Deadline: Fri 9th October 2020 at 5pm
We are looking for a LGBT+/queer composer songwriter to create a three minute a cappella work for The Sunday Boys - a Manchester based low voice choir (tenor and bass).
This new work will be rehearsed throughout November and December with a performance or performances - subject to restrictions - in December this year. A music video of the work might be made subject to a successful funding bid. Like many of our commissioned works we are likely to perform this work in future and place it in our ‘core’ repertoire.
Building on the success of Dominie Hooper’s Robin, why do you sing? which was commissioned and performed in winter 2019 we are looking for a new a cappella work in no more than three parts (although we’re open to ideas!) that explores themes around queerness and/or being LGBT+ and also celebrates winter time.
We are particularly looking for composers and songwriters who can write their own texts or have a suitable text to hand and permission to use it. We welcome a range of styles, genres and ideas, but are particularly looking for work in which the vocal writing is idiomatic, is suitable for an open access (but hard working) choir and gives all singers something interesting to sing. We are also passionate about the words we sing and the chosen text should be evocative, meaningful and well set to music.
The performance of this work will potentially be in a multistory car park (!) as well as performers being socially distanced from one another so we are looking for a composer/songwriter who understands the complexities of working in this setting, especially regarding how spacing and acoustic might impact on tightness of ensemble/togetherness.
We particularly welcome applications from people who are underrepresented in the choral sector and may face, or have faced, barriers in creating new music and working within this sector.
If you have any questions about this role please contact Michael on email@example.com
About The Sunday Boys
The Sunday Boys are an unauditioned, inclusive low voice choir with a majority gay identifying membership that rehearse on Sunday evenings in central Manchester.
Since their conception by composer Michael Betteridge, The Sunday Boys have grown from small beginnings to a choir 60+ strong and have performed across the city, the country and beyond. 2016 saw the choir perform at the finale of the Rochdale Literature and Ideas Festival alongside poets Ian and Andrew McMillan with the latter writing a poem that was set to music by Betteridge entitled 'hymn'. 2017 saw the choir present their first full length gig ‘50 Years of Change’ celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 with world premieres by Philip Venables, Anna Appleby and Husk - this gig later toured to Bury Art Museum and Birmingham Repertory Theatre and was also awarded the Voluntary Arts UK and Ireland’s Epic Award for ‘Celebrating Diversity’. 2018 saw: a tour to Iceland; a new 15 minute work created in collaboration with Andrew McMillan and Betteridge entitled 'the body is a choir room' - one movement of which was shortlisted for 2019 ISCM World Music Days in Estonia - performed at The Stoller Hall; a performance at Nottingham Contemporary as part of AHRC’s 'Being Human' festival; and a Christmas concert entitled 'A Very Queer Christmas' curated by trans theologian and writer Dr. Rev. Rachel Mann. March 2020 saw the choir take to The Lowry stage to a full audience with Songs From Sondheim. During lockdown the choir produced a full length digital gig from their own homes entitled At Home with The Sunday Boys premiering two new virtual choir videos in July 2020.
Fri Oct 9th (5pm)
Deadline for application
Mon Oct 12th
Successful composer/songwriter chosen
Fri Oct 23rd
First draft deadline
Fri Oct 30th
Sun Nov 1st
Performance and music video capture (tbc)
Please note the very tight turnaround of this new work!
The application process is intentionally short. We would like to hear and see at least one work, preferably written for a cappella voices. If you don’t have a work for a cappella voices please submit a work for voice. Both a recording and a score is preferred, but we are happy to receive one or the other. You can include a second score and/or recording if you wish. If you need to submit the application in a different format please get in touch with Michael on firstname.lastname@example.org
£400 - this is the fee for both words and music and allows us to print enough copies of the score and/or use electronic copies of the score until the end of 2021.
With the sudden move online due to the corona virus pandemic, there have been many fantastic articles about the most successful way to lead rehearsals online and how to best use one’s weekly rehearsal slot to keep members singing and engaged with music during this time of isolation.
Whilst nothing can beat singing together in person, after our first virtual rehearsal we discovered many positives to rehearsing online building on work other choral leaders have been undertaking in the past few weeks and days. Here’s a little about our process thus far which we hope will prove useful to other musical directors, choristers and anyone involved in a choir!
How did it work?
We used Tori Cook’s excellent article (read it here) as a starting point for our new online rehearsal process.
The choir invested in a Zoom business account and we sent the link to our members, giving them the timing of their sectional in advance. We made sure there was a small gap between each sectional to allow for our MD, Michael, to have a quick breather, but also to avoid delays in case of potential technical difficulties.
Our sectionals lasted 40 minutes each where we learned a new song (a new arrangement of ‘What will we do…?’ inspired by this fantastic performance by Joanna Harries and Jess Dandy) and went over some old repertoire - ‘Holding out for a Hero’ - camp, fun and silly. We wanted to do something serious and new so we could focus on the process of teaching new repertoire, but also give our members something to really have fun with and sing something familiar.
In each of these sectionals we had a warm up, spent the majority of the session learning the new arrangement (mainly ‘note-bashing’), and then went over our older repertoire in which we examined timbre and vocal quality as, for most of our singers, they were happy with the notes.
What was really vital to the rehearsal’s success was collaboration between the three ‘hosts’: the musical director, the technical ‘host’ and the ‘page turner’.
Michael, our MD, led rehearsal as normal - modeling the vocal lines, playing the harmony alongside the lines, etc, whilst Ben - our technical host - would field any technical queries but, most importantly, would also keep an eye on musical and vocal questions coming in. Michael would check in with Ben every so often to see if there were any questions from members - this allowed Michael to focus on teaching the repertoire quickly and efficiently without having to keep on checking the chat box.
During this, a member of our music team, Tom, was in control of the screen in which we featured whatever score we were working on, following the score and virtually turning pages for our members. Some members opted to have their own paper scores, however many found the score on the screen more useful. Ben would also be in charge of muting and unmuting members as appropriate giving Michael even more opportunity to focus on delivery.
After these sectionals our chair, Ed, did announcements as usual. This was followed by a group singalong!
As part of last Sunday’s rehearsal (21st March), Michael had two members of the choir join him in his flat and - at a safe distance - they sang in harmony through the repertoire the choir had practised in sectionals, so they could hear how it sounded and also give choir members an opportunity to sing a long in harmony. This was followed with existing repertoire in three parts that many of the choir are familiar with and that they could also sing along to. Of course at the time of writing, this now goes against government advice so this section of our rehearsal will be replaced with our MD Michael on piano, playing through the repertoire instead.
What did we do well…?
After each sectional, and the singalong, we asked members for feedback about their experience. Here’s some of the things they said:
It would be even better if…
It’s also good to get feedback to make sure we can offer the best possible experience to our members and here are some thoughts:
Of course so much is up in the air at the moment and we do not know when we will meet again in person as a choir, and what this might look like. Digital rehearsals have many positives, as well as a few drawbacks, but for many this is an excellent opportunity to improve their vocal ability and musical ability in a different way.
We won’t be running a typical ‘rehearsal’ every week as we are using this strange period to offer different developmental opportunities to our members. This may include one on one sessions and individual feedback; webinars on topics such as Dalcroze, music theory, music history, arranging, etc; and exploring new ways of creating music and performance through the tools we have at our disposal.
And our last point is a particularly fascinating one. The impact of working digitally and the inevitable ‘lag’ in software could be seen as an interesting parameter for future arrangements and compositions. We as a choir commission a lot of new work and will be thinking about whether we want to commission a ‘live virtual choir’ piece during this period. Whilst there are obvious limitations working virtually, it opens up a range of new thinking about arranging and composing for choir.
There are already brilliant examples of choirs syncing together and singing existing repertoire (famously ‘You will be Found’ from Dear Evan Hansen, or Whitacre’s Virtual Choir project) but we want to think outside the box.
Could we start writing music and arrangements that do not rely on syncing and could be performed live via Zoom or similar software?
Watch this space!
Artistic Director - The Sunday Boys