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Where Can I Find Music?
One of our most frequent requests here at Music-for-Church-Choirs.com is to help find music from someone's past. It may be a piece sung long ago at school, a hymn from a friend's wedding, or a particular arrangement of a much-loved piece of music. The letters plead "Will you help me to trace this music?"
Sometimes the person trying to find music is looking to perform the long-lost piece with their new choir, they're doing research for a thesis, or perhaps they just want to wander down Memory Lane!
Either way they've come up against the stone wall that faces anyone trying to find music. But we're going to show you the doors in that wall!
First of all try to establish whether the music you're hunting is published or unpublished. If it's not published, then the best thing to do is go back to where you sang it or heard it. Much music is homegrown and you will only find it in the place it was written for. So that will be the Choir Library at the Church, the School Library, the Wedding Order of Service, and so on.
Do you know the composer? If you do, you can find out which publisher handles his music and see if they can get you any closer.
Do you know the publisher? If you have you can start your enquiries there. Keep in mind, though, that the original publisher may be long since out of business and his lists may now be published by someone else.
Have you any idea of the date it was written? This can narrow the field of your enquiries considerably.
Did you hear it on a CD? Recorded music can be tracked down through the Performing Right Society (PRS) or the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) If you approach them asking for permission for a performance, you should find them helpful.
Did you hear it on the radio? The BBC may be able to help you find music you've heard on BBC Radio or Television - but remember they're a broadcasting service first and foremost, and enquiries to find music may have to take their place in the queue. Of course, the same will hold for any good radio station - they have to log all the details for MCPS and PRS. The sooner you contact them after hearing the music, the better.
Armed with some of this information, you can get a bit further on your mission to find music.
Grove Dictionary, available in any good Reference Library, may give you valuable pointers. The British Library, and The Library of Congress in America have copies of all work published in their respective countries, and have vast catalogues. Trinity College, Dublin, also holds copies of most British published works.
If you're serious about music, you doubtless have a good music reference library of your own. If you haven't yet chosen which books to get, then take a look at these links to help you decide:
Harvard Dictionary of Music - Click here for USA or Europe.
Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music - USA Europe.
And if you have upwards of $500 to spare, you can get the complete Grove Dictionary. For those with more modest budgets, try The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music - USA Europe.
And if it's the lyrics you're looking for, remember that copyright may be an issue here. This can work to your advantage. If you can trace the poet or hymn-writer, you should be able to trace any music which uses their words, as permission should have been granted.
The Power of the Internet to Find Music
And don't forget this mighty reference! Find music at Google or whichever is your favourite search engine, and put your details into the search box. You will be astonished at the speed and the volume of results. They may be wide of the mark, in which case refine your enquiry till you get better results. You will at least get some more leads to your music, even if the Search Engine doesn't manage to locate it for you.
You may find a website devoted to your composer - and a happy few have a society of admirers who will be delighted to help you find music by their hero.
If you've tried all these avenues and still can't find anything, send us the information that you have - in as much detail as possible - and we'll post it on site and see if our many visitors can help. The growing community here at Music-for-Church-Choirs.com is a source of enormous knowledge and networking - let's tap into it!
These articles may also be of interest to you:
Choir Development Skills - Forming a choir - the skills you need
Music Commissions - A Music Commission for your Church Choir
Composition - Church Choir Music composition - write music yourself