“There is more choral music being written now than at any time in the history of music — Discuss”.
That would be a good topic for a music undergraduate essay. It certainly seems that there’s a hefty dose of truth in that contention as I walk around the huge exhibition at the ACDA (Association of Choral Directors of America) Convention 2017 in Minneapolis.
Some 700 stands offer everything from new music folios, CDs, press packs, etc. And then there are the other stands, those offering a veritable rainbow of dresses and waistcoats so that choral directors can make sure their choirs are colour-coordinated! There are exhibitors offering music binders, music stands, portable stage risers, pencils — everything a choir could possible need.
And then there are the composers. I have attended a number of reading sessions and I have heard some very, very good music. There’s no doubt that there are many sublimely gifted composers out there.
So the question in my mind is this: how does a choral director decide what to perform? How does he/she sort the wheat from the, well, not-so-wheat? How does one get one’s music noticed.
And here the role of the publisher and agent comes into play. I have seen huge differences in the approaches taken by the best publishers and the rest of the publishers. The most successful composers seem to be with the most successful publishers. Is that a coincidence?
Cause or effect? Is the X-factor ingredient in a successful publisher the composer whose music gains traction amidst the flurry of noise, or is it that a dedicated team of professionals who are clearly very motivated and focused on getting their composers heard is the recipe for making the music a success?
As with all multi-dimensional questions, the answer isn’t clear. Having watched the pop-star popularity of Eric Whitacre, the quiet assurance of Ola Gjeilo and the Messiah-like expectancy surrounding the arrival of Bob Chilcott yesterday, I’m leaning towards the notion that the their larger-than-life personalities inform their music, and this is the X-factor that drives their success.
Combine that with a dedicated promotions and publishing team and — boom! There’s your recipe for success.
Of course, it helps that they all compose music that people love to sing!