Making Music is proud to champion and celebrate leisure-time music groups and all those who work with them. We present annual awards for best music creator and best music arranger, who are nominated by Making Music member groups they have worked with. Some of the music creators and arrangers have agreed to share their work for performance with other leisure-time music groups.
Below you can listen to recordings of some of the original pieces, and read accompanying notes to help you identify which piece might work best for your group. We look forward to many more performances of these wonderful new compositions - let us know if you're thinking about performing them!
Nathan James Dearden, best music creator 2022
'On commissioning this work for National Youth Training Choir of Great Britain, the composer Nathan James Dearden reflected on our relationship with the outdoors, the possibility of such a group being able to sing together after such a long period of online meetings only, and his Welsh heritage. Working with Welsh haiku specialist Paul Chambers, he amalgamated three haiku written by Welsh poets. The texts express human connectivity (or lack of) with their surrounding landscape. The prose directly influenced the music, and he created a choral landscape for the young singers to breathe, reflect, and think about their own connections to the landscape in which they find themselves.
In this work, performers were asked to create new and exciting vocal sound worlds, such as a 'blanket of murmurs'. This is where each performer individually whispers/softly freely recites one, or a selection, of the following short phrases in the Welsh language: Y bryniau hyn/ dim byd i'w ddweud / a bwrw ymlaen / anadlu ['These hills have nothing to say and go on breathing.']
The composer worked closely with the Principal Conductor, Greg Beardsell, and a handful of singers to craft a work perfect for young voices. He adapted the piece for young, developing, and/or changing voices through optimum tessitura and vocal range selection (while still creating rich and arresting harmonies) and created equilibrium between homophonic support and contrapuntal writing. He struck a balance between conventional choral writing and challenging the young singers with semi-improvised material.' - National Youth Choirs of Great Britain
Michael Betteridge, best arranger 2022
'When the early 2021 lockdown was announced, our MD Michael Betteridge made it his mission to create an arrangement that could be rehearsed, recorded, and videoed remotely and within government guidelines. He also ensured the health and well-being of our members through singing as well as other activities. As a group of LGBTQ+ people, our mental health is lower than the national average. We are more likely to live alone or in less-than-ideal situations (prejudice from family or housemates, etc.).
Michael arranged Joni Mitchell’s Urge for Going. In this arrangement, he created a very simple structure in which every part (tenor, baritone, and bass) had the opportunity to sing the melody at least once with other parts accompanying it. He also created a rousing ending that allowed the choir to sing in three parts (albeit all remotely!) for extra excitement at the end of the video.
In addition to recording at home, we invited members to go on walks in the snowy landscapes of Greater Manchester (and beyond), filming themselves and each other. It allowed members to meet one another safely, socialise and avoid isolation. There was also the opportunity for solos at the start of the piece that allowed certain members who wanted extra engagement during a busy period to engage in singing for their well-being.
Finally, our accompanist learned the piece on guitar, and so we were able to film his part outside!
We have performed this song live since, and it’s a very emotional experience!' - The Sunday Boys
Neil Brownless, best music creator 2021
Nominated by Abingdon Concert Band
'As Musical Director of Abingdon Concert Band, Neil was very keen to encourage band members to participate in inventive ways to keep everyone playing while rehearsals weren’t possible. He wrote his original piece, Keep the Rhythm Going, as a tribute to all of the musicians that 'kept the rhythm going' with online performances while they weren't able to perform in person. The composition works to the strengths and weaknesses of the regular band but the first performance of the piece, via a collage of individual performance videos, was opened up to players from around the world, attracting 108 players to submit videos for the virtual world première.
'The piece is designed to be uplifting to provide some positivity in what was a difficult time for all of us who love making music. Within sections, parts were written at different ability levels to enable as many musicians as possible to take part. Some conservatoire trumpet players joined in and took the part up an octave which added another dimension to the composition for the performance, but was left out of the score so that the piece remains accessible to many bands for public performance.' - Abingdon Concert Band
Paul Ayres, best arranger 2021
Nominated by Harrow Choral Society
'We began rehearsing online and making virtual recordings quite early in the process of Covid-19 restrictions, using music selected by our Music Director, Simon Williams. In searching for appropriate pieces, he spoke with our accompanist, Paul Ayres, who is an established and highly regarded composer and arranger in his own right. They both felt that Paul’s arrangement of Handel’s aria Where’er you walk would be an excellent choice. Handel wrote the piece as part of his opera Semele where it is sung as a tenor solo but Paul’s new arrangement is for SATB choir.
'The reasons for it being so suitable for us include the fact that it is a lively, well-known and cheerful tune, making it particularly enjoyable to sing during a time when spirits may generally be low. Furthermore, although the arrangement is challenging in places, it is not difficult to learn – an important attribute when much of the choir’s preparation had to be done in glorious isolation, unsupported by fellow singers! Paul also made a major contribution to the learning process by taking regular sectionals , courtesy of the Zoom ‘break-out rooms’ facility. He would either take the tenors & basses or the sopranos & altos, alternating each week with the Music Director. Having the arranger on hand throughout was invaluable. Before embarking on the arrangement, Paul established that the piece is out of copyright with no restrictions.' - Peter Miller, Harrow Choral Society
Michael Betteridge, best arranger 2021
Nominated by The Sunday Boys
'In winter 2020 our musical director Michael Betteridge was planning an outdoor immersive choral experience based in the car park we had been rehearsing entitled Voices of the Polar Night in which audiences would be blindfolded then encircled by the choir who sing folk songs from the Nordic countries as well as texts from Icelandic folk tales and the Kalevala. ‘Summer will come again’ formed part of that cancelled programme. Firstly, the arrangement was specifically arranged for the cathedral like acoustics of the car park embracing the boomy reverb that the surroundings offered.
'Secondly, at a time when not many members were attending rehearsals due to the cold (it was 4 degrees one week!), Michael created something in three parts with some unison singing to aid learning in what were short rehearsals (only 60 minutes) for limited numbers (18 max – 3 groups of 6). Thirdly, Michael did what he often does in arrangements and ensures every part has something interesting to sing with both the tenors and the basses getting the melody at different points. He utilised the range of the choir and created a fantastic emotionally journey that the choir loved to sing. Finally, Michael’s rewriting of the words provided an amazing opportunity to look to the future in a year full of disappointment and frustration.' - The Sunday Boys
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