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
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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
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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

Friday, September 24, 2010

Philip Copeland: Most Music Publishing Gets it Wrong

I'm going to share some exchanges going on at ChoralNet. I'll post this in two parts- the first part begins with some thoughts from the very wise and savvy Philip Copeland (and also an amazing conudctor) and then goes into discussion. The next one, which I will post tomorrow, is a quasi-rebuttal by ChoralNet contributor Allen Simon and you'll see that thread of discussion too. Of course I have an opinion to voice as always! Hope you enjoy the reading:

Most Music Publishing Gets it Wrong
Date: September 17, 2010
by philip copeland mail icon
It has been a pretty long time since I last blogged about the music publishing industry. I have been frustrated with their paper-based economic business plan for sometime now and have blogged about it here, here, and here.

The music publishing is far too entrenched in the Gutenberg model and relies solely on the economics of paper, printing, and postage.

We choral directors are the ones paying the price for their entrenchment, whenever we:

* order a piece of music
* pay for postage/shipping
* have a work is back-ordered
* find out that a work is "permanently out of print"
* have to wait for a piece to be delivered.

I wonder about how much better it could be every time I:

* have to provide my own translation
* have to find an expert to make a recording of a language pronunciation
* have to provide my own IPA transcription to a piece of music

I am reminded of how inefficient a system we have every time I:

* instantly download a book from Kindle or Amazon or Barnes & Noble
* instantly download a recording from iTunes
* instantly download a video online

Where is the music publisher of the twenty-first century?
Where is the publisher that provides bonus supplemental material to aid in my teaching?
Who will be the first music publisher that *really* gets it right?
Replies will be publicly viewable once approved. To reply privately, click on the author's name above.
Reply >>
Greg Bartholomew on September 17, 2010 3:27
You might want to consider the many self-published composers and other independent music publishers who do provide the option to purchase downloadable sheet music and/or pdfs with a license for you to make your own copies, as well as full score information, score samples and audio files available on their websites. Robert Wendel has started a webpage listing some of them (Independent Classical Music Publishers), including my own Burke & Bagley. Another great new music distributing source is Art of Sound Music, although so far they have little choral music.
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Terry Taylor on September 17, 2010 4:08
When I put my choral conductor's hat on, I could not agree more. A great opportunity awaits the company who can provide a user-friendly, full-service product with educational bonus materials, and can provide it digitally and instantly. What if that company created a blog where the publisher, composer, and directors could have a clearinghouse of teaching, resource, and performance ideas for its anthems? What if that company linked its product to ChoralNet, ACDA, YouTube, Twitter, etc.?

Also, the more I enter this world as a customer, the more pressure I am placing on our copy machine and office infrastructure. (BTW, our office uses a really fancy, sophisticated color/BW copier that staples, punches, duplexes, and makes PDFs, FAXs, emails, booklets, coffee, and omelettes. But the parameters for making customized copies do not accommodate anthem-sized paper!) Is the day here when notation can displayed digitally? "Singers, turn on your iPads, and open "Glory to God." I'm ready. And, while we're there, have the notation application help singers to learn their parts outside rehearsal.

When I don my publisher's hat, the pictures changes some. I was once a president of a little company that sold downloadable children's anthems. Sales reports indicated that 75% of purchases were for one copy of a title, indicating most directors bought the one copy, displayed the text, and taught the music by rote, rather than buying a copy for every singer. The composers received little royalty, and the company did not survive. (Of course, SATB music can't be taught by rote so easily, but this experience could represent the fear of many traditional publishing companies). Still, one wonders IF the digital company had been supported with honesty by its customers, it might have flurished and pressured the Gutenbergists to adapt and compete.

In spite of this and other issues, we all need to move forward. So, I join you, Philip, in a challenge to publishers, composers, and choral directors to bravely enter this new digital world with a commitment to honesty and integrity, and envision and embrace the potential it holds for our children, youth, and adult singers and institutions.

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Paul Carey on September 17, 2010 5:28
Amen, brother!

My 2 cents: Folks out there should know that many of us not-yet-dead composers are promoting our new music through our websites, and usually provide a pdf file for the purchaser to copy- saving instantly on postage and time. We also help ourselves survive since we then don't give up 90% of our earnings to a publisher on these"self-published" pieces, many of which are far more interesting than the pieces that are accepted for publication by the usual publishers.In addition, we're very easy to work with regarding performance rights, mechanical licenses, etc. We're trying to get new music out there in the world and are thrilled when we hear directly from choral directors.

The next problem to solve is this-- getting convention/conference organizers to stop looking down on self-published" or manuscript pieces. Currently it is very difficult, even for a top name clinician who has chosen such a piece for one of their guest gigs, to get such music into the hands of conference attendees. There is a large disconnect when the sheet music retailer comes into play. They want the ease of placing large orders with traditional print companies, not have to deal with the details of working with self-published composers. Hopefully we can change peoples minds abou this, but currently it is a problem. I would guess that Tim Sharp and the new energy at ACDA will lead the way in most of this!

Paul Carey
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John Wexler on September 17, 2010 5:57
I would endorse what Greg Bartholomew writes: many of us independent publishers are trying to develop better ways to do on-line sheet music publishing. We have diverse ideas about how to do that, but we are all trying to improve on the old printed-paper system with all its annoyances and frustrations. We think we can give you a better deal than the traditional publishers, and we'd love to sell to you. However, as yet, none of us is Big and Famous, so you don't know where to look to find us. Here's a clue: http://www.canasg.com (and a little searching on the web will easily yield more ideas).

There is, of course, one overriding issue: you buy the music that you like, from whoever publishes it, regardless of their business model. If the piece you plan to perform comes from a crusty, awkward, disobliging and expensive publisher ... you just have to pay the money and bear the grief. But, if you take a look at our list, you may find that we too have pieces that you'd like to do. If you don't take a look, then you'll never know.

John Wexler
Partner, Canasg Music
Edinburgh, Scotland
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Jeffrey Caulk on September 17, 2010 6:22
Slightly related, I found there are music stands that are digital screens you can work with - the picture came in a lifeway box. But I think it's orchestra/instrumentalist specific. Can't recall any other details.
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Jean-Francois Noel on September 17, 2010 6:27
My "new" publishing choral company does just that. The site is in french for now, and when time allows, an english version will come (and more titles too). Many audio examples are available, many downlable samples too. No shipping or duties to pay, and when I have the music on hand, the files get emailed within 24 to 48 hours. What the choir is purchasing is a license, not paper.

I do have to rely on their honesty not to give away the files or lend or resell them... FYI, the site is www.editionschorales.com
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David Avshalomov on September 17, 2010 6:35
Dear Philip,

I'm one of the self-published whom Greg references. To get my music out to the wonderful universe of choirs (I have over 60 titles for chorus--catalog list available upon request!), I provide free perusal .pdfs of scores to conductors on request. I simply put an Adobe watermark on them, "NOT FOR PERFORMANCE OR PHOTOCOPY USE." I also provide live or demo MP3s on request for those that I have. My updated website (ETA November) will provide these downloads directly to the visitor. And then if they like a work, they can pay for a cheap photocopy license (no charge for cppying covers and back-page catalog lists) and I email the master .pdf *without the watermark, and they pay me for the number of copies they need to make.

As for Parts Predominant/Practice music files, those are a little labor intensive to make, but I have done so on request. I am still waiting for the MIDI industry to create a MIDI mapping/reader for syllables/vowels/consonants/formants from text underlay in MIDI lines set to a vocal sound (remember MacinTalk?). There is a program that captures these as digital sound bites (recorded by the Seattle Symphonic Choir, I believe, and I hope they get royalties for all the work they and other choirs might as a result lose for commercial work in future), but you have to play them in in real-time on a keyboard using their proprietary program, which is not set up for counterpoint or different words in different voices at the same time, best for homophony but astonishinly realistic; not mapped to MIDI yet). And I have some moral qualms about using such a thing anyhow, since I am a firm proponent of Live Music Always and Everywhere. (Another thread for another day . . . )

But about the .pdf route, let me make this point: Such is my respect for the culture and community of choral musicians, that it has NEVER occurred to me to worry for a moment that anyone would abuse this arrangement (pay for one copy, make 30; or sell them to someone else, etc.) I still sing as a section leader and soloist in local concert choirs, and I have more than once sung in a choral rehearsal where we were handedout xerox copies and one of the old-timers has politely asked the choral conductor "Did we pay for this one?" Etc. So I am happy with how this works, so far, and conductors seem happy with the less expensive option. And I don't spend hours slaving over a hot Xerox machine (I don't sell 1000s of anything--yet!--so I don't do print runs, mostly just-in-time.) (I spend enough time and/or money on engraving already. The fun part is making up the new music!)

My one problem: Perfectionism about physical production of parts/scores. I find that most performing groups (also instrumental) either don't know how or don't have the patience to make 11 x 17 booklets, two-sided, as photocopy masters for nice folded 8 1/2 x 11 booklets on sturdy (Staples Premium) paper--(or even--my own invention--the folded legal-size sheet, which makes a decent small-type 7 x 8 "mocktavo"). They typically just copy the pages backed up on the cheapest letter-size paper and staple them at the side, which makes for an awkward edge-folding problem for the singer. But I have decided, if they are content, I can let that be.

(And of course the related issue with bands and orchestras is that their librarians really want 9 x 12 page sizes, which unfortunately means expensive custom-cut paper etc. That's been a thread on the OrchestraLIst a dozen times. I deal with that by trying to use slightly larger music font settings and wider vertical spacing/fewer staves per page on letter paper.)

We do what we can to make it easy for our wonderful music to get out there to you and be sung and heard and enjoyed!

Best regards,

David Avshalomov

Reply >>
Bryson Mortensen on September 17, 2010 6:55
Its coming! There are several publishers that are picking it up, like plum publishing (focusing on sacred, church-choir like music) and several composers are putting together their own websites and self-publishing their music exactly that way. I have entire set of bookmarks dedicated to composers who self-publish so I can keep track of their music.

Other evidence that we are "getting there" is that several publishers (Walton, Colla Voce, etc.) are FINALLY posting PDF samples of their scores with audio samples. Now I don't have to order every song that looks interesting to decide whether or not I like it or subscribe to the new publications...they're getting there.
Reply >>
Christina Hemphill on September 17, 2010 6:56
Downloading music is fast but not always cheap for a choir director at a church. Let's assume a choir director, being an honest one, orders 20 copies of "Night of Silence" from GIA music. The downloadable version is $2.00. The shipped hard copy is $2.00. Outside a time concern, why would I pay $2.00 per copy for a downloadable version that I have to use my own ink and paper in order to print the copies for the choir. I checked several songs between the GIA and OCP publishers and I found no monetary difference between downloadable choral versions and shipped ones.

The "Kindle" idea isn't a good one for me, personally. If I understand them correctly, you can't write on them or add markings to the documents held within them. I don't have one, so I don't know this for certain. I find reading music from a screen difficult on my eyes, (I'm old,) which highlights another concern with my using them. Are they even practical to read from a choir perspective considering the changes in screen resolution when read from anything but straight onward?

The licenses to print music from GIA and OCP are for congregation parts only. Accompaniments and arrangements, (octavos) still have to be purchased separately. The CCLI license covers several songs with lead charts, few with keyboard accompaniments, some with a few choral parts, but you aren't going to find octavos available from them and within the use of their license. (They may have added this though since I last had a license with them.)

I have noticed a few publishers offer rehearsal CD's. Of course, these rehearsal CD's are an extra expense and having never purchased one, I don't know if they are simply an accompaniment track or are the individual parts played. And of course, making your own rehearsal CD's requires copyright permissions and the paying of fees and...

What I really find exasperating are those publishing houses that offer booklets for the congregation to use. They have accompaniment books that are expensive, instrumentalist books that are also expensive, but no choir books that match the yearly accompaniment books. In order to add even basic SATB harmony to hymns, you either have to purchase octavo versions, or purchase two to three different choir books they also sell, in the hopes they contain some of the songs offered in the yearly booklet, or make copies of those hymns in the public domain from the accompaniment books. Even with the latter I run into copyright issues. Most of the "public domain" hymns they use have been arranged into new accompaniments, having altered a note or two so they can claim copyright on that version of that public domain hymn, thus making copies of it from their accompaniment book illegal.

I am new to choralnet.org. Thank you for "rediscussing" this subject as it is the first time for me to read it. It is nice to find a place to express my frustration with publishers and copyright without being labeled a trouble maker, a title I've earned when I adamant about using legal copies.

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Abbie Betinis on September 17, 2010 8:44
Great discussion! As a self-publisher myself (selling between 4-5 thousand scores a year) I'm finding my business is still too small to make much profit but just big enough to be taking up all my time. That said, I really enjoy the job!

So far I'm dealing primarily with printed and bound sheet music, shipping rates, inventory, and all that goes with it. But with such a high overhead, and a seemingly-endless demand for the music, I'm currently scheming about ways to go digital.

What I worry most about is related to Terry Taylor's point (above):

Sales reports indicated that 75% of purchases were for one copy of a title, indicating most directors bought the one copy, displayed the text, and taught the music by rote, rather than buying a copy for every singer. The composers received little royalty, and the company did not survive.

While most of my music would be difficult to teach by rote, I do worry about ensembles buying one copy and photocopying it. It has happened a few times to me, where I've found out through a friend-of-a-friend, etc, that a group is performing my music without having purchased the scores. And that kind of disregard feels very personal to me -- makes my stomach turn, as if having put my whole heart and soul into writing the music is still not enough.

One solution: I love love love Paul Caldwell and Sean Ivory's new publishing model (www.caldwellandivory.com), stamping a personalized license on each PDF copy that identifies the buyer and how many copies they are licensed to make.

The biggest question to me is: How much security is necessary for downloadable PDF choral scores? To conductors: Does a license like Caldwell & Ivory's encourage honesty? -- or are you tempted to buy one copy and run eagerly to the photocopier?

What about international buyers, where I'm told illegal PDF sharing is more rampant?

The radio show "Marketplace" on American Public Media recently ran a show about audio downloads and piracy. It was interesting to me because they deduced that most people who pirated digital goods (software, mp3s, etc) did so because they truly thought their measly payment wouldn't make a difference, would never get to the [artist, singer, software designer], and stole it as an attempt to "stick it to big business." So I'm curious about this: If ensembles knew they were supporting an artist directly with each sale, would that encourage honesty in digital download sales? Or is there so much disillusionment with the music publishing industry now that consumers feel they deserve a break?

Thank you Philip, and everyone here, for having this discussion!

Abbie Betinis
Reply >>
Terrence Liverkey on September 17, 2010 15:04
Love this topic. With the risk of collateral damage that comes from oversimplification; allow me to oversimplify.

I see the transition as inevitable. It's simply utilizing technology to make things more efficient. The current model won't work for much longer.

Choir directors rarely have the budgets (for whatever reason(s) to sustain the current model of paying publishers, distributors and shipping costs; which is why so many of them duplicate.

$1.95/score X 50 = director pays 97.50 (S/H) composers make $9.75

I champion the composers who make their music available for digital delivery and at a MUCH cheaper cost. The cost savings by making things more efficient can benefit the choir directors (which will motivate them to stop copying) And there will still be plenty of money left over for the composer - a much higher percentage than they would have received by selling through current means.

$.40/score X 50 = director pays 20.00 (no S/H) composers make $20.00

This new model is disrupted if the composer's try to sell their PDF's for the same (or near) publisher's costs. But I see it happening. We have to have a shift in the mindsets of the purchasers (conductors) and the composers in terms of what the price tag actually means.

I've removed the costs of website development and promotion because those variables are varied based on a particular composers personal abilities.

The pendulum will shift as it has done in the music industry, it will be somewhat of a messy transition, but it's inevitable.
Reply >>
Reginald Unterseher on September 19, 2010 7:50
I placed an order for music this very morning, and "WILL BACKORDER" appeared on 3 of the 4 titles. Ridiculous.

I wrote an article for the Northwest ACDA web site on this subject last year, kind of a "future history" of the transition away from the traditional paper publishing model. I think it is coming faster than we think.


Reginald Unterseher
Reply >>
Abbie Betinis on September 19, 2010 14:38
Mr. Unterseher you are a hero to me! I read your article last spring when it was linked to a different ChoralNet posting on the subject. I've shared it with many people through the link on your website. I love especially how optimistic and positive your writing is -- it really makes this shift seem possible. Would love to speak with you more about it if you're up for it. (Or any of you for that matter!)

Abbie Betinis
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Michael McGlynn on September 20, 2010 7:42
Just one story, related to this topic. My choir, Anuna, recorded a new piece of mine last week, and one of the singers insisted on using his iPad, or iPork as we call it unaffectionately.
He stood for 5 hours holding this in his hand. I suspect that he was making a point, but considering that the item is
1. Silent
2. Scrollable
3. Backlit
4. Portable [well, sort of, and he is around 6 foot 1, and a marathon runner]
then this is something we should all sit up and acknowledge for the future. Digital paper is that future...

Michael McGlynn
Reply >>

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chicago Symphony's Festa Muti

On Sunday September 19th, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra presented ”Festa Muti”-- a free concert in Millenium Park to celebrate the beginning of Ricardo Muti's tenure as music director. The event was handled with great creativity and there were added touches to make the crowd feel wanted and wooed to come hear the symphony under Muti this season. Free small versions of the Chicago Tribune were passed out featuring articles about Muti and the CSO, large Festa Muti lapel buttons were handed out as well as Festa Muti pennants.

Even with the threat of rain, the turnout for the event was huge (I just read an article estimating the crowd as numbering 25,000!). We arrived a couple hours beforehand and claimed a great spot on the lawn. Aidan settled in to playing Yuhgio and chess by himself while I did a little reading. About an hour before the main event a youth choir and orchestra performed a bit. Finally, at 5:30, and with the crowd control people actually closing off the main lawn because it was so packed, the main event began. People continued to arrive and were packed standing room only 20-30 people thick on the outskirts of the main area, with even more people claiming any space in the outer area of the park they could find. Even with this enormous crowd I saw no one getting frazzled or rude- the vibe of the event was very celebratory!

The program began with Verdi's overture to La Forza del Destino, played with some lovely nuanced phrases. The strings were simply elegant throughout and it was the kind of sweet phrasing both of long lines and individual notes you would never have heard from former director Daniel Barenboim (okay, I've dissed him once now...and now we will move on). Next was Liszt's Les Preludes, not a real fave of mine, yet it was played with a very rich tone especially from the brass. The orchestra took a short break and then returned with Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet. Again, not a favorite of mine, but I was pleased that it seemed like all the hackneyed, cliched approaches to this music had disappeared and for me it was kind of like hearing this piece for the first time in a sense, thanks to Muti's fresh reading of the score. All the drame was still there but there was no schmaltz- what a delight. I also felt that the usual divvying up and tossing of phrases from orchestral family group to family group that Tchaikovsky does so much that it is truly annoying, wasn't so obvious with Muti's approach. As I type this I'm sure how he did this, it's not like he rewrote the score.

Finally, the finale-- Respighi's Pines of Rome. I've always wanted to hear this piece live- it's such a hoot and full of amazing orchestration touches. The whole orchestra seemed really alive and each section of the piece was painted with vivid colors. The solo clarinet and flute passages were truly lovely and the offstage trumpet solo was gorgeous.

Overall, the symphony's strings sounded great all day, the brass were rich and full without ever being raucous (a sometimes complaint in the Solti golden era), and the woodwinds were fine (although a little pitchy, Dawg, in the last exposed woodwind choir of the Tchaikovsky...maybe blame the weather and humidity?). I felt that Muti's interpretations were impeccable, they were even slightly understated and he never just went for sweet schmaltz or bombastic noise, which could certainly be a temptation with a huge event like this. He truly brought out the best in each piece, and created both great musical lines and well constructed arches – in other words, he understood both the micro and macro elements of each piece-- what else could any composer hope for?

After the final chord of the Respighi rang out the audience leaped to their feet for a long ovation, Muti thanked the audience and cracked a few jokes, and then there was a surprise mini-fireworks show set off around the perimeter of the main lawn area. This was such a surprise, and young and old had looks of glee on their face as the fireworks went off all around us. What a great surprise.

So, I wasn't really intending on writing a concert review so much as honoring the fact hat the CSO and Muti wanted to put on this event and handled it so beautifully and with so much fresh creativity. This was a celebration of the CSO, of the city and the park, of Muti, of the people and it was an amazing success. Back in the 1970's and 80's when Georg Solti was virtually as well-known in Chicago (and even around the world) as Micheal Jordan, the city was hugely proud of this symphony and its accomplishments. It was sad to see the downfall of that with the hiring of Barenboim, whose personality both musically and personally was a terrible fit. The CSO musicians did the best they could under his tenure,yet the little dark cloud always hanging over then CSO president Henry Fogel's beloved “Danny” was always there. Probably the best thing that happened during that time was the orchestra's ability to work closely with Pierre Boulez year after year, and Boulez-led performances were always great. With Fogel's retirement, brilliant new president Deborah Rutter was able to quickly send Barenboim packing and reinvent the symphony and position it for new successes. The vibe we're hearing now is that the players love Muti, have always loved Muti, and things are going to be amazing. I wish them all the success in the world and thank them for a wonderful day in the park!

P.S. I just remembered that amidst Muti's thank yous to the audience and light banter was also this: he stated that the symphony is intent on reaching out to those people in the community who cannot, for whatever reason, come to them. In other words, a newly voiced commitment to outreach placed on record in front of thousands. I am truly pleased that he said this, and let's hope that all of us in this classical music world can do the same. We need to share this great music with everyone- not just the rich and educated club who already know about it. We need to get rid of, or reeducate, the classical music snobs and do this right, and especially reach out to young people (actually I was disappointed that I saw very few children at the event Sunday). We're seeing it with Gustavo Dudamel in South America and now in LA, musical ambassadors like Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin, and hopefully here a renewed effort in Chicago. Barenboim adamantly refused to do this sort of thing- yet Muti truly wants to do it- BRAVO!

P.P.S. Aidan's excited response to the bravura ending of Pines of Rome and the fireworks, "Daddy, they should just keep playing now, play every song in the universe!"