Christmas Carols with the London Gallery Quire

Wednesday 2nd December 2015 7.00pm

Christmas Carols with the London Gallery Quire
Tickets £6 on the door

St George’s German Lutheran Church
55Alie Street
London E1 8EB
(Located at the junction of Alie St and Leman St – 2 mins walk from Aldgate East tube)

If you come along to this concert you will not only get to hear me play the serpent, but you’ll be at the premiere of my setting of “The great God of heaven has come down to earth.”

Here’s a .pdf:
Addington – Full Score

No singing robots yet, but I’ll try and get a recording of Wednesday’s performance.

It’s called “Addington” because that’s where I was when I wrote the tune. I was in a shape-note sort of mood that day and so the harmonies are rather reminiscent of that tradition.

Here are the words:

The great God of heaven is come down to earth,
his mother a Virgin and sinless his birth;
the Father eternal his Father alone:
he sleeps in a manger; he reigns on the throne:
Then let us adore him and praise his great love:
to save us poor sinners he came from above.

A Babe on the breast of a Maiden he lies,
yet sits with the Father on high in the skies;
before him their faces the Seraphim hide,
while Joseph stands waiting, unscared, by his side: Refrain

Lo! here is Emmanuel, here is the Child,
the Son that was promised to Mary so mild;
whose power and dominion shall ever increase,
the Prince that shall rule o’er a kingdom of peace: Refrain

The Wonderful Counsellor, boundless in might,
the Father’s own image, the beam of his light;
behold him now wearing the likeness of man,
weak, helpless and speechless, in measure a span: Refrain

O wonder of wonders, which none can unfold:
the Ancient of days is an hour or two old;
the Maker of all things is made of the earth,
and worshipped by angels when God comes to birth: Refrain

I chose this because of another of LGQ’s forthcoming performances, which will be at the National Portrait Gallery on 18th December. Sadly I won’t be able to be there, but it was the fourth verse above that I drew me to the text as suitable for that occasion.

Working for Exposure

I see a lot of whingeing about people expecting artists to work “for exposure”.

No, you can’t buy a loaf of bread with exposure, and I’m not contesting that. Work is work, and if we’re going to use in a capitalist system where we’re compelled to exchange money for goods and services, we need to pay creative people money for the work that they do. (Hint: most of us don’t get much choice about existing in such a system.) My rule of thumb is that I’ll generally work for free if it’s sortof my idea, or if there’s little or no effort required of me (and only I get to decide what that means on a given day).

That said: without exposure – without people who haven’t heard of you getting to hear of you and your work – it’s pretty hard to make money. You can call it exposure or publicity or market visibility; it’s still necessary. One of the attractions, for many, of working with an established publisher (or some other gatekeeper/distributor of creative work, let’s stick with publishing) is that such publishers already have a foothold in the market. Having your work published means that you trade some of your income from a work, and some of your control over that work, for what the publisher provides, and I’d say that “exposure” is a big part of what publishers provide.

If you don’t want to go down that route, you’re going to have to get that exposure in other ways. You’re going to have to advertise. You’re going to have to build a social media following (though many publishers now expect you to do this anyway), you’re going to have to tell everyone you know how great your work is and you’re going to have to convince them to tell everyone *they* know. That’s a valid path, but let’s not pretend it isn’t work, and let’s not pretend it isn’t costly.

Most of the problem with “do it for exposure” offers is not the principle of trading work for exposure; it’s in the quality and quantity of exposure offered not being commensurate with the amount of work being asked of the creative person. Rather than being insulted, perhaps negotiate. Ask questions: How many people are expected at this gig, and where do you get the data on that? What is your publicity plan for this project? How much of the publicity work do you expect me to do on my own? If you’re distributing my poetry in your zine, how many readers do you expect to direct back to my crowdfunding site? And when you’ve asked a lot of questions, decide whether the ‘exposure’ is indeed worthwhile compared to what you would normally charge for the level of involvement requested. If it’s “Well, who knows, there could be an agent at this gig and they might like your stuff…no we don’t really plan to invite any agents personally…but it could happen…” it’s probably not a good idea to work “for exposure,” but if it’s an annual event they regularly sell 600 charity tickets for in a town where you aren’t known and the charity is related to your interests and work, the admin work is going to be minimal on your side and they’ll let you advertise in the accompanying printed programme? It’s worth considering.

Originally posted at tumblr/a>. I haven’t worked out what I’m using tumblr for yet.

Broomside 11 11 11 11 11 11

St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne recently ran a competition for a Pauline hymn. I asked Miranda Threlfall-Holmes if she wanted to write some words for it, and we submitted an entry.

PDF: broomside

1. We meet as God’s people in this holy place
And gather together across time and space
With all of Christ’s body, Christ’s building and field,
The church of all sinners Christ died for and healed.
Diverse in our gifting, no two are the same
Yet all stand united in praising God’s name.

2. The Scriptures all witness to Jesus, God’s Son,
Who died and was raised, in whose victory we’ve won.
In weakness exalted, all gains count as loss
Compared to the knowledge of Christ and his cross.
Your church down the ages proclaims and receives
This gospel rejoicing, and firmly believes.

3. Forgive us those times when we struggle to see
Beyond our conviction in some enemy.
Confront us with strangers to open our eyes,
And make us dependent on those we despised.
Then take us and use us, to build not destroy,
Co-workers together in love and in joy.

4. Fill us with your love, make us patient and kind,
To strive in your service with one joyful mind.
Send us where you need us, like your servant Paul,
And make us receptive to hearing your call.
Inspire us to partner with all your co-heirs,
Inclusive of all in our mission and prayers.

5. Approaching our end may our faith still increase
Maturing a harvest of love, joy and peace
Rejoicing in truth and delighting in good
At last understanding as we’re understood.
For now we see faintly reflections of grace,
But then we’ll see clearly and meet face to face.

As with most of my work this is CC by-SA: this means you can use it for whatever you like, even profit, but you must also let others do the same with any derivative works.

This means I don’t get any royalties: my work is community-supported, not commercial. If you’d like to show your support, I have a page that tells you how you can do so. Thanks so much!

Harringey, now with recording.

Back in 2012 I set these words by Doug Chaplin:

From the Jordan to the desert,
from the crowd to barren place,
Spirit-driven, Satan-tempted,
Lord, you sought the Father’s grace:
show us now your pow’r, in weakness,
presence in the empty space.

Out of Egypt with God’s people,
freedom brings its testing stress:
what is right and what is truthful,
how the name of God confess?
Jesus, be our journey’s leader,
guide us through the wilderness.

Lack of food for empty stomach,
offered only cold hard stone;
scripture used to tempt and strengthen;
easy route to grasp the throne:
Bread of life, and Word incarnate
help us worship God alone.

In the search for loving justice,
in the quest for truth and right,
Jesus walk beside, before us,
hold your Cross of love in sight;
keep us in your Father’s presence,
guide us to your risen light.

Thanks to the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, there is now a recording:

Doug Chaplin’s text is CC BY-NC — you can use it, but not for profit. The music is CC BY-SA as is my usual practice: this means you can download the sheet music and use this hymn in your church at Lent, should you so wish. Or at some other time of year, but it is really a Lent hymn when you get right down to it.

I’m not averse to a tierce de Picardie at the end of the last verse, if that’s your kind of thing.

There are more LFCCM recordings; do have a listen, it’s well worth it.

Song of Easter

Here’s one I wrote earlier, but haven’t yet posted. It has more instrumentation than my music usually does!

The sheet music is available from the Choral Public Domain Library, and is under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license, as usual.

Words by T Thurman:

When I was young I feared my growing old
lest, being old, I should want youth again,
or lest the growing old should cause me pain;
I knew the worth of silver less than gold.
I tried to hold the sun and not the moon,
I asked the clock to stop– it paid no heed!
Time blew away like dandelion seed,
as sure as day, the evening came too soon.
This road I cannot tread the other way.
The ages passed, and age has come to me.
Yet still asleep I dream, awake I see,
as sure as day brings night, the night brings day,
youth, sun and dandelion seed, and why?
They cannot have new life unless they die.

This music is brought to you by the 25 patrons who fund my composing — thank you! You can see who they are over at Patreon. If you’re willing to chip in so I can keep writing choral music, please do so there or have a look at my support page.

#notGB15: #GinAndChant tonight 9.30pm BST in the #henswings

Over on Twitter, some of us are having great fun with #notGB15: it’s for people who, for a number of reasons, aren’t at Greenbelt. Some of us can’t camp. Some of us didn’t want to leave home. Some of us have commitments that prevent us going.

One of the traditions of Greenbelt is “Beer and Hymns”. But I feel a bit silly singing hymns on my own, at home. So tonight, in the Hen’s Wings, there will be “Gin and Chant.” The gin is optional.

I’ll be using this order for Compline and the chant is by the Plainsong Society, if you have a copy. Join in with the bold text, the hymn, the antiphons, and the even-numbered verses of the psalm — we’ll use psalm 91 tonight. (I’ll sing everything, so we don’t lose track of each other over the internet.)

You can listen and sing along here:
artsyhonker is on Mixlr

If that doesn’t work, you can try this direct link to the broadcast.

Don’t forget to get your #notGB15 “tickets” — those of us staying at home are helping people without a home.

Reforming Arts Funding

Saying this won’t make me very popular, but I’m growing tired of rants about arts funding, or the lack of same.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that in a just world the state and/or other large funding bodies would spend real money on the arts: from educating, nurturing and supporting emerging artists to making sure people of all backgrounds have affordable access to the arts. The arts are not just about entertainment, not just about keeping creative people in employment, but about emotional and spiritual health, something we can ill afford to ignore.

But today I’m not out to justify the existence of the creative sector, or composed a reasoned plea for more funding. Instead I want to examine the reasons the funding situation is currently so dire, and what we can do about it.

First of all, I think it’s important to understand that arts funding has always been hard to come by. Creative people have always had to scrape around for bits of work, take “survival” jobs in related or unrelated sectors, and put in years of work before seeing any financial return on their time. There are exceptions, both in terms of very gifted individuals with a certain amount of pre-existing privilege, and in terms of socioeconomic conditions, but they are very much exceptions. Beethoven taught to make ends meet; Bach took church jobs or court jobs; Mozart had patrons but his finances were a mess desipte starting out as a child prodigy. Haydn wrote the ‘Farewell’ Symphony as a sort of polite protest when his royal patrons arbitrarily decided to keep the musicians on in Esterhazy longer than their original contract stipulated, leaving the players in the position of not having seen their families all summer (as well as being late for any work they had lined up for their return); clearly this was not an environment in which they had the option of just finding other work. More recently, Pratchett was a jobbing journalist before writing the Discworld books, and I know hardly any solvent professional musicians who do not also teach. The majority of people never have a “big break” but just keep creating and creating, soemtimes doing well, sometimes not so well, and with a running start and a following wind we might make a decent middle-class income by the end of our career. (Don’t ask me about retirement.)

Art is work, and artists should be paid: not just enough to cover the costs of making the art, but enough to live on. So should everyone. But for the vast majority of creative people throughout history this has not been the case, and I think it’s unrealistic to be surprised that it still isn’t.

That said, while the act of getting over oneself and getting a day job can be an important step on the road to becoming a solvent artist, I don’t think “get a real job!” is a useful response. There aren’t exactly a whole bunch of jobs around at the moment; and those that exist require ever more flexibility in terms of location and hours, ever more skill and dedication. It’s a lot harder now to combine waiting tables and gigging; it’s harder to live somewhere that doesn’t have a stupid commute, and that has studio space or somewhere to rehearse; it’s harder to build up a class of piano students. The economy being bad affects artists just as much as it affects anyone else, or perhaps more. Our existence was already marginal, and there was already the expectation that we would work for the love of it rather than for money. Unfortunately, loving your work doesn’t magically result in having enough money in your bank account to keep the wolf from the door, but in the current economic climate, neither does scrubbing floors, changing bedsheets or wrangling spreadsheets.
The reality is that holders of concentrated wealth and power view the arts as an optional extra: a status symbol to hang on the wall or play in the sitting room, perhaps, an enjoyable diversion, to be sure, but ultimately optional: not a priority in the same way as food, shelter, and the pursuit of further wealth and power. Oh, we cannot live on bread alone, but that won’t stop the rich using “basic” expenses as an excuse to avoid spending on the arts; and the fallacy of stockpiling material wealth being more important than sharing transcendence with those around us is not limited just to those who consider themselves wealthy.

I do think there is another way forward. It isn’t easy, and it can be counter-intuitive. In the previous paragraph I mentioned concentrated wealth and power. I don’t think that’s the only sort of wealth, the only sort of power, any more. Oh, there are economies of scale, to be sure. There is a certain security to be found in the status quo. But the model of concentrating and maximising wealth and power also comes with severe limitations. I think most of the problems in arts funding are in fact due to the intrinsic disadvantages of a system which prioritises competition over cooperation, and the concentration of wealth and control over sharing them. This is bad for humanity, not just bad for arts funding!

What’s this other way forward, then? I don’t know all the details, but it boils down to this: if the status quo isn’t working, try something else…

For me, that means devolving power rather than hoarding it. It means putting my money where my mouth is and supporting other creative endeavors, whether that’s financially or in terms of recommendations, feedback or encouragement. It means doing work without always getting paid, not for “exposure” or with expectation of a return in future but because doing so allows me to make a contribution to the common good. It means trying to do business in a way that discourages monopoly and encourages sharing.

I’m not actually very good at any of this yet. I’m still learning. I take risks: small ones at first, usually, because not everything works out. I could definitely do more to support other artists; I’m working on it. But sometimes it does work.

In the long run, maybe my strategy won’t lead to a decent middle-class income. Maybe this is as good as it gets.

If I keep following my own strategy for making music and I am never paid another penny, I will still have contributed good music to a common body of work, accessible now instead of decades after my death. I will still have introduced friends to music they might not otherwise have heard. I will still have helped build, in some small way, a little tiny community where sharing is more highly regarded than profit.

I can’t ask for greater than that.


Continuum (a vilanelle for a lost one)

My grandmother, Mildred Rose, was a poet; when I was a child she published a book of poetry. Here is one of the poems:

I miss you when roots waken to spring rain
and more when summer penetrates the land
though friends still tell me time will ease my pain.

When grave earth flares to lively green again
and star-eyed lovers walk, quick hand in hand,
I miss you when roots waken to spring rain.

As winds force leafless poplars to complain,
your death brought grief: I cannot understand
when friends insist that time will ease my pain.

Why must I hunger for your touch again?
Ask why June buds to flowers must expand,
I miss you when roots waken to spring rain.

In paler sun now rest the fields of grain.
While I lament like waves on ocean sand,
friends still tell me that time will ease my pain.

As days inch into years, I still maintain
love’s shared flame by breath of memories fanned.
I miss you when roots waken to spring rain
though friends still tell me time will ease my pain.


I like the way the images of roots, buds, flowers and grain allude to the way death and rebirth is part of the natural cycle — that everything dies, and comes to life again… even if, as in this poem, we don’t really feel like the “coming to life again” bit can ever happen. Maybe that’s not what Grandma was after, maybe she just wrote that way because of the strong connection she always had to the prairie landscape. But there’s something hopeful, if poignant, about the idea of maintaining love through memory. I hope I’ve been able to capture that in the music.

I’m experimenting with putting a video/recording online at the same time as I put the sheet music on the Choral Public Domain Library. Youtube is a bit faster than CPDL is, so at the moment Continuum is available on the contributor wiki, which you’ll need a login for, and sometime on 28th July it’ll make its way over to the public CPDL site. But you can watch and listen below:

Or you can go and listen over at Soundcloud.

As usual, the work is released under a CC by-SA license: that means you can download the sheet music for free, you can sing it for free, you can record it for free — as long as you attribute me. If you like my music and want me to write more, please try to share it with someone who doesn’t know about it yet and might like it; or consider becoming a patron. Thanks!


The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth is transferred from 31st May to 1st June this year, because Trinity Sunday is more important; but we did get some words to Mary by Athelstan Riley in one of our hymns this morning: “Thou Bearer of the eternal Word, Most gracious, magnify the Lord.” I note that Athelstan Riley died in 1945, which means his words become public domain this year (or next? I get confused).

In February I put a Nunc dimittis online. The sheet music for the matching Magnificat is now online at the Choral Public Domain Library. I haven’t done even a computer-generated recording yet, but I’ll try and add one in due course, and this is definitely a piece on the list of things I would like to have a demo recording for in due course.

Anyway — as usual, the music is CC by-SA which means you can share it — indeed you are actively encouraged to share it — even for commercial purposes, but you have to attribute me and you have to use a similar license. In practical terms, that means publishers aren’t interested in the work. Instead, I crowdfund a sort of honorarium via my Patreon page. Do have a look if you’d like to become a patron of the arts, or if you just like my music enough to buy me a cup of tea.



Seeking an Accompanist/Assistant Organist

St. Andrew’s Leytonstone is looking for an Accompanist/Assistant Organist who will play the piano for choir rehearsals for one hour on Thursday nights and play the organ for at least one Sunday service per month, working closely with the current Director of Music. The successful applicant will be a competent musician with an imaginative approach to accompanying choral liturgy. S/he will be able, or willing to learn, to direct a small amateur choir in a wide range of sacred music, and may be called upon to sing occasionally if appropriate. This appointment will be an opportunity to learn all aspects of Musical Directorship in a friendly and supportive environment, under the experienced direction of Kathryn Rose.

The choir sings at Choral Eucharist every Sunday with additional services at Holy Week, Easter, Advent and Christmas, as well as occasional weddings and funerals. A range of hymns and songs from the New English Hymnal and other collections is used and we are working toward a varied rotation of congregational Mass settings. We offer the successful candidate an opportunity to assist in developing the strong musical tradition here, and hope for someone who will participate fully in the life of the parish.

The church is blessed with a fine three manual Lewis organ, with major repairs scheduled to begin in January 2016, and an enthusiastic, robed, choir of both adults and children, practising for one hour on Thursday evenings and a half hour before services on Sunday mornings. Pay for weekly Thursday night rehearsals will be £20 per hour and for regular services, £40 per service. There are also fees from weddings and funerals depending on the experience, aspiration and enthusiasm of the successful applicant.

Enhanced DBS Disclosure will be required. We are seeking someone who is available to start as soon as possible by mutual agreement. Please contact our Director of Music, Kathryn Rose, at to express an interest.