is happening, albeit very, very slowly, to Choral music. The availability of performances online to view on YouTube, the advent of composer created websites for their music [many of them hugely self-important I would agree] and crucially, the advent of portable reading devices for sheet music such as the iPad, plainly and simply mean that whatever system has survived until now will not be around in 10 years. I counted six singers out of 22 last night at my rehearsal viewing music on electronic devices. When they want to correct my pitch quibbles they use an iPhone app, or can give me a metronome pulse if requested. Some of them can also tell me what level of pitch a piece has fallen during performance...

Composer self-publishing is the tip of the iceberg. I see huge changes in choral music. It will either be embraced or will eventually rampage [quietly : )] over the existing structures.

Michael McGlynn
Reply >>
CJ Redden-Liotta on September 23, 2010 4:33

Thank you for your response. As someone who works for one of the major choral retailers (Musical Source in DC), I know how hard it is to work with each of these individual publishers. There are a couple issues that you did not mention.

1. When you purchase music from the traditional publishers, you receive the music for the price paid. An octavo that costs $2.00 is in your hand for $2.00. Often, these self-published composers charge you for a PDF copy - $2.00 per pdf licence - and then you take on the cost of the actual copying of the piece - which if you are a community choir, you are then paying .10 per page - adding $1-2 per copy to the cost of the octavo.

2. Most of these individual publishers (there are a few wonderful exceptions) do not sell their music to retailers. This causes extra costs for schools and choirs who do work with established music retailers because they are incurring extra purchasing and shipping charges. Many of the smaller publishers are not familiar with a retail model, and do not provide any discount to retailers who wish to feature their music, making it cost prohibitive for the retailer to keep their titles in stock, or they have to sell the music at a higher price than the publisher does on their own website.

Having worked with some composers over the years, I am very sympathetic as to why we have these self publishers, as it is nearly impossible to get a new composer recognized by an established publisher - but perhaps the self publishers are only aggravating this issue instead of helping new music get exposure. We need to start complaining to the publishers who are doing nothing but publish the same bad or unusable music year after year, and as a community, pressure them to start working with newer composers and get this music out through the traditional channels.

CJ Redden-Liotta
Reply >>
Steven Glade on September 23, 2010 10:39
Allen - I'm an ASCAP composer and my sheet music is published by Emerson. For a year or so I've also been self-publishing as Park Music Publishers. Let me make a pitch for self-publishing.

First, in this tough economy sheet music publishers simply aren't accepting any work from any composer new to them. Period. And works accepted from a composer in the publisher's stable are currently being warehoused for 2-years or more before the editing process begins.

Second, the self-publisher's growth model isn't nation-wide, as you seem to assume. A self-published composer should start locally (with university, H.S. and community choir directors in his/her city, and with other friends in the choral community), providing some free sheet music to get a foot in the door. The composer's reputation will either grow beyond his/her locality by word-of-mouth, or will die. As a self-publisher, I think I'm regional (west, southwest) at this point. Even a small, regional success is real success if new literature gets a breath of life.

Your preferred model of shopping for music is cumbersome and incomplete, if you don't mind my saying so. Trudging through the on-line offerings of major publishers is exhausting---and it's very difficult to know where you stopped the last time you visited. Many don't show much of the score. Some provide an audio file snippet; at least half don't. A composer's web-site will generally be more complete, with sample audio files and sample scores. A choir director, new or experienced, should take note of the living composers he/she enjoys and visit the composer's web-site periodically to see what's new. E.g., www.danforrest.com. Dan seems to think there's a reason to have his own web-site, even though he's published by every major publishing house. (And visiting Dan's site is simply good for the soul.). By periodically visiting ten or more web-sites of composers you enjoy, you'll be assured of picking up new music that will delight you and your choir. And it's a much more manageable more rewarding task.

Using middlemen isn't practical. For instance, SheetMusicPlus won't take on a composer's work unless the composer has a "book" of 100-pieces to turn over. (I'm 30-works short.) Same relatively high threshholds for other distributors.

As to navigation confusion, well, some sites are better than others. But an intelligent and understandable web-site can be designed. Visit mine, please, at www.musicbyglade.com. I offer .pdf scores (they are small files and download in seconds--I don't understand your preference for any other, less universal format) and audio files and anyone can navigate with ease.

I fill orders with octavos averaging, let's say, $1.85 each. I'm toying with the idea of e-mailing score files and selling authorized stickers, but would do so at, say, 35 to 50-cents. Can't conceive of any self-publisher who would charge the same amount for an octavo and an e-mailed .pdf file.

I'll turn 62 in a few weeks. I'm just too old and too impatient for the submission routine: 6 to 8 months for a reply, no simultaneous submissions to other publishers, and in this economy, invariably a rejection. To heck with that! (Although I admit I still submit to Oxford, Hinshaw a one or two other houses, just to see if I can ever break through iwth them.)

A genuine pitfall for the self-published composer is the quality of his/her printed score. The composer-dabbler is not equipped to produce a score that obeys all the many decades of rules developed by music engravers. Avoiding the editing function is the strongest argument for avoiding self-publication.

One of the best arguments for self-publishing is that self-publishing promotes composition, whether good or bad, whether successful or unsuccessful. A durector who has composed, or even attempted to compose, is a changed and better artist who will never approach or interpret literature in the same way again.

I like to tell my John Kubiniac story. John was an editor at Oxford. For maybe 2-years I got form rejection letters from him. For 2-more years the rejection letters were individualized. Now we exchange Christmas cards.

I think Michael McGlynn recognizes an inevitable trend.

Anyway, here's a hooray for the self-published composer.

Steve Glade (ASCAP)
Park Music Publishers

Reply >>
Paul Carey on September 23, 2010 19:37
Change is good and change is inevitable. What we will see is a push me -pull you situation regarding all this over the next ten years or so- it's an evolutonary process. Don't fault self-published composers- they are not forcing a new system on anyone- they are simply utilizing readily available 21st century tools AND are really tired of being treated like crap by traditional publishers (oh, the stories we all could tell you- you would cringe if you truly knew how publishers talk to composers- even established ones).

And, while I am at it, this whole slant trying to talk self-published composers into undervaluing their art by selling ti for $0.35- 0.55 is really quite ridiculous. If we do the work as composers AND publishers, we are certainly justified to charge what the big boys do for a typical octavo. This totally misunderstands the increased efforts we put into the composing, the websites, networking efforts, etc. Of course we want our music out there, but we deserve some respect and shouldn't have to consider resorting to bargain basement prices just to make some sales.

I think it also needs to be said that even for "established" composers like myself, the traditional publisher still rejects almost all of our submissions (this surprises most folks) , especially if they are not neat, tidy, safe, "accessible" octavos (God forbid any divisi or truly great, not hackneyed text is involved). Almost none of our really well-crafted commissioned pieces are winding up published, because they are not easy, neat, tidy 3- 4 minute octavos. This whole situation is sad-- any quality piece over 4 minutes is being rejected left and right by the traditional publishers- no matter how fine the piece may be. I can steer you to many a fine composer and many a fine, earnest commissioning advanced HS or university choir-- and piece after piece is successfully premiered and enjoyed by singers and audience alike- yet these pieces never get published. It's really a sad situation. Without any self-publishing these pieces are guaranteed to be lost forever.

I somewhat agree that it might be cumbersome to select music from self-publishers- but it's also ridiculously cumbersome to navigate some major publishers websites as well. And honestly, let's not praise the retailers too much-- some of the browser bins that various retailers lug to convention after convention are filled to the gills with crap they are just trying to clear out-ugh.

Anyway, this will all shake out- none of us should lose sleep over it, and we should all realize that life isn't simple and it isn't all contained in a neat, tidy drawer of ease! And it ain't so bad that we are talking about all this!

Paul Carey
please visit my annoying, opinionated blog at www.paulcarey440.blogspot.com
Reply >>
Allen H Simon on September 23, 2010 20:22
Your PDF files are low-res and download quickly, but some people's PDFs are big files which take a long time to download. I don't really prefer GIF (although it's just as universal as PDF) if everyone made small PDFs like yours. Good work.

Everyone thinks their own site is well-designed and easy to navigate; it's just that they're all different. On yours, could I easily find all the TTBB music (were I interested in such)? Could I easily search for a single title? Prices are hard to find. The first "click here to buy" I tried brought me to an error message.
Reply >>
Michael McGlynn on September 24, 2010 2:48
Well - thats because there is no uniform technology solution to deal with this issue Allen. My site isn't "easy to use", simply because what I am selling isn't easy to define. Certificate/Digitally based sales are nebulous and ill-defined. I had to make up the system on my site at www.michaelmcglynn.com that deals with sales. There simply was no system to copy in 2000.

The other issue is that there are always errors on sites like ours simply because the sofware we use is constantly changing and there are only a limited number of hours in the day. Finale 2010 is a major update on the other versions, so I, of course, want to update my scores to look better - sometimes I make an error in upload, or I copy the wrong page so an error occurs. Then the phone rings and one of the hildren falls out a window or similar, and voila - an error.

These are forgiven [mostly...] by people, as they can write to me personally, the writer, the creator of the work. They make a connection, correct unclear notation, advise on improvements and generally interact with me. The personal contact with people is something I love, and I know gives them a kick too.

Great to see so many composers responding. Maybe we should all pool our resources : )
Reply >>
Paul Carey on September 24, 2010 5:33
Hi Allen,

If you are referring to my site- yes, we aim to make the files easy to download-- thanks for the thumbs up and thanks for visiting!

As far as your ease of navigation comments I do feel I need to defend my site as 1) there is a clear tab on the left side of the home page which says "Alphabetical Title Index" and another which says "Works and Ordering Info". Clicking either one leads you to a page which further gives you easy color tabs to click which break my scores down into voicings (including male choir) and even broken down as well into sacred, secular, winter holdays, and so forth.

When you are on each pieces homepage the price is always in the same place- towards the top RH corner. As far as the error message you received- I am very sorry for that- if you remember which piece it was I can jump right on that, otherwise we will start searching for it on our own, of course. My webmaster and I are always looking to fix bugs in the system. And after doing this for a few years, I know there will always be bugs to fix!

For each of my self-published pieces we try to make visitors feel at home- there is a score sample of at least a few pages (and we will be happy to send full score pdf perusal files to people who request them), duration and difficulty level, a recording if we have one, some program notes, and the text. One thing we have tried to do to set my site apart is the "program notes" or inside story of the piece. We're trying to give people some insight as to why or how I wrote a piece, and most folks seem to like this personal touch. I don't think there is a traditional publishers website that attempts to do this- other than something like a two sentence sales blurb a la what you read at JW Pepper for example.

Anyway, we're all doing our best and everyone has likes and dislikes. We'll never agree on everything, eh? Let's keep moving forward, keep bouncing ideas off one another, and enjoy our art!

Reply >>
Steven Glade on September 25, 2010 16:11
Thanis for your time and the feed back, Allen. - Steve Glade

Reply >>
Terrence Liverkey on September 24, 2010 7:30
KUDOS to the composer who actually understands. Selling music at .30-.50 per PDF is not under-valued. Let's take the emotion out of this shall we? We're talking about commerce here. Watch those shows where people think their house is "worth" something much more than it is. It's only "worth" (in terms of price) what someone is willing to pay. And from what I've seen over the past 15-20 years, many, many, many conductors out there are NOT willing to pay 1.85-2.00 per score. That's why they photocopy SO much. Composers are not selling one-of-a-kind items. There is very little overhead in a composed piece. I could go into specifics, but trying to explain business economics.....
Reply >>
Paul Carey on September 24, 2010 13:20
Wow, Terrence, are you saying that if a conductor has decided not to pay $1.85- 2.00 per octavo that they are justified in photocopying music and breaking copyright laws? If that is the mode of thinking, I guess I could go break into a car lot and drive off with a new car if I have decided the dealer is asking too much. The market has determined that an average octavo will sell for $1.60- 2.20 or so. That is fact. What we are sort of debating is why should the self-published composer sell at your suggested tiny fraction of that? Is it because there isn't a fancy cover (the music still sounds the same) or the music automatically in someone's mind isn't as good as that from a traditional publisher (that could go either way)?

Here are two things I do know:

1) I'm glad I don't know anyone like the conductors you are talking about, and I am proud of all the many folks I do know (all the way from elementary schools thru HS and university and professional choirs) who belong to ACDA and/or MENC, AGO, and so on, who would never make any illegal photocopies and always do the right thing in regard to paying for purchases, arranging for performance and mechanical licenses, etc. In fact, as a member of MENC you are expected to be following the law- not making up excuses why you can break it. At many well known universities professors aren't allowed free access to all the school's photocopiers- they are specifically handled by secretarial or admin people who the university expects to follow copyright law.

2) I make a decent number of sales on my website of my own music- usually at $1.75. Even if it costs ten- twenty cents per to make the copies on site at the purchaser, we are still under $2 AND they haven't paid a penny of mailing costs. And they are all very happy to be supporting me as a living composer and the creator of the work- I know this because they tell me so. It's a good feeling when this happens and we have a much, much closer composer to director relationship. It appears Abbie Betinis is doing quite well in this regard as well- good for her. Abbie does mail out scores and her price is around $2.25 - 2.50. Uh oh, she's charging a bit more than the average big publisher- how is she doing this? The music is good, unique and creative and people want to sing it. God forbid she should now decide that her music is only worth a fraction of that. Her results affirm her business model and she seems pretty happy about it.

Let's look at this from a new vantage point. Many people would agree that, if you reflect on it, we are living in a golden age of new US choral creativity (both of enlightened conductors and composers, often working closely together) which started around perhaps 1990 when composers decided to drop out of their university composition department ivory tower of the serial/12 tone world and reconnect with performers and audiences. In the last twenty years ACDA has grown immensely, especially lately, women's choirs and womens' repertoire have taken off to the max, and many American composers have dedicated themselves to writing great new music crafted for choral musicians. Much of this started with Stephen Paulus and Libby Larsen and ACF, and it has grown and grown. We have established people like Lauridsen, Whitacre and others creating memorable music; also people like Joan Szymko and Eleanor Daley also rising to great new levels. We have some younger composers like Tarik O'Regan, Betinis, Eric Barnum, and Ola Gjeilo showing a lot of promise. The whole choral world needs to continue to nurture these established and developing talents. If any of them decide to self-publish what sensible person would look for ways to punish them? Instead, try to understand why they decided to get out of the 10% royalty trap the traditional publishers are doling out (and the publisher gains full and permanent copyright ownership of the piece, mind you) and support their creations. Think about this, what if all the great and semi-great choral music written in the last twenty years all of a sudden disappeared? Would that be a great loss? I think the answer is obvious, and especially in the women's choir music world it is emphatically obvious. We need to continue to support our choral composers and make sure they have bread on the table for their families and the freedom to create. Getting checks now and then for 10% of the music's selling price from a traditional publisher is NOT keeping bread on these tables, that is for sure.

Yes, business economics will sort most of this out- in the meantime people are free in our country to test what the actual economics of today and tomorrow means to them personally. If a composer or a traditional publisher for that matter wants to sell a piece in paper or pdf form (or on a Kindle, a clay tablet, or tattooed on the side of a congo buffalo, whatever!) for 10 cents or 10 dollars they are free to do so and see what happens. You are also free to either buy it or say no thanks (but those conductors you referenced still don't have any right to illegally photocopy!).

Paul Carey
Reply >>
Reginald Unterseher on September 24, 2010 14:17
Quality control is indeed one of the most important aspects of being with an established, identifiable brand. I have had much more success with commissions (actually closing the deal, and getting a better rate for them) after getting pieces published with Oxford and Walton. That is not the only place to get that "stamp of approval," though, and I often rely on the recommendation of people who are not the composer selling their own wares or traditional publishers. Reading sessions have often been one of those sources.

The reading session issue is especially interesting to me, as I am NW ACDA Men's Chorus R&S chair. In my few years in that position, it seems increasingly that publishers and retailers want to not deal with the R&S procedure, but create their own. This is another area that technology is in flux, and the importance and format of the reading session is changing. I used to find a lot of what I would buy for my community and church choruses at sessions like that, but now, less and less. It costs publishers a fair amount of money to put a lot of paper into peoples' hands, and a lot of that paper ends up as landfill. I do like the process of reading pieces with others, but as a composer I worry that people will not understand the piece based on one reading of uncertain quality. When I present reading sessions these days, I tend to mix actual reading with listening to recordings or even watching videos.

Those reading sessions do provide an important independant "editorial function," a recommendation and winnowing process that is less governed by the particular publisher's desires, though we have traditionally started with whatever they send us, so how independant is it, really? They sometimes don't like that process, especially as it costs them money and they want to have control, even more than they already do. It is a potentially sticky relationship. Mr.McGlyn, I recently wanted to present one of your pieces on a reading session, but as your music is not handled by the retailer that was the sponsor, they would not include it. Ticked me off.

As to self-publishing, I am hesitant to dive in with my own pieces, not conceptually but just because of pure practicality. The time and potentially the expense it would take to set up a site that worked well is daunting. A self-publishing web site is like a vegetable garden, too--if you don't water it and weed it, you wont get many tomatoes and the bugs will eat the corn. On the other hand, I have purchased things for my choruses on both Michael McGlyn's site and Paul Carey's site, and I loved being able to pay, get the download, and go. Nice, tasty tomatoes, better than those red cardboard things designed for shipping and shelf life, not eating, that you find in the supermarket.

Reg Unterseher