Posted In: Blog

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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!

We hope you enjoy the chat.  Please let us know what you thought, and check out Craig’s eclectic collection of compositions and arrangements here.

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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 

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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Zoom chat with Gitika Partington

February 25, 2021 - By 

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.

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Roslyn’s Lullaby – Sam Burns

February 11, 2021 - By 

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….

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New Arranger Welcome – Richard Salt

January 27, 2021 - By 
Notorious Choir, Birmingham

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.

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New Arranger Welcome – Dom Stichbury

January 20, 2021 - By 

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.

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Score or No Score? Teaching Songs By Ear

January 13, 2021 - By 
Gasworks Choir Learning By Ear

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.

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New Arranger Welcome – Anna Tabbush

December 8, 2020 - By 

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

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New Arranger Welcome – Paul Ayres

November 14, 2020 - By 

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.

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Launching a Classical Choral Repertoire for Community Choirs

September 21, 2020 - By 

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.

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New Arranger Welcome – Wendy Sergeant

June 30, 2020 - By 

Wendy isn’t actually a new arranger, but we didn’t make nearly enough fuss about her the first time around so we’re making up for it now!  In the fourth of our series of video conversations, Craig and Wendy chat about early influences, song-writing and arranging techniques and much more besides!

All of Wendy’s arrangements can be found on her shop page here.

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New Arranger Welcome – Val Regan

June 24, 2020 - By 

In the third of our series of video interviews – partly inspired by the the experience of endless Zoom calls during lockdown – Craig talks to Val Regan about his musical influences and the particularly inspiring attributes of music and arranging which have guided her through her career.

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New Arranger Welcome – Doug Watts

June 15, 2020 - By 

In the second of our series of video interviews – partly inspired by the the experience of endless Zoom calls during lockdown – Craig talks to Doug Watts about his musical life and the steps which led up to joining ChoirCommunity!

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New Arranger Welcome – Abi Moore

June 8, 2020 - By 

This is the first of a series of interview blogs (or vlogs?) introducing new artists as we welcome them to ChoirCommunity.   Thanks in part to the deal we have signed with Hal Leonard, we have been able to expand no only our library of music, but also our team of arrangers, many of whom had songs which were effectively locked away in drawers until now.

Abi Moore is one of these talented musicians who contacted us well over a year ago to see if we could work together.  It’s fantastic to be able to start offering her music now on ChoirCommunity and we thought it would be great to try out something new to support welcoming her, and our other new arrangers to the website.

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Warehouse Adventures For Beginners – Part 3

May 8, 2020 - By 

Or, “How an Ageing Choirleader Briefly Sullied His Hands and Became a Spokesman for All The World’s Downtrodden Workers”

Day to Day

Overall, it’s actually not bad. A lot of the men comment that this is one of the best warehouse gigs in the west. Nightshift (10pm-6am) pays just over £300/week after tax, which is top whack apparently. (Yay….. 😉

Plus, there’s many fewer Orange Jackets on the night shift – the line managers. Us green jackets distrust ’em, though they’re mainly ok really. Here, as everywhere, the odd person who was clearly bullied at school & now finds themselves in a position of power is easy to spot, but happily there are few.

Most importantly, though we work hard non-stop.  There is no-one constantly pushing us to work even faster, & there’s time to do the job properly. That’s a game-changer in any crap job. Our manager paused as he passed last night, cast a critical eye & said. ‘Nice pallet that’. I swelled with pride… -”Nice? – Moana Pallet Lisa mate!”  He laughed & moved on. A good moment.

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Warehouse Adventures for Beginners – Part 2

May 5, 2020 - By 

Or, ‘How an Ageing Choirleader Briefly Sullied His Hands, & Became a Spokesman for All the Worlds Downtrodden Workers.”

First Shift

You clock in/out at the door. A second late equals 15 mins docked pay & a bollocking.  Ant-like & vaguely 2m apart, our feisty platter of misfits files down to the evening briefing.

Good news!  Last night we were (again) the most productive shift of the 24hrs …and the lowest sickness rate. We scoff of course, but are secretly proud. Night shift represents.  Bays assigned, the teams head out.

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Warehouse Adventures for Beginners – Part 1

May 1, 2020 - By 

Or, “How an Ageing Choirleader Briefly Sullied His Hands and Became a Spokesman for All The World’s Downtrodden Workers”

Prologue

Monday March 16, approx 4.30pm, the PM proclaimed, ‘No More Non-Essential Gatherings’.

Like so may others, my wife & I spent a few minutes in shock, carefully weighing & re-weighing his words before realising that, yes, this was indeed the end of all choral activity for the foreseeable, & thus also of our income. I sent a mail cancelling that evening’s rehearsal, then went down there anyway, just in case anyone didn’t get the message in time. Once back home, we immediately began job hunting.

By 1am I had applied for every available delivery/warehouse job within 20 miles of our house. (Coz we figured that parcels & nursing would be the only sectors working in the coming months). Adel chased up social care.

By Weds 18th, we both had several offers, which was just as well, coz that was the day that the school I worked in shut down. We chose the 2 options with hours that allowed us to both to work full time & perhaps cope with home schooling too.

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The story of A Little Bit Of Love

April 24, 2020 - By 

On my first Sunday at university back in 1982 I attended an evening service at St Michael Le Belfry in York – it was specially for students to welcome them to the town and there was lots of singing.  I noticed some particularly good harmonies emanating from the row behind (I’m not impartial to departing from the tune myself occasionally).  At one point in the service we were encouraged to turn to the person behind or in front and welcome them, so I turned and was surprised to find that the source of these extra tenor lines was in fact the well known hymn writer Graham Kendrick, who was already a household name in contemporary church music circles even back then.

Move this on 38 years.… As part of my musical life I have the privilege of being musical director of Young Voices and I am always looking out for suitable songs for all the children’s choirs each year.  It so happened that two totally unrelated friends wanted to introduce me to Graham and emailed me within days of each other encouraging us to meet, because my friends thought he had a song we should look at.

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How is your ‘Well of Well-Being?’

March 22, 2020 - By 

A message for Choir Leaders from Gitika @Choircommunity.net

Hi everyone. I wanted to say a bit about value, well-being and connection relating to us as choir leaders. In October 2019 just before the beginning of my Autumn Choir term my mum died very suddenly. I was in terrible shock and had really not appreciated the connection I had with my mum, who was old-school northern, but also very spiritual and ‘out of the box’ – she told me she loved me a tiny handful of times during my life and was ‘true to her tastes’ throughout hers (didn’t care for my voice, my original songs, but seemed quietly to like the choir work I did). But we were connected in music. When we were children the whole family sung close harmony together to a very high level and I found it impossible to contemplate standing in from of my beloved choirs when it felt like my spiritual umbilical chord had been ripped from me. Every song reminded me of my mum. I wailed every day for 95 days, had a day off and then wailed some more.

I contacted some of my community choir leaders and asked them for guidance. The feeling that struck me the most was that when grief is so deep, standing in front of a group being ‘inspirational’ is a tough and challenging call to make. A few colleagues said they had carried on through a loss because of financial concerns and in the end, just got so drained or ill they had to stop anyway. I had a wonderful head teacher colleague who told me unless my ‘well of well-being was full’ I would not be able to nurture others. This was my livelihood, but also I was aware that I could not do it if I had nothing to give. I had to trust the universe would provide; so I let all my choirs know and refunded all the fees (as I did not want to put a time limit on my grief). A few lovely souls told me to keep the term’s money and buy cake or do some composing. I had lots of support and messages from them too.

I was just beginning to feel a bit ok when another younger family member died very suddenly and then we were hit by this crazy virus which has been nagging at us all since the New Year. There has naturally been a lot of panic and anxiety from many choir leaders due to fear of no income and mixed feeling about letting so may people down, and because we are in the job of connecting people – that is what we do. It is natural that our first thoughts would be to how we are going to get our online choirs on board. We at Choir Community offered a free session to sing-along on Friday evening (Saturday morning down-under). To be honest, I was a little cynical that there was some ‘jumping on the band wagon’ going on but Craig and Piers moved forward with such love and passion that it has become (for want of a better word at this time) infectious. When we piloted it earlier in the week and I watched Craig conducting on my computer screen, as I sang along I shed a little tear, it was unexpectedly moving. Already choir leaders are feeding back that the online sessions they have had with their choirs have been really uplifting.

But you don’t have to start right now! My feeling is, even though there is panic about how the bills will be paid, we all have to make sure we are ready to inspire, and after all the shock, you might need some time to get your ‘well of well-being’ topped up. You might yourself need a couple of weeks of self-isolation, self-meditation, time with your nearest and dearest, cooking, singing along to your favourite song on the cd (what I have been doing) before you start the baby steps, or humungous strides forward into the next part of our singing adventure in whatever form it takes. I am off to my first on-line ‘stitch and bitch’. Crocheting anyone? Take care

Love Gitika x


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Distant-Sing – A Brand New Virtual Singing Experience

March 18, 2020 - By 

The situation with Coronavirus has changed our lives beyond recognition recently and we are all trying to work out new ways of interacting and keeping connected. All sorts of things are harder and some are impossible. Unfortunately one of these is being able to meet together to sing, which is what many of us rely on for our sanity and some for our actual livelihoods.

Sometimes when doors close others seem to open and we have discovered there is an opportunity to do something that perhaps we should have been doing all along…..

Welcome to a totally new online singing experience!

We are about to start a series of online singing experiences where you can join others from the safety of your home, either through a Computer, a Laptop, iPad or even smartphone, and not only meet singers from all round the world, but interact with them, make suggestions and connections, and even (almost) sing with them. You will have the option to join the session either on the Conferencing app Zoom, or Facebook live.

We will be using music available from the ChoirCommunity.net website. Normally there is a restriction to buy no less than 15 copies (based on the size of your choir) but this will be lifted for anyone joining the session so that the resource pack can be bought and downloaded by individuals wanting to take part as well.

Here’s how it’s going to work.

  • Register an account on ChoirCommunity (if you haven’t already) so you can access and download the resource pack for each session
  • If you want to join the session via Zoom, look into downloading the appropriate app or client for the device you are going to use
  • Download the resource pack for the appropriate upcoming session (the current pack can be found here)
  • Follow the instructions in the instructions and guidelines document includes in the resource pack for logging on and taking part in the session

The two experiences (Zoom and Facebook Live) will be a little different from each other.  Here’s how they will work:

If you choose the Zoom option you will be able to

  • See everybody who has turned their camera on
  • Talk to anyone who has joined (one at a time!)
  • Hear and watch the session leader teach the music
  • Type comments at any time or feedback when asked.
  • Sing along to the generated tracks.
  • Smile, wave, drink what you like, show pets, dance etc

If you choose the Facebook option you will be able to

  • See and hear the session leader very clearly
  • Type comments at any time – the leader can respond to these as well
  • Sometimes even hear the discussion between the singing sections
  • Sing along to any generated tracks

It’s important to note that the Zoom option will only be available to the first 100 joiners.  This is down to the limitation of the Zoom conferencing software.  If this idea is successful however, we will look at the options for increasing the number for future sessions.

We really hope you give this a try and join the community making great choral music together.

See you online soon!


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The Hal Leonard Page is Up and Running!

February 28, 2020 - By 

Very nearly a year ago today, we posted a blog announcing a brand new deal we had just signed with Hal Leonard, the largest publisher of sheet music in the world (Read the original blog here).  This was a very exciting moment for us, as Hal Leonard own or manage the rights to the vast majority of the most popular music produced over the last few decades.  The deal meant that many of our arrangers’ favourite songs could now be published on a worldwide basis, something previously denied to us.

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The Story of Dark Water

February 19, 2020 - By 

Since launching ChoirCommunity at the start of 2018, one of the things we’ve continued to ask ourselves is “what kind of website are we?”, or perhaps more specifically, “what kind of website are we striving to be?”.   On a superficial level, we are simply another digital marketplace for choir music, bringing choirs on one side and arrangers and composers on the other side together.  From the start however, we wanted to ensure we were more than just a ‘Wanna-Be Ebay’ for choirs.  As choir leaders and singers ourselves, we wanted to project something of the experience and enjoyment of what being part of a choir means to people and ensure that all our members shared that experience as well.  In order to do that, we knew that we had to maintain the highest standards of quality and variety with every piece of music we offered and present it in a way which is accessible and enjoyable to browse for.

That is the primary reason why we have retained a relatively small and ‘curated’ library of music and group of submitting artists.  We will continue to grow both, but always with a view to ensuring that what you can find on ChoirCommunity will always be interesting, satisfying, enjoyable and above all, great to sing!

Jane Edwardson approached us last year with a song called ‘Dark Water’ with a view to seeing if it was something we might be able to publish.  We immediately recognised that the song was all of the things described above, as well as carrying a important message about hope and friendship.  As an experienced choir leader and arranger of 30 years, it also helped that Jane had a large portfolio of other great arrangements which we could also have a look at (Watch this space!).

Jane has written some more detail about the song and why she arranged it for her choir below.  We hope you enjoy it and give the arrangement a try!

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Sing For Water 2020

January 23, 2020 - By 

It is well known that community choirs in particular have a long-standing tradition of fundraising and charity work.  In fact, we wrote about the very subject in our blog last April.

One of the most powerful ways in which choirs can make a real difference is when they come together and join forces for a common cause and there is perhaps no better example of this that the ‘Sing For Water’ initiative, which from humble beginnings has now raised over £1 million for Water Aid.

The idea behind the Sing For Water initiative is that choirs all over the country learn a set number of songs separately and then come together in large collaborative concerts to sing them.

We are therefore delighted that one of our songs has been chosen as one of the set pieces of music for this years events!  Craig’s arrangement of ‘Pokarekare Ana’ has been selected as one of seven pieces originating from different parts of the world.

Events for 2020 are starting to be announced all over the country, so if you’re interested in getting involved, google your nearest even and get stuck in!

A great way to start of course, would be to download our song and start practising!  It will continue to be freely available here all year.


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What’s the Value of Music?

October 17, 2019 - By 

As a choir leader or committee member, what percentage of your overall costs do you budget for the music you use and perform? This is a question that I’ve been able to ask quite a number of times over the last couple of years (we also ran a survey asking this very question before we launched ChoirCommunity) and the answer has often been quite interesting, if sometimes a little questionable.

…Because the answer is quite often a variation of either “I don’t know”, or “as little as possible” or even “we don’t really have a budget for music”.

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