New anthology by Multitude of Voyces: sacred music by women composers

Happy Saint Cecilia’s Day!

On Sunday I had the great pleasure of attending a rehearsal, reception, Evensong and concert at Selwyn College to celebrate the launch of Multitude of Voyces’ anthology, sacred music by women composers. This is Volume 1, SATB Anthems, and it was wonderful to hear and sing some of the music. Many thanks are due to Sarah MacDonald and the choir of Selwyn Chapel, as well as everyone else who helped put together the event.

The anthology itself is excellent. There are twenty two pieces by twenty two composers, from the sixteenth century onward and including twelve by living composers. There are pieces for all levels — some that would be accessible for even the most amateur choir, and some that would challenge even a seasoned choral singer like me. There are pieces for all seasons. There is a brief commentary on each piece in the back of the book, and a biography of each composer in the front.

So far, so good. I would expect this much of any anthology these days. But the music — oh, the music! The reason that Sunday afternoon and evening was such a treat for me was that every piece I heard was stunningly beautiful. I keep flipping through it looking for highlights, and if I had to choose just one, well, I couldn’t. You can have a look for yourself, though, at a .pdf of the first page of each piece.

This is a volume that every SATB parish choir should own, and I unreservedly commend it to you. It is an invaluable resource full of simply gorgeous music. I am certain that it will make presenting a more inclusive, diverse and balanced selection of music a delight; and it will also give me something to be getting on with when updating this site. But there is a limited print run, and half of it has sold already. Go order your copy now! Go on. I’ll wait.

There are two more volumes planned for publication in 2020: Volume 2 — Upper Voices Anthems, and Volume 3 — Liturgical Works.

In other news, today marks two years since this site started. I’m currently in the throes of writing up my PhD in choral composition, so updates have been rather few and far between for a while, but I’m looking forward to getting back to it as soon as I can.

Signal Boost: A Mother’s Christmas

For those of you in or near Pasadena, California: The Pasadena Master Chorale is putting on a concert of Christmas music composed by women, including Caroline Mallonée, Katherine Beggs, Dale Trumbore, Amy Gordon, Abbie Betinis, Kira Dawn, Emily Feld, Jen Wang, and yours truly.

The concert is at 8pm on Saturday, 15th December, at St Philip the Apostle Church, 151 South Hill Avenue, zip code 91106.

It’s presented on a Listen First, Then Give basis. At the end of the concert, make a donation, as you are moved, as you are able.

They expect it to sell out, so you may want to register via EventBrite. There is also a Facebook event to share.

Signal Boost: LFCCM Call for Scores

Okay, okay, I’ve been quiet longer than I intended, and even let St Cecilia’s Day pass without much note. It turns out that the thing one does after passing one’s MPhil upgrade is not, in fact, spending several weeks catching up on everything else, but getting further behind while composing a substantial piece of music.

More on that later. On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending a Cecilia-tide Evensong at St Pancras Church, highlighting the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music. In some previous years the music at the Festival hasn’t had a great gender balance, if I’m honest, but the music on Sunday included works by Miriam Mackie and Deborah Pritchard. I tried to find a recording of the Pritchard, a beautifully haunting a cappella setting of Psalm 121, I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes Unto The Hills. Not only was I unable to find a recording, I’ve also not been able to find anywhere that you can buy the sheet music. I guess your best bet is to get in touch through her twitter account.

And if you’re a composer of church music and you’re reading this, or you know a composer of church music and you’re reading this, it’s well worth submitting new music to LFCCM before the deadline, which is Friday 30th November.

Signal Boost: Multitude of Voyces Anthology

Multitude of Voyces are compiling an anthology of liturgical music composed by women.

St Cecilia as an organist on a stained glass window: Eckendorf(Grafschaft) St.Cosmas und Damian Fenster514

There’s an article in the Church Times about it, complete with an appeal for scores that are “free of copyright”. I’m not sure whether that includes Creative Commons works, or whether the anthology will interface with the Christian Copyright Licensing Initiative, or what; but it sounds to me like the aim is to get music sung and played, without high costs for the churches that use it. It’s definitely worth asking for more detail!

Scores can be emailed to, or posted to Multitude of Voyces, 7 New Street, Salisbury, SP1 2PH.

Signal Boost: Aurora Nova choir at St Paul’s Cathedral, London

I mentioned on Thursday that the Aurora Nova choir would be singing d’Este’s O salutaris sostia on Sunday at St Paul’s. Well, that’s not all they’re singing. From a tweet by Sarah MacDonald, it looks like the music list is as follows:

11:30am Sung Eucharist:

Mass Setting — Missa Mariae, Cecilia McDowall
Anthem — O salutaris hostia, d’Este
Voluntary — Carillon, Kerensa Briggs
Hymns: 351, 342 (452), R&S 244 (Part II), 114 (I recognise some of these from the New English Hymnal and I don’t think they have music by women, but the ones that aren’t from NEH might; and I don’t know about the words, off the top of my head.)

3.15pm Evensong (Eve of the Annunciation of Our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary):

Responses — Sarah MacDonald
Canticles — Magnificat and Nunc dimittis Regina caeli, Katherine Dienes
Anthem — Ave Maria, Roxanna Panufnik
Voluntary — The Tree of Peace, Judith Weir
Hymns: 181 (ii), 187, 186 (Again, from memory, I don’t think music for any of these hymns is by women, though I’m uncertain about the words.)

This is a pretty good lineup, and a strong challenge to the idea that music by women, or sung by women, isn’t suitable for “serious” cathedral services (scare quotes because ordinary parish services can be serious, too). It would be great to see more hymns by women, but perhaps for that we need to look more to the compilers of hymnals, as (especially in a cathedral context with a visiting choir) there is a strong tendency to want to stick to the book when it comes to congregational hymnody. I understand that the Revised English Hymnal, the successor to the New English Hymnal, will be published sometime this year; I hope that it offers a better gender balance than previous editions.

In any case, for my part I’m planning to go along to St Paul’s on Sunday; perhaps I’ll see you there.

Signal Boost: This Day — Blossom Street Singers

In 1918, women (or some of them, anyway) in Britain got the right to vote.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of this, Blossom Street Singers are recording an album with Naxos which will consist entirely of music composed by women, and sung by upper voices. There will be several pieces, old and new, that have never been recorded before. Composers include Elizabeth Maconchy, Judith Weir, Elizabeth Poston, Judith Bingham, Kerry Andrew, Roxanna Panufnik, Cecilia McDowall and many more.

Blossom Street Singers was founded by Hilary Campbell whilst studying at the University of York, and later relocated to London. The choir is excellent and I am sure the CD will be as well.

You can read more about the CD, and sponsor the recording project, at the crowdfunding page for This Day.

Signal Boost: a selection of Advent calendars

I thought, briefly, about doing some kind of Cecilia’s List Advent calendar. Then I thought better of it: I don’t have enough music in the database yet to do that without repeating composers. But there are some other musical Advent calendars which might be of interest:

Over on tumblr, Emily E Hogstad has the Song of the Lark Advent Calendar, made up of some of her favourite compositions by women.

Salon Without Boundaries also has an Advent Calendar, under the “discover” tag on their website, with visual art and music by women every day.

And last but not least, Ally Barrett has some Advent doodles and reflections, based on scripture.

Signal Boost: the Ossia Project

Ossia Project is:

a crowd-sourced micro-commissioning fund. We work with our subscribers to create regular, accessible opportunities for composers, to support the creation of new works. Ossia project currently commissions one composer each month, with an emphasis on female composers, composers with disabilities, composers of color, and other composer groups that have historically faced barriers in accessing opportunities in new music.

Their current call for scores is for piano pieces, 2-6 minutes in duration, and expires 15th December 2017.

Signal Boost: Multitude of Voyces hymn tune composing competition

Multitude of Voyces have a hymn-tune composing competition. The deadline is 11th December, so if you’re a dab hand at writing hymn tunes, do have a look and enter.

Multitude of Voyces invites submissions for its inaugural hymn-tune composing competition.

Multitude of Voyces exists to support Inclusive Community through music with underrepresented, underutilised, vulnerable or marginalised communities. This competition is part of a project which aims to raise the profile of and provide new opportunities for women composers, writers and performers involved in Anglican worship.

The competition is open to those who identify as women composers (hereafter known as women composers) of any nationality and age. The hymn-tune should be written for SATB voices with organ/piano accompaniment and should be suitable for an SATB congregation to sing without rehearsal. The tune should be suitable to be sung to the words Sing a New Church by Sister Delores Dufner OSB.

There is no entry fee.

Learn more about the competition, and about Multitude of Voyces generally, at the Multitude of Voyces website.