Using What You’ve Got

Tomorrow morning, I’ll be presenting a session at the Massachusetts ACDA summer conference called “Using What You’ve Got: No-Budget, Non-SATB Repertoire Solutions.” I’ll be presenting this session again at the CT ACDA next month, too. So, for the reference of those who are at those sessions, here are the notes.

  • What you’ve got are:
    • Your singers
    • Their library
    • 1000 years of notated choral music
    • Your time, energy, attention, thoughtfulness, passion
    • A computer and Microsoft Paint
  • CPDL and IMSLP are great resources for public domain PDFs that may well be unusable as they stand, but are imminently editable.
  • Get permission to edit anything under copyright.
  • Composers want their music performed and heard!
  • Things to take into account when you’re editing a score are:
    • The balance and vocal ranges of your singers
    • The harmonic and textural integrity
      • chord inversion – especially root position chords
      • keeping all the entrances of imitative polyphony
    • singability of a line
      • avoid awkward melodic leaps
      • minimize commuting across clefs when possible
  • Step-by-step beginnings:
    • If you have a PDF, you can turn it into an image file by printing it out and scanning it in page by page. Or, with Acrobat Pro, you save “Save As” an “Image.” Select “JPEG.”
    • When you have each page saved as its own image file, open it in Paint.
    • Use the Text tool (the bold capital A among the tool choices] to create a text box to label staves, number measures, add expressive marking, translations, transliterations, etc.
    • Use the Select tool (the rectangle made of dashed lines) to draw boxes around whatever you want to delete or move.
    • Control-Z is “undo.”
    • Control-C is “copy.”
    • Control-X is “paste.”
    • Control-Z is “undo.”
    • Use the line drawing tool to create arrows pointing singers to change staves.
  • When you start to suspect that you’re a crazy person for taking on such a tedious project, remember:
    • You are the choir’s greatest resource.
    • Your work brings incredibly special repertoire to singers who deserve it.
    • You’ll get to work with music you love for three months or more!

Digital editing of image files is not remotely what I considered my job as a conductor when I first got into this work. But it’s my job to find where my singers are, imagine where I want them to go, and find a way to move them from the first place to the second. Whatever it takes: teaching them vocal technique and ear training, shaping articulation and phrasing, understanding the psychology that drives them as individuals and as a group, and even digitally editing their scores to make great repertoire accessible to them for free.

Whatever it takes. Conduct them from where they are to the best place you can imagine them.

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