Blog - Page 2 of 3 - ChoirCommunity
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.
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!
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.
We have had another busy year at ChoirCommunity and like last year, thought it was worth taking a break to have a look back over the last 12 months and appreciate how far we’ve come – with the help of all our fantastic community of choirs of course!
In last year’s blog, we did this month by month but this year I thought I’d group our highlights into different themes, so here goes……
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”.
Even though I grew up in the late 60s and early 70s the Goon show formed an important part of my childhood. The original shows had long been recorded and were definitely of the previous generation (I was more of a Goodies fan and later Monty Python of course), but they were still played regularly on Radio 4 and we had a Goon Show script book in the library at choir school which my friend David Fisk and I would avidly read through trying all the voices.
One of my very earliest memories is my Dad putting on his 78 record of the Ying Tong Song and singing along syllable perfect, there was also “Bluebottle Blues” and “I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas”, played endlessly till the groove was worn out.
I was reading “Silly Verse for Kids” from a very early age, which I loved. Then my uncle gave me the “Book of Milliganimals” for my 7th birthday, and that sealed the deal. I was officially a lifelong Spike fan, memorising most of the poems and re-reading the Bald Twit Lion more times than I could say. When something you read makes you laugh out loud when you are on your own until it hurts you remember those times fondly. The concept of monkeys hanging in the sky waiting years for the trees to reach them resonated with me like nothing else, and it has been wonderful to discover as I grew that many other people feel the same about this unique imagination. Spike Milligan has been and probably will be the single most influential comic mind of our time and possibly any other, and it would be a brave person who could argue otherwise given the weight of evidence that supports this claim.
They say you should never meet your heroes but I very nearly did. In the late 80s I was starting out as a professional musician and often sang around London churches building up a list of contacts and deputy lists – one of these places was in Knightsbridge where they often hosted celebrity weddings. So I found myself as one of the quartet booked to be the choir at the wedding of Bill Wyman and Mandy Smith, complete with TV news cameras and more paparazzi than could fit in the churchyard. Normally you just turn up at these occasions, sing the hymns and a Rutter anthem, no one says anything and you are ushered out of the vestry door unceremoniously. This was a little different as apparently they were so taken by the “singing” of the choir that we were invited to the reception at the Grosvenor House Hotel Park Lane. Well we weren’t going to turn an offer like that down and found ourselves in a melee of celebrity. Literally everyone you ever heard of was there, and we had to explain ourselves quite a lot. I was sat next to Jimmy Perry and David Croft (writers of Dad’s Army) and across the table from Jeff Banks the fashion designer, who was very friendly as I recall.
Suddenly there was a commotion and everyone looked over to where the fuss was – Spike had arrived bringing with him his wedding present for Bill – a zimmer frame. Of course it brought the house down in the same way that his infamous outburst about Prince Charles at the award ceremony would in later years. All this time later I’m not sure why I hadn’t plucked up courage to say hello. I think I started offering peanuts around awkwardly and Kim Wilde took one, but that was as close as I got.
In 1998 “On The Ning Nang Nong” was voted the Uk’s most popular comic poem of all time. There are musical versions, including one for an Australian kids TV show, but recently I thought this really deserves a proper choral treatment, so here it is; along with settings of “There Are Holes In The Sky” and “I’ve Never Felt Finer”, both among my personal favourites. We are so very honoured that Spike’s family have agreed to an exclusive publishing deal with us here at ChoirCommunity so this is the only place you will find these settings. They have also never been performed as a set so you have the chance to present a World Premiere if you act fast! Click here to preview the arrangements.
…and if they go down well you might be getting news of possible additions to the set – as the great man once said – “And there’s more my friends where that came from!”
Craig McLeish – September 16th 2019
Past and Present – The Partington Singers and The Roaring Trowmen
When I was young I was a member of ‘The Partington Family Singers’ of which my dear brother Dave was the youngest member. We didn’t sing together for many years after we left school, until our dad (who taught us everything we know about singing) sadly died in 2014 and we sung together at his funeral. We have been doing our own singing ventures thought the years, and one of Dave’s was being a core member of The Roaring Trowmen, a wonderful Sea Shanty group who have played all the major British Folk Festivals.
When I got more involved in ChoirCommunity it became apparent that we were looking for more pieces for men and one day Dave (a keen long distance cyclist) stopped in for large amounts of cake on the way to a place many miles away by bike – the penny dropped! His group have two albums out, and by chance also had audios of each voice on its own, so I started trawling through, transcribing (with the help of Kate Gessey and Doug Waller) and making them available for you to sing. I had fun taking Dave’s bass parts and then arranging a couple for mixed voices, so got to sing with my brother again (even though he was not even in the building).
The shanties for men are labelled TTBB (tenor 1 & 2 bass 1& 2) and mostly the parts do work from high to low, but Douglas Watts (who with Sam Burns has also added to the collection) says they really are just ‘parts for men’ and don’t really follow the more conventional rules of who sings high and who sings low. Looking at them on a score, sometimes the parts feel a little curious, but these are the real deal – parts made up in the back room of a pub and really true to the aural tradition, so there is no need to be precious with them. They are not set in stone and are to be played with and changed as often as you see fit. We hope you enjoy them.
Have a look through the selection here and let us know what you think! (also try and work out who is the same person in the images above)
We’re always striving to provide music which can be enjoyed by as many different types of singing group as possible. Many of you have often told us that you are often constrained with the music you can try out by many different factors, such as which voices you have to work with for a particular rehearsal or the unexpected lack of an accompanist, for example.
Craig has created an initial pack of simple rounds which can be used as warm-up exercises or just enjoyable pieces to have fun with. They are completely flexible so can be tried among any group and will always sound great!
This is the start of another brand new section on the website which we intend to expand with all sorts of creative ideas and enjoyable exercises to try, whatever mix of voices your group is comprised of!
The first Rounds pack can be found here. Please check it out and let us know what you think!
Image by Karen Kodish Photography
We’ve got a new look to our homepage this month. We hope you like it as much as we do! Hopefully it looks lighter, sharper and also a bit clearer. We have introduced featured music panels, which showcase different aspects of our library, each of which is illustrated with a unique icon. We will be rotating these over the next few months to see which work best and also to introduce new music as it becomes available.
…which leads me onto the real reason that we did this. I am delighted to be able to launch a whole new section of the website for ChoirCommunity. Thanks to our partnership with Making Music, we have reached an agreement to publish the original works created as part of their ‘Adopt a Composer’ initiative. This is a scheme which runs every year and encourages music groups of all types to commission original pieces of work from composers working in the UK. All of the completed works are performed by the group in question and most are broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
For the launch of this new section, we welcome Mark Boden, Aran Browning and Rosie Clements whose original compositions are a wonderful examples of the contemporary choral music scene in the UK. Meet them on the new composers’s page here and take a look at their submissions.
We have also added one of Craig’s original works here too and will be adding more from him, as well as many others in the future.
One of the really enjoyable experiences we have had since setting up ChoirCommunity has been to see the growing number of choirs discover the website and sign up. I get an alert email every time that happens and it still gives me a little buzz each time it happens!
….which is quite nice since it has now happened well over 800 times since January 2018! After we put out the results of the competition last month, it struck me that it might be rather cool to see a more visual illustration of that experience, so after researching various options, our new Maps page has been born!Read More
Since the Easter break Craig and I have been thoroughly enjoying the task of judging the entries for our competition, #16SecondsOfSound and are delighted to announce the winners here!
It was a tough decision to split out the top group, but we eventually settled on our winners without too may arguments!
The winner of the 1st prize and recipient of a specially commissioned piece written by Craig, as well as 10,000 bonus reward points (worth £50 towards future purchases on ChoirCommunity) is………..Read More
A bold claim, I hear you cry, and you would be right. But my boldness is based on experience and some tangible facts. We have heard many positive things recently about the individual health benefits from singing in a choir. Lung capacity increases, endorphins and feel-good chemicals flood the bloodstream. The shared experience and fellowship derived from choir membership has incalculable power to fight loneliness, stress, anxiety and depression. The list goes on. but I’m certain that many of you have been surprised at how much we can raise for charities, both local and abroad, simply by doing what we love and asking a tiny bit from those who hear us?
Milton Keynes Community Choir are a wonderful bunch of people. In 2008 they didn’t know each other at all. Since then they have raised money on a regular basis through raffles and concerts, and pop up “Sing” events, either in the Shopping Centre or wherever they will have us! There are many local charities who have benefitted from us simply performing what we were going to do anyway, and at a concert they get the proceeds from the raffle, the programme and refreshment sales, which often amounts to around £1000 a time.
Often disastrous world events take hold of the media and you can’t avoid the feeling that we are very lucky to live where we are, so the focus is on the relief aid that is going on and the little we can do to put something towards that massive need. In our city there are a number of places that let you turn up and shake a bucket or two but you need to ask first, and if they know you already it’s a bit easier. Last week the devastation of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique Malawi and Zimbabwe dominated the airwaves and we felt we had to get out there and do something. We had an hour and a half at the station from 5.30 to 7pm – when a lot of commuter trains come in, and some people (not all!) react very positively towards others who have gone out of their way to ‘brighten’ the end of their journey! The station has the added bonus for us of having a rather good acoustic, even in the corridor where we were hustled!
Then what to sing? Something related to the area we are collecting for would seem to be a place to start. During our time as a Community Choir we have learnt versions of one or two simpler African songs where the parts repeat fairly often and new verses can be created with only a few word changes and sometimes a translation. Bambalela, Mambo Sawa Sawa, Homeless, Freedom is Coming, A Keelie Makolay, Ipharadisi, Maliswe are all good examples of this type of song and can all be found on our ChoirCommunity site. When we were singing the words “Strong winds destroy our homes – many dead tonight it could be you” from ‘Homeless’ there was certainly a real intensity about the moment!
There are other songs which aren’t African but are just as easy to pick up – Down In The River, Bring Me Little Water Sylvie, I’m Gonna Lift My Brother Up etc.
The following day after our little sing, our amazing chairperson who had taken all the cash home and counted it revealed it amounted to £850! One of our basses couldn’t make it but was clever enough to start a JustGiving page for others like himself that couldn’t be there in person – this too raised another £800 in a few days. A drop in the ocean compared to how much need there is out there, but a wonderful way to spend the early evening and some useful practice into the bargain! It struck me that if every choir in the country sang at their local centre or station once a week – how much could be raised? Write to us with your fund raising stories and if you want to be part of a BIG SING fundraiser one day let us know!
By the way, if you want to see a video of the MKCC giving it their all last week, find the Facebook ‘ChoirCommunity Supporters Group’ (Search for us on Facebook) and join our growing group!
I wanted to let you all know some great news this week. Gitika Partington has agreed to take the ‘brave’ step of joining ChoirCommunity as both a shareholder and director! As you may know already, she was one of our launch arrangers and has been enormously supportive from the start – since Craig and I went to meet her in London back in early 2017 with the seed of the idea in fact! Since then we have benefited enormously from her boundless energy, positivity and creativity – not to mention her accessible and beautifully crafted arrangements – so it is wonderful that we have been able to turn that into something more tangible.
Gitika is one of the most experienced and respected singer-songwriter-choral arranger-choir leader-educational advisors working today. Her first loves are her choirs and her band (3 Bucket Jones), but she also gets involved in many other ventures, including vocal workshops, masterclasses and festivals.
Gitika will work specifically on helping to promote the choircommunity website and find ways of increasing our reach in the UK and beyond. As a new small business, growing our audience is really the number one priority and Gitika has more ideas about how to do that than Craig and I have had hot dinners combined! I know she will be a fantastic ambassador for the business.
I’m sure you’ll all join me on congratulating her (or us if you think that’s more suitable), on her latest appointment!
It’s no great secret or surprise I’m sure that the biggest challenge we have faced with this venture is the clearance process for copyrighted material. We are extremely proud of our arrangements created from songs in the public domain, but we know that the arrangements which really get hearts racing are those adapted from popular favourites of recent (and not so recent) years.
We have had some success in getting rights-owned songs approved for publication. As of this post, we have 33 cleared titles available on the website. The problem is that it has taken a great deal of effort, time and cost just to get these 33 titles approved.
I am very excited to announce therefore that this is all about to change!Read More
It’s a great feeling when an opportunity seems to just pop up out of nowhere and leads to something really beneficial for all concerned. I happened to see a post on Facebook last week promoting a network event for choir leaders in Surrey. The event was being organised by Polly Murray who runs the Full Circle Vocal Group in Godalming. It looked like a great event so I got in touch to see if there was any way we could support it.
A few days and emails later and we are proudly sponsoring the event, while also providing a discount to anyone who is able to register and attend.
This is just the sort of thing I hope we can do more of in the future. We started up ChoirCommunity to promote and share the positive experience of being part of a choir as much as providing great music to sing. Anything which enables people to come together and do that is definitely something we want to promote.
Do you know of any similar event happening in your area? If so, please get in touch and let us know, either by posting a message here or email us at [email protected] Alternatively, why not start something up yourself? We would be delighted to talk about supporting you!
Yes it is a cliché, but time really does fly when you’re having fun! We launched the #16SecondsOfSound competition back last October and already we are less than one month away from the 31st March deadline for entries!
We’ve had some fantastic submissions so far, but it would be great to get some more in over the next few weeks. Craig and I will be judging them in April and the winning choir will get a bespoke arrangement written for them by Craig himself, as well as enough rewards points to get your next couple of arrangements from the site for free! There are also other prizes of rewards points available too.
The competition is very easy to enter and only requires a choir (which hopefully you already have access to) and a smart phone. The rules and terms and conditions can be found here.
If you want to see some examples of other entries so far, check out our YouTube Channel. We’ve not been able to put them all up due to copyright issues, but you can get some ideas here.
It really would be great to see some more examples of the fun and enjoyment which the other entries so far have shown so please send us an example of what you can do and we will announce the winners in April.
One of the organisations we have teamed up with in 2018 is Young Voices. This made a lot of sense, mainly because Craig has been Musical Director of Young Voices since the year 2000, and his arrangements for school choirs have gone a long way towards the astonishing growth of the phenomenon that is YV.
Young Voices is the brainchild of one David Lewis, a former Glamorgan cricketer and entrepreneur who was appalled at the lack of singing at a Wales rugby match in 1992. He phoned 8 choirs before the next match, they all said yes, sang their hearts out and it was a huge hit. Soon after the first World Choir concert took place in Cardiff Arms Park with 10,000 singers accompanying Tom Jones, and a second event was led by the indomitable Shirley Bassey.
Lewis was spurred on to try a similar thing in America but for all sorts of reasons it flopped and he lost everything. Luckily a conversation with his friend Donald Woods, the South African journalist and anti-apartheid campaigner, pushed him back on course, and his tenacity resulted in a 6,500 strong children’s concert at Lansdowne Road in Ireland in 1996. The first UK series of 4 concerts was held the following year. Today the series is 24 nights long and will feature 160, 000 children from nearly 4000 schools.
At a time when school music seems to be on the decline Young Voices is providing a much needed service of quality music participation and education, culminating in a world class arena event where the children are the stars of the show. Those of you who have either taken your choir to be part of one of these events or if you are a proud parent of a performing child will know how special these nights can be.
We are proud that some of the YV back catalogue is exclusively available as a series of resource packs on ChoirCommunity and we plan to feature much more in the coming year. Just like the concerts these arrangements always seek to provide a memorable musical experience for those taking part. Backing tracks are high quality and medleys are skilfully designed to flow like a single piece. Find out for yourself by browsing the Young Voices page and watch out for more releases soon.
The 2019 season is now in full swing with concerts in the Sheffield Arena, Birmingham Arena, Manchester Arena and finishing up at the O2 in London for 7 dates! You can follow along with the excitement as it unfolds on facebook, twitter and other social media channels.
So it’s 2019 already – that came around fast! We thought we’d kick off the new year with a focus on the rights-owned content on the site. There’s a couple of reasons for this – firstly we’ve not done it before and secondly, the rights-owned titles on the site are some of the most popular arrangements we’ve put up so far so it seemed like a good idea to put a bit more focus on them.
We have replaced the Christmas Arrangements link on our Home Page with a new ‘Cleared Copyright Arrangements’ link and created a dedicated page just for these titles (The Christmas Arrangements are all still there by the way and you can still access them from our online catalogue if you want to get ahead on Christmas 2019!).
I was thinking to myself why we hadn’t done this before and I realised that it’s probably because in reality, we haven’t been able to achieve what we had originally planned in terms of getting our arrangements of publisher-owned songs up onto the site. The whole process proved to be considerably more drawn-out and problematic than we envisaged and we have climbed a steep learning curve throughout last year in working out how to make it all work better.
Looking back now and reviewing the catalogue of rights-owned titles we have on the site, it’s actually quite pleasing what we did achieve though. Thanks to our friends at 32Music who have helped us with the clearance process since the start, we have 34 titles on the site as we speak and all of them are pretty special arrangements.
In addition to this, I’m hoping to be able to announce some very exciting news in this whole area soon, but that’s for another blog (I hope!).
In the meantime, please do check out what we have been able to licence successfully so far – there really are some absolute gems in there. Also, do let us know what you think of them- we’d love to hear from your experiences.
We’re all going to see a lot of retrospectives over the next few weeks, looking at 2018 from every perspective and point of view. Many of them I expect will have an element of negativity, given what we’ve been experiencing in politics, environmental issues and troubles of various sorts around the world.
So this is going to be an unrepentantly positive one! We’ve had a great first year at ChoirCommunity thanks to all of you who have supported us, signed up and given our arrangements a try. It’s not been without its challenges, but the experience of setting up a new digital service for choirs in 2018 has been a constantly joyous and rewarding one. As an occasionally grumpy businessman and IT professional, I have learned that choir leaders are some of the most positive, energetic and beguilingly lovely people on the planet – I guess you have to be to get the results you do out of your many choirs – and that has been an enormous factor in making our first year so enjoyable.
We have got some very exciting plans in the pipeline for 2019, but we’ll wait until the New Year to reveal them. For now, I thought I’d look back briefly on each month to show how far we’ve come in such a short space of time. I hope you enjoy the most positive review of 2018 out there!
We have created another example video for our competition this week. Craig’s choir, MKCC (Milton Keynes Community Choir) have selected the chorus from ‘Te Harinui’ – Wendy Sergeant’s arrangement of a New Zealand Christmas song.
We’ve added two more simple and lovely arrangements this week – both from two of our newer arrangers.
Wendy Sergeant has created a beautiful version of a traditional Spanish carol ‘A La Nanita Nana‘. The arrangement is extremely versatile as it can be sung in two or three parts and works beautifully accompanied by a guitar or a cappella. This is also makes a great duo of ‘World Music’ carols with Wendy’s other title; ‘Te Harinui’ which comes from New Zealand.
If you’re still in good voice come the New Year, Alison Crutchley has created a simple arrangement of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ for upper voices which would work beautifully at any event to see in 2019!
Craig has written a personal piece for this week’s blog, providing an insight into his own musical journey. It is also published as a guest blog at Making Music here. We hope you enjoy it!
When I was trying to justify my existence as a music student I often suffered from crises of confidence. In talking to colleagues years later it is some comfort to learn that I wasn’t alone in thinking that everyone else was far more talented and that sooner or later I would be “found out”, apparently we all, (apart from a very few confidence ridden individuals) have thoughts about not really belonging where we find ourselves.
One of the challenges of any new business is to find new ways of reaching as much of their potential market as possible with a message that sparks interest or resonates with their audience in some way. In these times where we are all constantly bombarded with information practically every moment, it sometimes feels like an impossible task not to be lost in the maelstrom!
We’ve obtained quite a pile of new arrangements this week, covering a broad range of styles and voices. I hope you find something new to try!