We're delighted to have the opportunity this year to team up with the Natural Voice Network and support a project which has been highlighting a very important debate in music publishing and performance.
The Black Lives Matter Commissioning Project was conceived out of a special session held at the NVN Annual Gathering in 2021, which asked challenging but necessary questions about the appropriation and misuse of black music over the centuries.
The project team wanted to acknowledge and highlight this fact while creating something positive by engaging with some of the best black choral musicians at work today. The result is this fantastic and varied collection of compositions which we are making available through ChoirCommunity.
Project organisers Sian Croose, Fran Andre and Dr Kathy Bullock explain the project further:
This project is a way to acknowledge the fact that so much black music has been appropriated, bought, and sold, with composers and performing artists not receiving proper remuneration and credit over the centuries. By asking singers and supportive patrons to make a direct contribution to creating these songs our aim was to highlight this issue and do something practical and creative that raises our awareness of these transactions, something that is long overdue. A big part of the focus of this project is economic, acknowledging and attempting to create change in a small but hopefully meaningful way with the economics of racism and inequality in music.
Our plan was to commission eight black composers,4 UK-based/4 US-based, to write one song each for community choirs and singing groups. Individual singing leading practitioners and whole choirs were invited to support this project. Over the following months we raised over £26K from over 50 choirs and singing groups in the UK, the US, Canada, and New Zealand, as well as £14,500 from Arts Council England. All monies raised went towards the costs of planning and delivering the project, commissioning the songs, and hosting an extraordinary weekend where 4 of the composers attended and shared their compositions in person to the 50 vocal leaders who attended in person. You can watch some of the footage, filmed on that weekend, as well as find out more about the background of the project by visiting the BLMCP Website here.
Another key aspect of this project is the dialogue and sharing between the composers and singing leaders within the NVN, with a view to teaching these songs with understanding and empathy of the context these songs came from, and what the inspiration behind the songs is. Making sure each song is taught authentically, with proper cultural honouring, pronunciation (if applicable), and that it remains stylistically accurate, is also very important.
When teaching these songs to your choirs, please fully contextualise them. There are notes from the composers with further information, as well as some musical guidance and performance notes. Please read these carefully and share with your singers while learning the songs.
When you purchase these songs, the resources available to you (scores and recorded parts) are specifically for you and your choir only to learn and perform songs. The audio parts and scores can be shared with your singers as learning aids, but under no circumstances must these be shared or copied beyond your permissions agreement with ChoirCommunity. If you wish to record or broadcast, express permission and contractual agreements must be obtained in advance with the composer.
We wish you so much joy in sharing these songs with your singing communities! And once again we thank our 8 fantastic composers for such wonderful songs, and ChoirCommunity for hosting them.