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ABCD Convention in Oxford

I'm not sure whether this is the right place to post this, but the British equivalent of ACDA, the Association of British Choral Directors (ABCD) have just held their annual convention in Oxford.  These events always provide a brilliant opportunity to meet with other practicioners, and to receive fresh insights into the art of choral music - as singers, conductors and/or composers. This year we were privileged to have some distingished visitors from the USA at the convention, including Tim Sharp (Exec Director of ACDA), Jo-Michael Scheibe (President), Gretchen Kuhrmann (Founder of Choralis in Washington, DC) and Mack Wilberg (Mormon Tabernacle Choir).  In an open forum they provided a fascinating glimpse into the American choral scene, drawing contrasts and comparisons with how things are in the UK.
It was a very packed programme, with several 'repertoire reading' sessions, where we got through an enormous amount of new music, and included a superb concert in the Sheldonian Theatre, which featured some wonderful choirs (one of them a fine US chamber choir from Nebraska!)
Our national organisation is tiny compared with the ACDA, but it does provide valuable support to its members, and I would urge any choral conductors in the UK who are not currently members to consider joining. As well as the convention, there are various regional events, and increasingly ABCD is offering training and support to those who wish to hone their skills as conductors and choir trainers.
I have joined ACDA also, as an associate member, and am hoping one day to get to a conference or convention in the USA.  In the meantime, I'm finding ChoralNet and the ACDA journals very useful and informative regarding what is going on across the pond. As a composer of choral music, it is always a thrill to get something performed in a distant country, and I'm pleased to say I'm forging new links with choirs, conductors (and poets!) through ChoralNet.  Long may this continue!
Gordon Thornett
Replies (17): Threaded | Chronological
on August 27, 2013 6:21pm
Thanks for the insight.  I for one have very little experience outside the US.  I love the abreviation ABCD.  As a composer it seems a bit more correct than ACDA.  Someone over here forgot the B section. I do like works that return to the original theme though...
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on August 28, 2013 7:53am
Really very minor!  :-)
on August 27, 2013 6:40pm
Thanks for the report. I had a piece on the gala concert. It was super to hear reports from British colleagues.
on August 28, 2013 3:40am
Hi Gordon - do you know who chooses the repertoire for the reading sessions? It would be very helpful to be able to get something into those.
on August 28, 2013 4:31am
Hi Chris,  I had an email from Rachel Greaves a few weeks before the convention, inviting me to submit pieces in different categories (SATB, upper voices, church, etc.)  I think these were then sent to the leaders of these sessions, who must have gone through them all and picked out the ones they wanted to include.  I was lucky enough to have 3 chosen - all in different categories.  I only knew this a day or two before the start of the convention!  It may be because I've sometimes run a stall that she included me in the first place, but I imagine if you drop her an email she will be glad to include you next time!
on August 31, 2013 10:30am
Hi Gordon,
Are you comfortable sharing Rachel Greaves's email address? I'd like to submit some of my things for readings and concerts at their convention as well.
David Avshalomov
on August 28, 2013 7:56am
Thank you Gordon for that very interesting posting.

I am not aware that choral singing is arranged on any organised level here
in France. Distances are great (for Europe, that is) and there are strong
regional identities, which may in part account for my having failed to
encounter other in choirs outside the Languedoc/Roussillon area.  In fact,
we seem more in contact with choirs abroad, West Texas University, Chicago
Chorale, in America; Fingal Chamber Choir and Gracenotes in Ireland.  So,
the question raises itself, what benefits might accrue to my choir and me
if we were to consider membership, say,of ABCD?    The obvious one is that it is a lot closer than the US.
But are (would-be_ composers catered for?At present I am preparing for the rentrée in
September, so I don't have very much time to go surfing
the net.  There are lots of things to do, and I leave for holidays directly
from a choir meeting on Monday.  No meeting shall ever be as short!

on August 30, 2013 7:19am
Just an idea here...
Is there a way to have some kind of repertoire/reading-session exchange between ACDA and ABCD?  In the US, we're only really familiar with the British composers that are widely performed and published: Rutter, Maxwell Davies, and others.  I'm sure there are many other self-promoting composers in Britain that would love to get their works out, as much as those of us in the USA would like to get ours in front of an international audience.
I don't know who should lead such an initiative or how to even go about it (I'm a lowly grad student at the moment), but I'm "putting it in your pipe to smoke" as one of my professors would say...
on August 30, 2013 8:44am
An excellent idea, Justine, but I've no idea how to put it into practice!    I'm just a lowly member of ABCD, but would love the opportunity to get pieces read at one of your conferences. Actually our reading sessions were very crowded - typically having to get through about 20  pieces in an hour, I seem to remember, and I know that your conventions are vastly larger than the British ones! Given the success of Eric Whitacre's virtual choirs, I wonder whether someone could come up with a way of running internationally based 'virtual reading sessions' over the internet!
If anyone reading this could come forward with a method of achieving what Justine has suggested, do please chip in...  (Btw, I'm afraid I'm a non-smoker!!)
David, apologies for not replying to your message yet: I am still deliberating on it!  I'll try and give it some more thought, and in the meantime have a great holiday!
on September 1, 2013 2:48am
Hello Gordon,
I am just catching up on thiings.  I have had to try to put some shape on a text that is supposed to go with some notes.  the fact that it is in a French music and writing hand does not help, and I have been burning the midnight oil to try to get it done before I leave tomorrow on holiday.  Alas,  I'll be reporting failure on thisat tojmorrow's meeting of the choir, and passing it to the member who would like us to do it to try to match things up.  Actually, I would like to have the choir sing it.  New carols are not always easy to come by.  And this one is really nice.  The composer was playing clever.  He wrote two versions of the text, one for the north of France, and the one we wish to use, for the south.  Unfortunately he didn't set words against notes for the second version.  So I have been trying to second guess his intentions.  Nor can I ask him.  He sadly passed away a short while ago.  But it would be nice to honour his memory by having his carol sung before an audience.
Anyway, don't worry about me.  If you do get a chance to respond, I will have my trusty (not a word to use with computers!) laptop with me.  If not, no hassle.  A holiday is a holiday, after all.
on September 1, 2013 6:08am
Hi David,
Sounds like you've had a frustrating time with that piece, but good on you for working on this particular challenge to generate something good and appropriate for your choir. I'd love to write something for a French choir. I'm not aware if if any of my OUP Christmas pieces are available, let alone performed in France.  Currently I think that a ChoralNet colleague in Portugal is translating one of my children's pieces into Portuguese for use over there, which is quite exciting!
Maybe I can message you direct when you get back, but it would be good to form some sort of relationship with you and your choir(s). I direct a a chamber choir of about 25-30 voices in Sutton Coldfield, near Birmingham, and also sing with the CBSO Chorus (for whom I've written several Christmas pieces).
With regard to the ABCD thing, I need to make some enquiries. I've had on or two expressions of interest from US composers (see above) in the repertoire reading sessions, and I'd like to think there's a way of bringing about some reciprocal arrangements between ACDA and ourselves, but I don't know at the moment how this could be achieved.
on September 1, 2013 6:31am
My iPad is slightly misbehaving, so I couldn't complete this without starting a new post...
As to taking a laptop on holiday, I'm afraid I'm guilty of that too, David, and have even been known to take my keyboards and Sibelius paraphernalia along too (though not when travelling by Ryanair!) So if you happen to be online, do check out my website, which contains links to some of my Christmas settings and arrangements ( - and don't forget to let me know I you should have a French noël you'd like setting or arranging!
David A - if you're reading this - I think I'll call Rachel sometime during the week, and check what the policy is about accepting pieces by people from overseas composers for the reading sessions.  I think the composers (as opposed to the publishers) who currently have pieces included are all conference delegates.  But don't worry, our next convention isn't until August 2014, so I don't think they start organising these things until a few weeks beforehand.. I'm hoping to attend one of your conventions in the US at some stage, so please let me know if anything interesting is coming up. (My wife and I may be in Southern California in early May next year.)
With all good wishes,
on September 13, 2013 12:44pm
Hello Gordon,
I have been most condignly punished for bringing a laptop on holiday.  At present my temperature is hovering somewhere about normal, the eyes weep only a little, and the sinuses have finally relented on their attempt to deprive me of air.  In a couple of words: getting better.  My holiday, alas, is drawing to a close as I improve, and I am preparing to drive the 170 km south as soon as I am able for the long ferry crossing to France. on Tuesday.  I will try to squeeze in a look at your site before then.
David M
on September 13, 2013 1:44pm
Sorry to hear you've been suffering, David, but glad you're on the mend. Are you in the UK then? No, I've just noticed you've got a 'long' ferry crossing! I haven't got round to contacting the ABCD lady yet. I've been updating my 'Gloria' setting, adding a sop solo and an accompaniment for brass sextet, organ & timps. I look forward to hearing from you after your return en France.
Take care,
on September 15, 2013 1:36am
I should have made clear. I am in Ireland.  It's about a 21 hour crossing to Cherbourg in France.  The ferry has two cinemas, is comfortable with cabins that have proper beds, rather than berths, satellite TV sll the way, and lots of bars, restaurants, not for getying two cinemas.  More a cruise.
Improving, and almost have the cold beaten
on September 15, 2013 5:42am
David M - where in Ireland are you based? I, too, am here (though not at the moment - and yes, I have my laptop and music with me on vacation...)
on September 19, 2013 2:42pm
Hello Diana,
I am a Dubliner.  But I no longer live in Ireland - haven't lived there for getting on 12 years.  France is now my home - near the Spanish frontier and only 40 km from the Mediterranean coast.
I do try to get back to Ireland once a year, but I now find I am more and more a stranger in a strange land when I visit.  Even my English lests me down on occasion.  Things have changed a lot there.
Would love to hear about your choral connections and interests there.
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