Blog - ChoirCommunity

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Making Our Music Library Accessible for People with Print Disabilities

May 21, 2024 - By 
A collage of images showing a music score, a pair of hands reading braille and a group of people dacing to music being played on their headphones.

At ChoirCommunity, one of our guiding principles has always been to make the highest quality choral music affordable and accessible to as many choirs as possible. It was therefore a great pleasure to be invited by one of our customers, Daisy Higman, to the Accessible Music Publishing Action Group earlier this year.

This group has been set up by the international DAISY Consortium, which is the home of tools, standards, advice and best practices to ensure that people with print disabilities can access media of all types, and RNIB, the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

The Accessible Music Publishing Action Group focuses on supporting music publishers, engravers, composers, and anyone creating music scores, to ensure that they create those scores in a way which is accessible for blind and other print-disabled musicians to quickly and effectively read the music in their preferred reading format, whether that is braille, modified stave notation, or digitally in notation tools and dedicated apps.

At ChoirCommunity, we realised that we were already a long way down the path of being able to offer this from our website since all our music scores are in a digital format which could be converted to one which is compatible with the reading and converter tools mentioned above.

Thanks to one of our team, Tim Allen who is something of an expert in music engraving, as well as the MusicXML format which is the basis for creating accessible scores, we worked with the DAISY Consortium to ensure that we could create sheet music files which conformed with the best practice standards which have been set.

As a result, we are now in a position to launch our accessible music offering! The way it will work is as follows:

  • If you or a member of your choir needs any of our scores to be in an accessible music format, please contact us with your request by email at: hello@choircommunity.net
  • To set you up as a member of the accessible music choir community, we just need you to complete an application form to confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria. We’ll be happy to talk with you about your requirements when you contact us.
  • Once your application has been approved by ChoirCommunity, whenever you purchase a sheet music title from us, you will also receive the sheet music in MusicXML format, fully compatible with accessible digital tools such as braille music converters and notation tools. We will also be able to send you backdated files for music purchased before joining the service upon request.

If you are interested in registering for this, or would simply like to discuss this further with us, please get in touch at: hello@choircommunity.net


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Frankie Armstrong – The Godmother of the Community Singing Movement

March 31, 2024 - By 

We have loved hearing stories of your choirs, how you came together, what was the spark that ignited the flame right at the beginning, and how things have developed since then. There are almost as many different stories as there are choirs, and this is one of the fascinating things about this recent explosion of Community Choirs in particular.

I was chatting to Gitika Partington, my fellow ChoirCommunity pal, who has been running choirs long before I started in the early 2000s. I asked her where she originally got her spark from and her answer was instantaneous, “Oh that would be Frankie Armstrong – she ran a workshop in the early 90s and she set me on the path.”  So I had to discover more about this amazing woman.

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Make Music on Make Music Day

March 7, 2024 - By 

Ever since its inception in France in 1982, people all over the world have been dedicating one day each year to the simple joy of making music, with no barriers to anyone wanting to play and enjoy live performance.

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First Impressions Count

March 6, 2024 - By 

MakingMusic.org have been a hugely positive and supportive partner of ChoirCommunity, even from the early days when we had very little in terms of content or members!  As a corporate partner of MakingMusic, we also offer a 15% discount to all MakingMusic members across our entire library of arrangements.

We also think they have a great deal to offer community choirs so we are delighted to highlight one of their latest services – the Making Music Platform.

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A New Partnership with Umoya Creations

February 12, 2024 - By 

If you were already a member of ChoirCommunity in May last year, you probably received an e-shot from us with news about a project we were working on to investigate the true provenance of the many of the unattributed songs which we have arranged and published from the African continent.

We have continued to work on this with Umoya Creations, a South-African charity set up to bring healing, education and reconciliation to people affected by Apartheid, set up and run by the International Percussionist, Composer and Workshop Leader, Eugene Skeef.

It has been a fascinating journey of discovery and we are very excited to announce the partnership with Umoya Creations which has come out of the work.  Firstly though, a little bit of background…

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New Arranger Welcome – Dan Pate

January 15, 2024 - By 

We published Dan’s introductory collection of arrangements on ChoirCommunity just before Christmas.  Everyone was probably quite distracted with concerts then so we’re making sure the collection gets a proper promotion now.

In this first video of a new series covering all our new arrangers, Craig chats to Dan over Zoom about his musical journey and his approach to choral arranging.

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How Much Do We Value Music?

December 12, 2023 - By 
A sheet music score spread out on a table with a pen lying on top

As people involved with music for their livelihoods it surely follows that we should also value the music we use at the highest level – and by extension all those involved in writing it.

It is therefore somewhat disappointing when we hear about events and music leaders trying to get away with obtaining the music they use without paying the proper price for it.

ChoirCommunity is a digital download music site so we rely on trust more than most places to ensure that our rights owners, composers and arrangers get the appropriate recognition and reward for the work they do when our music is sold.

We are sure (and are extremely grateful) that the vast majority of our customers recognise this and buy the correct number of ‘copies’ (really licences) of our music to cover the number of singers using our arrangements, but it has been brought to our attention that a recent event ignored this and clearly tried to get away without paying for the appropriate licences, even after having been alerted once.

The system which we have for music licencing in this country which by nature must rely on trust – and is therefore in reality easy to cheat – can only work if the consequences of abusing that trust are serious. For too long an attitude of ‘laissez-faire’, allowing this to take place without any consequences has enabled this to continue.

We believe that only by calling this out and not looking the other way when it happens can change this and enable the choral music scene to thrive.

So this is something of a call to action (and a request for a discussion) about a matter we feel strongly about. We would like to point out that ChoirCommunity is not itself a ‘money-making’ venture. In the five years since we started, we have not paid salaries to anyone involved in setting up or running the site – only royalties to the musicians who submit the arrangements which are available to purchase and download.

We should also state that the issue which was brought to our attention has been put right and the proper licences paid for, but we feel it is still a sign that we, as a community, are not doing enough to ensure that music, the lifeblood of our livelihoods, is not valued as it should be.


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Newsletter – 23rd August 2023

August 23, 2023 - By 
Newsletter Banner Image showing sound waves and musical notes floating over them

It’s ‘acapella’ week this week as we’ve got a bumper crop of new unaccompanied arrangements published – a fantastic addition to our collection from Gitika Partington and Wendy Sergeant.  As long-time members of the ChoirCommunity team, Gitika and Wendy both have well-established collections on the website, but these latest additions bring something new and fresh as always.

Wendy has recently undertaken an “Innovative Choir Leading” course at the Royal College of Music in Denmark and I think you can definitely hear the influence of that in her latest arrangements.  In particular, her version of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ and an original composition called ‘Winter Waltz’ are well worth a listen.

As a Co-founder of the website, Gitika now has 164 titles in her collection and these latest ones are great additions, mostly harking back a few decades and including some of the greatest song writers of the time.  Her version of the Rolling Stones ‘Paint It, Black’ is understandably one of her choirs’ favourite songs.  I also love the melifluous feel of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ which also has a recording you can listen to on Gitika’s Soundcloud channel.

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Meet Our ChoirCommunity Members (Ep. 1) – Kari Olsen-Porthouse

June 22, 2023 - By 
A large choir raising their hands and singing

Hi ChoirCommunity, Gitika here!

Last week I got a little ping in my inbox to say someone in our Choir Community had bought one of my Christmas titles, and for some reason I had a little sneaky look to see who it was and found Kari!

I got in touch and found out that Kari Olsen-Porthouse and I did the same Performing Arts degree at the same college…. and possibly slept in the same room in the same hall of residence!  I am (a little!) older and was there a few years before but was completing my Secondary Music PGCE at the same time Kari did her degree.

Piers, Craig and I have been thinking about doing some sort of special series of blogs where we introduced some of the other wonderous choir leaders who have signed up and joined the website.  This felt like the ideal opportunity to let you know two things – not only is it never too early to think about Christmas Repertoire and to publish the first of our MEET OUR CHOIRCOMMUNITY MEMBERS blogs .

I am going to let Kari introduce herself and also say a big belated happy birthday to her!  I am particularly excited by her Liberty Belles who rehearse in Kari’s friend’s Hair Salon

Take it away Kari!

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The Results of our #60SecondsofSound’ Competition are in!

May 12, 2023 - By 
Banner Image of floating music staves weaving around each other

We had a really great response to this competition over the first few months of the year and have enjoyed judging all the entries immensely.  Thank you to everyone who took the time and effort to send us something.  We enjoyed listening to every one and have been assured that the community choir scene is thriving around the world!

The range of entries was also impressive.  We received over 30 submissions in total and the winners chosen span three continents – North America, Europe and Australasia.  It’s rather gratifying to be able to say this was a truly international competition!

….but now, onto the results!

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New Arrangers Wanted!

April 26, 2023 - By 
Some sheet music pages spread out on a table with a pen resting on top

It’s been a while, but we have finally got ourselves into the position of looking for some new arrangers to join the team!

ChoirCommunity is now in its sixth year and we are really proud of what we have achieved over this time. We now have well over 1100 downloadable titles available, all created by our 22 talented choir leaders, arrangers, composers and musicians from around the UK and abroad.  Since January 2018, over 250,000 copies of music have been downloaded from the site by the 6,700 choirs around the world who have joined up by registering an account.  We’re now looking to build on that start by continuing to expand the team of arrangers and the scope of our music library.

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Are You Planning Anything for the Coronation?

February 26, 2023 - By 
Official Logo for the Coronation of King Charles

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no denying any big royal event here in the UK is a great excuse to do some singing, preferably loudly and in public.  Many choirs are making plans of one sort or another to mark the day by taking part in street parties, singing festivals and concerts.  Even the BBC has got in on the act with an ‘X-Factor’ style hunt to find a choir to sing at a royal concert at Windsor castle on 7 May.

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A Look Back At 2022

December 29, 2022 - By 
ChoirCommunity Arrangers; Ed Aldcroft, Ben See, Fiona Lander and Keely Hodgson

Well, it’s been quite a year hasn’t it? Despite all the challenges for so many people in 2022, there was still plenty to be thankful for at ChoirCommunity so we thought we’d look back on a few highlights of the year.  We hope you enjoy looking through them and sparking some positive memories of the last 12 months!

2022 Was The Year We……

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New Arranger Welcome – Keely Hodgson

March 29, 2022 - By 
Keely Hodgson and Choir

Earlier this month, we published a new collection from our latest arranger to join the team, Keely Hodgson.  Keely is the last new arranger we will be adding to the website for a while now as we focus on consolidating and adding to everyone’s collections.  That means this is probably the last Zoom chat for a bit as well, so we’re making the most of it!

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New Arranger Welcome – Fiona Lander

February 16, 2022 - By 
Fiona Lander conducting her women's choir banner image

Last week we published Fiona’s introductory collection of compositions and arrangements on ChoirCommunity. To accompany this launch, Craig chatted to Fiona over Zoom about her music influences and career.

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New Arranger Welcome – Ed Aldcroft

January 26, 2022 - By 
Ed Aldcroft Conducting a choir banner image

We launched Ed’s exciting and varied initial collection of arrangements in mid-January on ChoirCommunity.   Craig had a chance to catch up with Ed over Zoom (between the UK and Spain) the week after to talk about his musical influences and career.

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New Arranger Welcome – Ben See

January 10, 2022 - By 
Ben See Conducting Banner Image

We kicked off 2022 by publishing a brand new music collection from composer, singer and choir leader Ben See. We’re now following up this launch with another in our series of Zoom interviews with Craig.

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Everything you Need to Know About Music Licensing But Were Afraid to Ask!

September 23, 2021 - By 
Someone reading a contract

We have noticed a lot of discussion recently about the complexities and difficulties around music licensing and copyright. Many choir leaders find this a very confusing and frustrating subject area, which is not surprising given the amount of seemingly conflicting information which is out there and how prone that information is to interpretation.

At ChoirCommunity, helping to solve this problem is one of the most important objectives we have sought to achieve since starting up in 2018. We wanted to make it easier for talented choir leaders and musicians to legitimately share the arrangements they have written with other choirs, while also making the proper purchasing of great choral music easier and more affordable for as many singing groups as possible around the world.

In order to do this, we have taken on many of the complexities and costs involved in ensuring the music available on our website is fully licenced and that all the artists and rights-owners get properly rewarded for their work.  We have also tried to explain as clearly as possible how the licencing of music works and how we have set things up at ChoirCommunity (for example in our FAQ page), but I’m aware that we have never actually explained everything all in one place, so here goes!

If you have the patience to read to the bottom, you should end up knowing everything you need to know about music licensing!

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Introducing a New Series of Music Videos

July 15, 2021 - By 

We thought we’d try a new way of showcasing some of the great music we have on ChoirCommunity and especially the fantastic talent embodied in our wonderful team of arrangers.  Each week, we’ll put a new video up on YouTube created by one (or sometimes more than one) of our arrangers of a song which is available from our library for download.  The format will be a mixture of ‘virtual’ and live performance and we hope you’ll enjoy subscribing to the channel and having a listen each week.

The first video to be published is Wendy Sergeant’s version of I’m Still Standing, sung by Wendy herself along with Doug Watts (another of our team of arrangers), Catherine Smith and Katherine Everett.  The video was created by Doug as part of the Portishead Festival of Song in 2020.

The sheet music and learning tracks for this arrangement can be downloaded from the website here.

Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel and click to receive notifications of videos as they come out each week at https://www.youtube.com/c/choircommunity

 


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New Arranger Welcome – Tim Allen

July 8, 2021 - By 
Tim Allen conducting a choir banner image

We’re delighted to welcome the multi-talented Tim Allen to the team of arrangers this month and Craig has marked the occasion with another wide-ranging and often fascinating chat with Tim over Zoom.

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Delivering a Better Browsing Experience

June 24, 2021 - By 
A screen capture of the new browse page design

We’re constantly looking to find new ways to make the website better and easier to use, especially when it comes to search for the right piece of music!  One of the things which has held us back is the way in which all the classification data – things like genre, voicing, difficulty level, accompaniment, choir type, etc.  – have been grouped together as ‘categories’ or ‘tags’.

Well, this has now all changed, along with a brand new design for all the pages on the website where our arrangements are listed.  Now you can filter any list by any of these categories independently, while also typing more specific search terms to find exactly what you want.

We hope you find the new page design easy to use and more importantly, enables you to find the best arrangements for your choir quickly and easily.

All the product pages still have the ability to preview the full scores, as well as listen to an excerpt of the ensemble learning track for every arrangement (well, nearly every one – we’re working on that!).  All our learning tracks are all properly sung and recorded in high-quality audio as well to make the browsing experience as enjoyable and useful as possible.

Try out the new full catalogue search page here.

We hope you like the changes – please let us know by replying on this post, or emailing us directly at hello@choircommunity.net

 


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New Arranger Welcome – Jake Alexander

June 3, 2021 - By 
Jake Alexander Conducting a Choir

We’re delighted to welcome Jake Alexander to the growing team of ChoirCommunity arrangers this week.  Jake is a multi-talented musician and instrumentalist, who spends his time in a wide range of musical activities, as well as writing and arranging choral music.

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An Interview With Craig McLeish

April 18, 2021 - By 

It’s only taken four years, but we’ve finally got around to having a chat with Craig – Co-founder of, and prolific contributor to ChoirCommunity!   Many thanks to Gitika Partington for taking Craig out of his comfort zone and putting him through the same sort of paces he has set for all our other arrangers over the last few months.

There are some great stories, as well as lots of insights into Craig’s approach to musical direction, arrangement and composition, influenced by exposure to some of the greatest musicians the country has produced from a very early age!

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The Making of ‘Nothing Like Pilchards’

March 25, 2021 - By 
Nothing Like Pilchards Song Banner

Despite the latest boom in Sea Shanty interest they have been a regular feature of the folk session that our resident soprano, Laura Featherstone has taken part in for many years.  The annual Sea Shanty festival in Falmouth is also a very popular event every year, so they have always been big business down in Cornwall.  However it’s fair to say that the same favourites are sung often, so Laura thought she would try and create something new!

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New Arranger Welcome – Kate Shipway

March 3, 2021 - By 
Kate Shipway conducting her choir

This week, we’re delighted to welcome our newest arranger, Kate Shipway to the website.  Kate is the first new arranger to come on board via our new ‘Artist Application’ process which we introduced at the end of 2020.   Her submission was the one which really caught our eye so it’s great to be able to publish her first collection of songs and arrangements this week.

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