It is 30 years since I started composing music for choirs and to celebrate this - and my April birthday - I’ve embarked on a project to record some of these choral pieces. What my life in music has taught me is that singing mends the heart - it reaches the essence of who we are; it can make us well. A couple of my pieces are being performed worldwide, but none of these compositions have been recorded properly, and I need good recordings to use for publicity, for marketing and for people to enjoy. So it’s my 2019 dream to make this happen, ideally for an autumn release of the recordings digitally and on CD.
I need to raise at least £5000 to get going on the recordings. I’ve personally funded albums of my solo songs in the past, but it’s an expensive business recording a choir because of the number of singers involved and the need to record in a large, well-equipped studio.
Initially I’m planning one half-day session to record as much as possible in that time. If I get more funding, I’ll be able to record more pieces. Here’s a budget of costs to record the songs. I am contributing my time for free:
The singers and pianist for the recording will cost £2,250
The studio will cost £852
The choir conductor will cost £480
The editing and mixing will cost £600
CD design, duplication and digital distribution will cost £800
Voices singing in harmony are, for me, one of life’s greatest pleasures, and listening to choirs or singing with others really helps to support good mental health, amongst many other benefits. This is why I continue to lead singing groups of different kinds mainly in the community, and compose and arrange songs for choirs. I’ve been working as a musician all my life in different guises and genres:
- composer of incidental music for Grampian TV/Channel 4
- musical director and composer for 9 community musicals
- singer, composer and vocal arranger with trio Anam Cara - folk/world songs
- as a music therapist I lead Sing For Your Lungs at Whittington Hospital, a choir for people with breathing problems
- choir director and vocal arranger for Garden Museum Choir and Yerbury Community Choir
- community singing leader (pianist/guitarist) in pubs, churches and care homes
- founder and leader of Voices Singing Workshop for 20 years, for all who enjoy singing
- music director for two inner London churches, and MD for jazz vespers, composing for and conducting the choirs in each place
- a number of my songs have been published in a variety of hymnbooks worldwide
Most of my work in music doesn’t pay much, but I do it because I love it, and because music - and singing in particular - goes to the heart of who we are, and can bring a great sense of well-being in different ways. It can benefit physical health particularly through the deeper breathing needed for singing. Group singing can bring people together in a way that nothing else can, and helps people express deep feelings that are hard to articulate. And it can help lonely people find community. As Beethoven reputedly wrote, ‘I leave my music to heal the world’. And from William Morris: ‘We are of one blood, you and I…and we shall go singing to the fashioning of a new world’.
These are some of the responses I’ve had to my music:
‘Without fail it moves people’ (Candy Verney, singing leader)
‘…haunting melodies and choral arrangements…’ (Church Mouse CDs review)
‘Sensitive and emotive’ (Garth Hewitt, singer-songwriter, founder of Amos Trust)
‘Beautiful without being invasive’ (Malcolm Doney, writer, broadcaster and priest)
‘I’ve been working and living to your improvisations today. Wonderful’ (Simon Parke, writer)
- Calm - one of the tracks from my solo album, Sometimes the Sun - has been streamed tens of thousands of times worldwide
- This Night, a Celtic carol, was highly commended in the Bach Choir’s Sir David Willcocks Carol Competition in 2017. Composer John Rutter was one of the judges. The Bach Choir performed the piece in their Cadogan Hall Carol Concert, 2017.
I’m honoured to be working with Mark Warman, experienced musical director and orchestrator, who will be co-producing the recordings. Mark has not only worked with the late-lamented Scott Walker for 15 years on his albums, but has also worked with me on all my other solo recording projects which are available online (vocal trio, Anam Cara’s two albums, Live at St George’s (2001) & Seize the Moment (2009), my own showcase album Sometimes the Sun (1998), an album of original piano music, Improvisations (2011) and an album of highlights from an annual community musical I was composer and MD for - Behind Us! (2002)
The recording will include some of the following, depending on how much money is raised:
• Because Of You - a piece I wrote in 2018 for the wedding of my niece, Phoebe to Nick
• Emmanuel Mass - begun in 1986 and added to in 1998. The Mass setting is used in churches throughout the UK, including my church, St Luke’s Church, West Holloway
• This Night - a carol I composed in 1997, inspired by a poem from the Celtic collection of writings, Carmina Gaedelica. It was ‘highly commended’ when I entered it into the Bach Choir’s Sir David Willcocks Carol Competition in 2017. The judges included composer John Rutter. The Bach Choir performed it in their concert, Carols at Cadogan in December 2017
• A Bethlehem Lament - composed in 2002 in response to news of the bombing of Bethlehem. It was recently included in a concert at St Luke’s Church, West Holloway and received a standing ovation from visiting singers from Bethlehem.
• I Am Tired, And I A Stranger - composed in 1998, with words attributed to St Columba. It sat in a drawer for a couple of years until it emerged and became a favourite, first with my vocal trio, Anam Cara, and later with community choirs throughout the UK
• Settings of fragments from the Persian poet, Rumi:
- Come, Come, Whoever You Are
- Let Yourself Be Silently Drawn
Thanks very much indeed for being part of this and helping to get my music more widely known.