Blog - ChoirCommunity
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!
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!
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.
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.
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……
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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 [email protected]
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.
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!
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!
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.
In this week’s blog, we finally present a chat between Craig and our other founding arranger and ChoirCommunity co-director, Gitika Partington.
Gitika has been a wonderful supporter of the ChoirCommunity initiative since the very start and it’s been great to have her support (and of course here fantastic music) throughout the first three years.
This is worth a complete blog in its own right as it is such a lovely story with one of our own at the centre of it. Sam Burns is currently taking a sabbatical / on semi-retirement building a school in Portugal, but still managed to find time to help a little girl in Pennsylvania, with the help of his Bristol MAN Chorus, some sea shanties and a special lullaby….
The first thing to sat about this blog is that Richard is not a new arranger at all – in fact he is one of the original three (along with Craig and Gitika) who helped to launch ChoirCommunity at the start of 2018. It’s just taken a little bit longer to get round to him – but then we haven’t had recorded a video chat with Craig or Gitika yet either!
In this Zoom chat, Craig and Richard talk about his musical influences and memories, as well as getting into the craft and joy of creating the perfect choral arrangement.
Richard has a fantastic collection of pop arrangements on the website which will add sparkle to any repertoire. Preview all his arrangements here.
In the seventh of our series of video conversations with our team of arrangers, Craig chats to Dom Stichbury about the formative years of his musical career, leading choral groups of different types, including male voices and many other aspects of how music has influenced him.
The collection of Dom’s arrangements, which will continue to grow, can be found on his shop page here.
Photograph is of the Bristol Gasworks Choir by James Barke
The first time I learned songs in unaccompanied harmony by ear was at a “Sweet Soul Sisters” Bristol workshop in the early 1990s. I remember feeling my musical brain being challenged in a new and exciting way – trying to remember intervals by feel rather than counting the lines on a stave, noticing how the five parts of the song fitted together and letting the notes slowly seep into my brain – without the help of a musical score. And I was moved to tears by the sensation of singing in harmony with a large group of people. Two members of the Sweet Soul Sisters (Dee Jarlett and Ali Orbaum) later started the now legendary Gasworks Choir teaching large numbers of people in this same way, by ear.
In this, the sixth of our series of video conversations with our team of arrangers, Craig chats to Anna Tabbush about her very musical upbringing and her passion for making music an experience with emotional and physical impact.
All of Anna’s arrangements, to which we are expecting to add may more, can be found on her shop page here
After a short summer / autumn break, we return to the fifth of our series of video conversations with our fantastic team of arrangers and composers. In this installment, Craig talk to Paul Ayers about his own musical influences and passions and the trials and tribulations of trying to get work published.
All of Paul’s arrangements, including his collection of 3-part settings of Christmas Carols can be found on his shop page here.
Community Choirs come in all sizes and shapes and the diversity across these variations is wonderful. When my own choir started out around 12 years ago we majored on singing quite straightforward songs with repeated verses, things we could grasp fairly quickly yet were very effective and fun to do. Songs from the African continent, Folk songs and Spirituals fitted that category. And we still love singing those sorts of songs, it’s really the core of what we’re about.
The wealth of classical choral repertoire has a reputation for being beyond the reach of most Community Choirs but we have over the years found this not to be the case, and if chosen carefully and taught in the same way we learn all our pieces, there is much pleasure to be had in dipping some toes in the waters of this great rich ocean.