A Music Commission for Your Choir or Organ

A music commission is not only for the wealthy and famous.

You’ve got a special service coming up – a really big event – and you want to “knock their socks off” with your choice of music! The classics are great, and you’ll doubtless be including some.

But how about making a mark on the world, and giving your Choir, your Church, Society, or College – and indeed yourself – a place in history as a Patron of the Living Arts? You can place yourself up there with the likes of the Duke of Brandenburg, Lord Chandos and Pope Marcellus, who helped bring into the world some of Bach, Handel, and Palestrina’s greatest masterpieces – and it’s a lot easier than you may think!

Imagine the reaction on the day when people hear the first performance of the piece of music you commissioned. See how Bruce McInnes, then Choirmaster of Grace Church in New York described the reception of his Church’s music commission:

“Splendid, splendid, splendid!!! It really went very well indeed, and the Rector found it ‘tremendously moving, powerful, and well-crafted.’ He asked that we do it again for Christ the King Sunday (Nov.22), which is our Stewardship Sunday also, and the Sunday before American Thanksgiving!

“The Presiding Bishop was most enthusiastic as both music and text reflected his sermon on Christian Unity and the Brotherhood of Man. He asked for a copy of the score, which I gave him. He also mentioned the music in his remarks at the dinner – where several other distinguished visitors (R.C., Episcopal, Lutheran, Bishops etc.) also commented.”

October 1998

Revd Mgr George Stack, The Administrator at Westminster Cathedral, London, wrote this about his music commission:

“I wanted to write to thank you so much for that marvellous Alleluia and verse (for Cardinal Basil Hume’s Requiem). It was all that I wanted – and more. It was good to see so many strands of the Cardinal’s life being brought together at that Mass. I am very grateful.” July 1999

And Blanaid Murphy, Director of the Palestrina Choir at the Dublin Pro-Cathedral in Ireland had this to say about the piece she commissioned:

“I would love for you to write another work for us. I really feel that it is one of the great legacies of our centenary celebrations, that we have been able to commission and premier such a beautiful and meaningful work as your Nunc dimittis.” Blanaid Murphy, Director of the Palestrina Choir, Dublin. November 2003.

What’s the Bottom Line?

“That’s alright for them,” you may be thinking, “but how can we afford a music commission?” This is where the surprises come in. It’s a lot less than you may think, and you get a lot more than you probably expect!

And don’t let a genuine lack of funds prevent you from considering this – composers are usually open to discussion.

Not only do you get a music commission tailored precisely for your musical forces, your level of difficulty, your building, and your time constraints, but you also get a lot of personal advice and guidance over the performance.

Let’s elaborate. Perhaps you have a very strong soprano line at the moment, or an outstanding baritone soloist. You can have parts written especially to show them off. Have you brass or percussion available? Maybe a particularly beautiful stop on your organ? Have you thought of the possibilities of teaming up with your local brass group, or a recorder consort from your local school?

Perhaps your church or cathedral building lends itself to antiphonal effects, or processional music down a long nave?

Or how about a piece of Christmas music that can combine all your local resources for a splendid end-of-year celebration?

Because of your familiarity with your church and your choir, you are in an ideal position to influence the composition of a piece of music which will live long after you, yet always be associated with you. You get to choose the text, the forces, the length of the music commission …

What you get …

Here at Music-for-Church-Choirs.com we have one of the world’s leading choral composers, Colin Mawby. Colin has composed hundreds of pieces which are performed all over the world, and many of them started life as a music commission. We will be able to offer the services of more great composers as we develop. Click here to take a look at Colin Mawby’s info.

Once you have approached your chosen composer with your request for a music commission, this is what will happen:

First of all the composer will discuss with you exactly what you want, and what your budget is – both for him and for the players and singers. Colin Mawby usually works on the basis of detailed questions, to make sure that nothing gets missed out.

If you haven’t a text, Colin will make suggestions from his vast knowledge of texts suitable for religious or secular music. You’ll stay in constant touch throughout the process, and you will receive a handwritten manuscript copy of the finished music commission. You are, of course, free to make copies of this for your own use.

But it doesn’t end there! Many people greatly appreciate the follow-up and advice which Colin continues to give while the music commission is in rehearsal. Indeed, if time and place permit, he will happily collaborate with you at a workshop or rehearsal.

Whenever possible, Colin Mawby likes to attend the first performance … if you wish, he’ll even conduct your commission for you!

After your first performance, you’ll probably want to keep in touch regularly with your composer. And of course if you opt for another music commission you will be in a privileged position.

Hymns, Arrangements, and Fanfares too

The only limit, as they say, is your imagination. You can make a spectacular impression with a majestic hymn arrangement – just think of the versions of All People that on Earth do dwell by Vaughan Williams, and Benjamin Britten.

You can have an organ piece as your music commission, too. Imagine the effect of a piece written specifically for your church organ, exploiting its strengths and the acoustic of your church building.

And you don’t have to be a clergyman or a church musician to commission a piece of music. Here’s one example of a music commission by a family who suffered the great loss of a child, and wished to have a unique memorial.

“We introduced It is Well with My Soul to the choir this past Saturday and they were overwhelmed! Every person to a one raved about how beautiful and moving the setting was. One of our members commented at length about the musical portrayal of the text and how fitting it all was. The family was understandably tearful and extremely pleased with both the anthem and the reaction. Bravo.” John Hutchinson, Director of Music and Arts at the First United Methodist Church, Louisiana August 2002

You may well have a particular text in mind for a lost wife, husband or friend. It could be a text appropriate for that person, or a text that they loved. This is truly a living memorial for your loved one, and a memorial you can have a great part in creating.

On a more joyful note, here is a letter from a couple who commissioned a piece of wedding music, and who are looking forward to having Colin Mawby conduct it again for them at their Silver Wedding ceremony. Since then Justus ut palma has entered the repertoire and been performed by other choirs, and the music copies will always carry their unique dedication.

“Colin Mawby composed Justus ut Palma for our wedding in 1980. He was happy to use the pun on our name (Palmer). The piece was tailored to fit our plans for the music, the needs of the church and the strengths of the musicians we invited. We had been lucky enough to hear Colin’s commissions at other weddings including a delightful, approachable O sacrum convivium and know that Colin appreciates and values music-makers of all standards and will bring out their best.

Many of our friends are musicians and they were impressed by the musical and technical qualities displayed by the work; our non-musician friends and relatives found it an attractive, impressive and memorable piece. We still refer to it as one of the high spots of a very special day and hope to perform it at our silver wedding.” Jonathan and Frances Palmer, London. November 2003

What next?

If you would like to find out about the possibility of a music commission for your church or choir, you can contact us with your preliminary enquiry.

These articles may also be of interest to you:

Testimonials from Performers – Colin Mawby – testimonials from performers

Children’s Choir – Children’s Choir – a list of favourite church music

Choir Development Skills – Forming a choir – the skills you need

Rhythm and Aural Training – Sight-reading – Rhythm and Aural Training

The Psychology of Choir Practice – The Psychology of Choir Practice – getting the best from your Choir