Choral Scores of the Future

At the recent Music of Now Marathon at Symphony Space, I was intrigued to see violinist Daniel Phillips play a piece by his father, Eugene, using an iPad instead of a score, turning the pages with a wireless foot pedal. I quickly imagined what it would be like to have a whole choir using iPads instead of scores. Singers would no longer have to deal with heavy folders stuffed with scores, audiences wouldn’t have to listen to multiple crackling page turns, and choir organizers could avoid spending weeks acquiring paper scores from multiple sources and dragging them from place to place. Royalties and fees would still be paid, as they are with e-books.

Until that day comes, choir librarians and administrators like me continue to face the endless challenge of obtaining the multiple copies needed for the singers, which can come from sources as diverse as the music itself. A typical Melodia Women’s Choir concert may have between six and ten different pieces and almost as many sources for copies of the scores.

As we all know, photocopying scores is not permitted except under special circumstances. In our current program, we have two situations where copying is allowed. One involves the composer, Johannes Somary, who died a year ago. Somary had sent us the unpublished score not long before he became ill, which we were able to copy with permission from his widow, Anne Somary. Another piece on our current program is an unpublished work by a living composer who provided a .pdf of the score and a license to reproduce it, for which we paid a per-copy fee.

Some of the choral scores programmed in a concert may be in the public domain and may be available at ChoralWiki, home of the Choral Public Domain Library which contains a vast collection of scores. However, if you find a score here, it’s important to check it thoroughly to make sure it’s the original notation and to review it for errors.

For purchasing scores, jwpepper.com and sheetmusicplus.com carry significant choral catalogues. Smaller companies can help find scores not available elsewhere. Cliff Hill Music, is one I have used consistently.

Several choirs in the New York area make their score libraries available to other choirs through a rental program. New Amsterdam Singers‘ rental catalogue carries more than 740 sets of choral music scores with accompanying instrumental parts, including classical and contemporary works, available at a fraction of the purchase price.

Perhaps ten years from now choral singers will carry a simple tablet instead of a score–or by then there could be some completely new technology available. Time will tell.

3 thoughts on “Choral Scores of the Future

  1. Michael angel

    Dear Jenny,

    Thank you for showing me something very interesting, always giving me something to think about.
    Michael angel

    Reply
  2. Mark Winges

    Hi Jenny:

    Thanks for the article – Volti had 3 singers last concert set who used tablets. The best devices have necessary tools for adding “markings” to a .pdf, so their music had all the rehearsal markings. It’s a little easier for us since composers tend to send us .pdf scores and we do the duplicating (fee or no depends on the composers and the circumstances – ability to make our own scores is written into our contracts for works we commission).

    It is interesting visually too – several audience members noticed and commented on the fact.

    Reply
  3. Floyd Rumohr

    Hi Jenny,

    Ten years sounds distant in our rapidly evolving paperless world. It wouldn’t surprise me if choral music scores were available on less expensive Kindles and other mobile devices sooner than later.

    Reply

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