Friday, 23 January 2009

London Alternative Copyright Choir

I'm running a very exciting project as part of my BMus degree. I am putting together a choir, which will do eight weeks of rehearsal and then a concert. The exciting part? All the music used will be acquired, copied, and performed using non-traditional alternatives to copyright, and the part of the proceeds will go to the Open Rights Group. You don't need to read music and there are no auditions.

We will be rehearsing on Thursday evenings from 7.30pm to 9.30pm on the following dates:
29th January
12th, 19th and 26th February
5th, 12th and 19th March.

Please note: no rehearsal 5th February!

The concert will be on 20th March at 8pm. Rehearsals and the concert are at St. John on Bethnal Green church, conveniently located at Bethnal Green tube station.

The website (still under construction, but it has the important details) is here:
The Google Group is here:
There is a poster which you could print out here:

So: Five Reasons Why You Should Sing With The London Alternative Copyright Choir!

1. It's only a small time commitment

Just one Thursday evening a week for eight weeks, and then a concert. A great way to try out the choir thing without committing to giving up an evening a week for the rest of your mortal life!

2. You will get to meet and spend time with shiny people!

Singing in a choir is a great way to meet new people, and to regularly see old friends.

3. Singing is great!

Singing is fun - and it's good for your well-being and mental health! Breathing to sing is physically relaxing, creating music with other people is one of those things which is amazing in ways that it's hard to put into words. Performing can be a buzz! (And it's legal, and you don't get a hangover).

4. You will get to learn some awesome music!

Purcell! He wrote the first opera in English! He wrote loads of music that was used as incidental music in contemporary productions of Shakespeare's plays! And now you can access his music for free on the internet! How cool is that?

Plus, we'll be doing some new music written specially for the choir. Honestly, there is nothing more exciting than getting to work on new music with the composer for the first performance - and amateur choirs are rarely able to do it, at least partly because commissioning fees are extremely expensive (after all, composers have to eat). We are lucky to be working with composers who believe that there are models which allow them to perform and spread their music differently, so that all sorts of groups have access to new music. Which leads neatly on to the big one:

5. The renegotiation of Intellectual Property Laws is one of the most important socio-political / legal debates of the Internet age.

This is about who has the power to profit from our music, our art, our ideas. This is about how we assign value. Some of you have already seen this debate go past, and already know how relevant it is to you. Some of you work with open source code. Open source music (and other forms of art) will have to work to a slightly different model, which we haven't quite got figured out yet.

Regardless of whether you see this like I do, I invite you to explore the Open Rights Group website, and think about why this is so important in an age when our methods for dissemination of ideas are becoming something new and unforeseen and glorious.

Great! I'm sold! Sign me up!

If you want to take part in the London Alternative Copyright Choir, see the website (still under construction) for more details: or join the Google group at

That all sounds amazing, but I don't have the time / don't live in London

There are still loads of ways you can help out!

1) Spread the word, and help us recruit singers! I'm sure you lot know musical geeks in London that aren't likely to be reading this. Let them know! Link to this post or point them at the website.

2) Come to the concert! It will be on the 20th of March, at St John on Bethnal Green, right by Bethnal Green Tube on the Central Line. Tickets will be sold on a 'pay what you think this will be worth' basis on the night, or you can get them in advance for a fiver. Details are on the website.

If you're feeling really enthusiastic, you can help publicise the concert nearer the time.

Monday, 5 January 2009

The week ahead, the year ahead.

It's Monday, just barely. I've had a good couple of days of teaching, and got back to Trinity for the first time in 2009 today.

I have a lunchtime recital to play in next Wednesday, so most of my practising goals this week are related to making sure I'm in good form for that. This means lots of long, gentle warm-ups, lots of mental study of the pieces I'll be playing and lots of playing through the pieces in their entirety, both to cement my memory and to keep my endurance up. This latter is quite important as I had a few days off playing last week.

The lunchtime recital on 14th January will be at St John on Bethnal Green, 200 Cambridge Heath Road. Repertoire will be:

Dunhill: Cornucopia - Six Miniatures (horn and piano)
Butler: Hunding (unaccompanied horn)
Debussy: two of the Preludes for piano
Beethoven: Sonata Op. 17 (horn and piano)

I also need to get some programme notes sorted out, and make a poster to put up!

Most of tomorrow will be spent in sectional rehearsals for Wind Orchestra (which always reminds me of my teacher in Lethbridge, Dr Tom Staples, saying, "It's a band, folks!"). This band is playing some of the usual Ralph Vaughan-Williams but also Messiaen and some other challenging works.

Other projects I'll be working on this week include some last bits of planning and publicity for my Year 4 Project (I'm still waiting on date confirmation so not announcing anything just yet!), and writing a cadenza for the Gliere concerto which I'll be playing in the Soloists Competition on 25th January. And I want to get things sorted out for teaching a horn scales class again: we had one session last term and it went well, but I can't cover twelve keys (and their relative minors) in two hours and also teach thoroughly, so these need to happen on a weekly basis if they're going to be of any use to anyone.

I've also been offered a serpent. No, not the infamous reptile that once got Eve into a spot of trouble, but the musical instrument. I have been singing with the London Gallery Quire for most of the last term and enjoyed it heartily; now it seems I will be their serpentist. More on this after I actually meet the instrument in question on Wednesday night! I have wanted a serpent for some time, you might even say I have been tempted by them, but before Sunday afternoon I did not get a chance to play one. Now I've played one for probably the better part of 45 minutes.

So, that's the week ahead. I believe it's also traditional, with the new cycle of the arbitrary Gregorian calendar we use to mark time in the West, to think and write of the year ahead.

The year ahead... well, the first half of it is a matter of trying to get this degree finished without too many catastrophes. The second half of it will be the transition from being a good-for-nothing student with hardly any free time to being a good-for-nothing musician with a bit more free time. I think they call it a "portfolio career" these days. For me, that means more teaching, hopefully some of it in schools and some of it privately, and trying to keep some performance (particularly chamber music) going, perhaps with organisations like Live Music Now. It means I'll have time to learn things as and when I'm interested in learning them and have the spare brain cycles, rather than keeping to a set syllabus: I'm very, very glad I ended up at Trinity but I am looking forward to the freedom of dipping into one thing or another at my leisure and pleasure! I'll also be moving house at some point this summer. I cannot keep a serpent and three horns in this flat indefinitely, and I want somewhere that I'll be able to start teaching from home, and preferably a garden too. But really, for now, it's a focus on academic work from now until around June, and after that I'll relax, take some deep breaths, and see what happens.