Newsletter 4 – September 2023

Dear friends,
Welcome! As has become usual, my newsletter replaces the ‘Piece of the Week’ for this week.
I will focus primarily on choral music here. Several readers have already told me about the carols of mine they are hoping to programme at Christmas, but if your choir hasn’t yet chosen all its Christmas music, here are three carols you might consider:

Candle Carol
I wrote this for a small village church, and it’s for SATB or SA (TB are optional), accompanied by piano or organ – easy to learn, tuneful, and flexible! I wrote the words myself, about the four candles lit in most churches during Advent, one each week, representing hope, peace, joy, and love. It is published by OUP in the new Carols for Choirs 6 and is also available separately as a digital download (pdf) from Sheet Music Plus and other OUP digital providers. There’s a recording, with video, here.

Sing out, Angels!
There are two versions of this carol: SATB, and unison with optional descant, both with piano or organ.  Here, the angels sing to the shepherds – but it becomes a song of gratitude to the ‘angels’ and ‘stars’ in our modern world who look after the homeless and the refugees, the sick and the troubled, and all who need care and help.  With words by me, it is now published by the American publisher GIA, and I’m pleased to say that they sold c.1000 copies last year! GIA publish both printed and instant digital download editions of both versions – for UK purchasers the digital downloads will of course avoid postage costs and delay. SATB version here, and Unison/2 part version here. A recording, with video, is here.

Sweet babe, sang she
As well as working with major choral publishers like OUP and GIA, I’m self-publishing many of my choral works under the Colne Edition imprint, and making these available as digital downloads from various sites. This carol, written in 2021, for soprano solo (or semichorus) and SATB chorus unaccompanied, is an expressive portrait of the traditional Nativity scene. The words are from the seventeenth century, and while the chorus sing an ostinato lullaby in the background, the solo soprano sings reflectively in the foreground. Passages of gentle ‘alleluias’ make contrasting interludes for all voices together. It was first performed in concert by The Houston Chamber Choir, Texas, director Robert Simpson, in December 2022. Details of the score are here, and a recording with scrolling score is here.

Moving away from Christmas now, recent Colne Edition choral publications and re-issues have included an arrangement of the traditional spiritual Steal Away for SATB unaccompanied which I made over forty years ago, and a lively and rhythmic Alleluia, also for SATB unaccompanied. In a different vein, Three Nonsense Songs (from Mr Lear) for SATB and optional childrens’ choir would lighten up any concert!  The full Colne Edition catalogue is here.

But the biggest Colne Edition publication recently has been my cantata Endless Song, together with off-prints of most of the individual movements. For SATB choir and strings or piano, Endless Song is a celebration of singing, in five contrasted movements lasting nearly half-an-hour. One of the advantages of self-publishing is that I can produce the material much more quickly than a large publisher would be able to, and to sell it or hire it more cheaply as well. The separate movements and the complete vocal score are all now available on sale, with full score and instrumental parts on hire. I’ll say more about the individual movements another time, but for now please follow this link for more details and recordings.  And in these times when choral finances are tighter than ever, I’m always prepared to talk about ways to make things work…

Finally, my seasonal celebration A Feast for Christmas (SATB, optional children’s choir, narrator, brass quintet (or string quintet) or piano has continued to enliven many a Christmas concert and several choirs have enjoyed it so much that they have performed it at successive Christmases! This 8-movement cantata (c.30 mins) contrasts the cooking of the Christmas dinner and the pulling of crackers with more reflective Christmas themes, with an opportunity for the audience to join in at the end.  It’s available on sale or on hire from here.

Recent Pieces of the Week have included:
Olympian Sketches (clarinet or saxophone quartet)
Summer Afternoon (double SATB choir)
In such a night (SATB and piano)
Six Dances for Four Hands (piano duet)

I do hope you’ve enjoyed reading this newsletter.  With my best wishes for a smooth and fruitful Autumn!