Arranging an Event
What is the choice?
The three most popular types of event are services, workshops and concerts. Workshops may lead to a later service or concert, or may stand alone.
What sort of music is there?
The greatest part of the repertoire consists of metrical psalm settings; there are also hymns, anthems, canticle settings and Christmas carols. The metrical psalms and hymns are strophic; i.e. the text is in verse, with several verses. Some are as simple as modern hymn tunes; indeed, there are probably some in your regular hymn book. Others are longer, and more florid and complex, and these may be less suitable for congregational participation. The anthems and canticles are usually settings of scriptural texts, and fairly short and straightforward in style. Christmas carols are where the repertoire is especially strong, with some lively settings.
If you would like a service in your church with West Gallery (WG) music, first decide how far you want to go in recreating the atmosphere of an 18th or 19th Century service. This could range from simply including a few WG items in your usual worship to a complete recreation; though most churches will want to stop short at the hour-long sermons which used to be the norm.
In the WG period almost all services in the established church were Matins or Evensong. This is something to take into account, although WG music can be adapted to any modern service. There are anthems and psalms suitable for most of the major church festivals throughout the year.
Secondly, decide whether you want to invite an existing WG quire to sing at your church, or to to use either your regular choir, or a group specially recruited for the occasion. It is also possible to hold a joint event, with members of a WG quire singing alongside singers who are not yet used to WG music. The spelling "quire" is used to denote a body of both singers and instrumentalists; instrumental accompaniment is traditional, though it is possible to use an organ or other keyboard instrument. If using local singers, you may want to invite an experienced WG leader to a prior rehearsal or workshop. Much WG music is suitable for congregations, and it is easy to achieve a balance between congregational and quire items.
Any group of amateur singers and instrumentalists can meet to enjoy a WG workshop. It can last for any length of time from a couple of hours to a whole weekend. WG workshops are often held as part of a larger event. A mixed group of singers, with ideally a few instrumentalists as well, is needed.
There is plenty of three-part WG music for occasions when there may be a shortage of male singers. The practice of doubling the vocal parts with instruments makes it easy for less confident singers, or those who cannot read music, to learn and hold their parts. Young musicians can play a useful part in such events, both as singers and instrumentalists. Workshops work best if the leader is an experienced WG musician, but anybody can get hold of some WG music and have a try.
Established WG quires are usually keen for opportunities to give concerts. These may take the form of lecture-recitals, with information about WG music and suitable readings. There can usually be opportunities for audience participation. Or a concert may follow a workshop. Mainstream choirs may wish to include WG items in a regular concert, perhaps along with other music.
How much will it all cost?
In some cases leaders and quires will require a fee, but many will work on a voluntary, or expenses only basis for churches, charities, or comparable non-profit organisations. Much suitable music is freely available in the form of photocopiable master sheets. Workshop leaders will usually provide music suitable for the occasion. So it needn't be an expensive occasion.
Where do we go for more information?
Preparing an Event
It helps to have a core of experienced singers who can read music, but West Gallery (WG) music is also well suited to those who are not confident about holding a part, or of their music reading ability. The practice of doubling the voice parts with instruments makes it easy for such singers to take part.
Instrumentalists do not need an advanced technique, and the repertoire is well suited to young and less experienced players. What is needed is the ability to play out and lead with confidence, and flexibility over such matters as following a part in a score, which may not be in the usual clef or transposition.
WG voice parts generally have a narrower range than the cathedral repertoire. Soprano parts, for example, rarely rise above F. It may therefore be expedient for mezzo-sopranos who might normally sing alto to sing soprano, and for baritones to try the tenor part.
It is common to double the tenor line at the upper octave with some high voices. This was common practice in the WG period, and it helps to produce an authentic WG sound. Often the air, or main melody, lies in the tenor line. Those singing the soprano line may need warning when they have a harmony part.
It is usual to double each voice part with at least one melody instrument. Instrumentalists sit near the singers whose part they are doubling, and not as a group. Violin, oboe, clarinet, descant recorder, trumpet and flute playing an octave higher are suitable for the soprano line; violin, viola, clarinet, horn (F or Eb) for alto; viola, clarinet, horn, trombone for tenor; and 'cello, double bass, bassoon, trombone and tuba for the bass. Other usages are possible. Players needing transposed or recleffed music, such as clarinettists or violists, may be able to obtain suitable music from a workshop leader. Those using the Sibelius files on this website can easily make their own transpositions.
When fewer than four instruments are available, the alto may most conveniently be omitted, bass and air being the most important parts. When more are available, at least one should double the tenor line at the upper octave, chosen from those instruments recommended for the soprano line. When there is a lack of tenor pitch instruments, the part may be doubled at the upper octave only. Any additional instruments should be added in such a manner as to balance the overall ensemble.
Style of singing
Many good WG singers have a background in folk music rather than in classical. A vigorous, open-throated, vibrato-free style suits the music best. Faster movements should be sung with rhythmic drive. Marks of expression are rare, but should be observed where they occur. Any additional expression should be simple and straightforward. Dynamic markings usually reinforce changes of texture, and it is within the style always to sing thinly scored passages more quietly. The marking "solo" over a passage may be taken as optional.
If you need to use a keyboard for accompaniment, it is helpful to get the singers used to following a single line. An organ can play three of the four parts with contrasting tone colours. With a piano, try accompanying just one or two parts at a time.
By far the hardest aspect of WG music, for those new to it, is underlaying the text in the strophic settings after the first verse. It is worth spending some time practising this aspect, and getting used to the symbols used.
Make sure that lighting will remain good throughout the event, and that there are good sightlines to the conductor for all musicians when the singers are standing.
Pieces Suitable for Workshops
Those new to West Gallery music often have difficulty fitting the text to the music in the strophic settings; that is to say, the metrical psalm, hymn and carol settings which form a substantial part of the repertoire. It is quite hard to do this even for the plain tunes, which have no repetition or split lines. But in the more florid settings many newcomers to the genre are put off by the difficulties of text underlay.
It is often asked why editors do not underlay all the verses in all the parts, to avoid this difficulty. There are two reasons for their reluctance to do so. Firstly, when there are many verses, underlaying them all can spread out the page so much that one difficulty is replaced by another, as singers struggle to find where their part is. Secondly, doing so can cause more page turns, which are inconvenient enough for singers, but present even greater difficulties for the instrumentlists who often accompany West Gallery music.
Eighteenth and nineteenth century church musicians were often confronted with text in one book and music in another, often a single part, and with the minimum of guidance to help with underlay. Because they seem to have managed, many experienced West Gallery singers feel that they should cope in the same way, and learn to do so. But for beginners in the genre, some extra help may be needed.
The twelve settings listed below have been edited so as to minimise the difficulties for new singers. There are six versions of each setting; one for each of soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices. These versions have the main voice part on a large stave, with all verses underlaid, and show the other three voices without text or expression marks on small staves, to help keep the place when all the voices do not sing together. Fifthly there is a leader's full score, with keyboard accompaniment reduced from the voice parts on small staves added below. And sixthly there is a transposed B flat part for clarinets, trumpets and other instruments which use this transposition.
Some West Gallery purists have suggested that keyboard accompaniment is inappropriate. There are two good reasons for ignoring this objection. Firstly, there is well documented evidence that in the West Gallery period, although most churches had no keyboard accompaniment available, when it was available, it was used. And secondly, if West Gallery music is to take its rightful place in the repertoires of modern church and secular choirs, then the use of keyboards is unavoidable, regardless of what may have happened two centuries ago.
All these scores may be freely downloaded and copied for any non-profit-making use. Many other pieces on this site have tenor-led settings re-edited with the air in the soprano, and more scores with fully underlaid text.
For each of the twelve settings listed, click on S, A, T, B download the Sib(elius) files for soprano, alto, tenor or bass. Click on KS link for a Sib file with added keyboard accompaniment. Click on the Bb for a transposed version.
If you are new to Sibelius, visit our Questions and Answers page for more information.
Chrome users may have difficulty downloading Sibelius files. Again, our Questions and Answers page has advice on how to deal with this issue.
|1||The Lord looked down from heaven's high tower||Psalm 53 NV||Devizes||Isaac Tucker||Soprano||Alto||Tenor||Bass||Keyboard||Bb|
|2||The memory of his glorious name||Psalm 72 NV||Nehemiah||William Arnold||Soprano||Alto||Tenor||Bass||Keyboard||Bb|
|3||O God, my heart is fixed, 'tis bent||Psalm 57 NV||Lynn||Uriah Davenport||Soprano||Alto||Tenor||Bass||Keyboard||Bb|
|4||Arise and hail the joyful day||Carol||--||Anon.||Soprano||Alto||Tenor||Bass||Keyboard||Bb|
|5||O thou, to whom all creatures bow||Psalm 8 NV||Otford||Anon. (1749)||Soprano||Alto||Tenor||Bass||Keyboard||Bb|
|6||Shepherds, rejoice||Samuel Medley||Lyngham||Thomas Jarman||Soprano||Alto||Tenor||Bass||Keyboard||Bb|
|7||O for a shout of sacred joy||Isaac Watts||Belvedere||G. Titlar||Soprano||Alto||Tenor||Bass||Keyboard||Bb|
|8||Grace, 'tis a charming sound||Philip Doddridge||Cranbrook||Thomas Clark||Soprano||Alto||Tenor||Bass||Keyboard||Bb|
|9||My soul and spirit, filled with joy||Magnificat NV||Pentonville||William Marsh||Soprano||Alto||Tenor||Bass||Keyboard||Bb|
|10||Lord, let thy servant now depart||Nunc Dimittis NV||Rineton||Anon. (1717)||Soprano||Alto||Tenor||Bass||Keyboard||Bb|
|11||They that in ships, with courage bold||Psalm 107 NV||New Poole||?William Knapp||Soprano||Alto||Tenor||Bass||Keyboard||Bb|
|12||All laud and praise, with heart and voice||Psalm 30 JH||Psalm 30||Matthew Cooke||Soprano||Alto||Tenor||Bass||Keyboard||Bb|
Val Harrison's guide to running a workshop
Val Harrison organised some most successful West Gallery workshops at Beckenham Baptist Church.
She offers her guide in the form of a "to do" list.
The catering section (items 17-19 & 26) is optional.
1. Where and when? – After consultation with Francis and his diary, decide on a date and venue. You need to do this well in advance of the event. The size of the venue will depend on the number of people you can have attending.
2. Decide whether you want a stand-alone workshop or a workshop followed by a concert or service (this will dictate the number of pieces you tackle).
3. Choose a weekend which is not in the middle of the school holidays or on top of a festival.
4. Work out what you will charge – you need to cover your costs. If you actually sell tickets there are Council regulations and forms to fill in. (We had a retiring collection with a suggested amount of £3.00 and made a good profit.)
5. Make your precious list – At least four months before, assemble a list of names, addresses (email or postal) of people you think might be interested. Contact music schools, music teachers, local choirs, local churches (choir masters by name if you know them or to “The Director of Music” if you don’t), local church organists and musicians who might be interested. You will need to explain several times over what “West Gallery” music is as not everyone will know.
6. Keep a hard copy of your list as this is sometimes easier to fiddle with (my computer crashed after the last workshop and I had to put all the addresses in again)
7. Publicity – Concoct a leaflet or flyer telling people about the event with the date and venue giving your email and phone number for contact and telling people to reserve the date.
8. Do a more detailed flyer with an application form to invite people to the event and including an application form (sample attached). Include “voice or instrument” and “dietary requirements” on the form.
9. Write a letter to all your contacts and ask them to spread the word among all their contacts and send a form with it for them to copy and pass on.
10. Make a list of those you have invited (include a tick box for replies received) and sit back and wait (not too long) for replies to start coming in. Within a couple of weeks you should get some response.
11. Acknowledge replies where possible and make another list of people from whom you have had no response at all.
12. After a month, contact all the No Reply people and ask them to contact you even if it is to say that no-one is interested, then at least you can write them off.
13. Casing the joint - Francis will probably ask to come and “case your joint” so he can get an idea of the acoustics and the size of the venue. If you do not have church keys yourself make sure you contact someone who has.
14. Francis will probably ask you if you have any thoughts about music to sing and play. This will depend on the time of the year, of course. You may like to ask potential attendees if they have any suggestions. This website has over 300 anthems, hymns, psalms, canticles and Christmas carols to choose from and you can view the music and download it from here. You can also listen to it for which you will need to download and install Sibelius Scorch (a free download can be accessed through the website. It takes about 5 minutes to install).
15. Francis will put the music for the event up on the website when it has been decided, then all you have to do is contact all your people again and get them to print it off. That will save you making about a million photocopies! Print some hard copies for people who do not have a computer or a printer.
16. About a month before, contact anyone you think could still be interested but has not replied and ask them to firmly commit to the event and not just say “I’ll come unless I get a better offer”. You have to do this because of organising catering.
17. Organise your catering – I happen to be the Kitchen Boss at my church so I asked some non-choristers in my team if they would kindly come and set out and serve tea to all the singers, which they did. Our church choir provided a hearty tea (sausage rolls, sandwiches and cake) for everyone, which was served by my helpers. If your Catering Captain is not a chorister, get them on side to organise it.
18. You will need to provide food for coeliac sufferers (wheat allergy) and other folk who have allergies. Make sure everything is labelled with the ingredients. If you have someone with a nut allergy it is best not to provide anything containing nuts in case they eat it by mistake. A bowl of peanuts in the room will send a nut-allergy sufferer into anaphylactic shock. They don’t actually have to eat them. (I am happy to be contacted by anyone who is catering for a large number of people, as the logistics tend to be a bit daunting).
19. In the last week or two – Work out how many sandwiches and cakes you need to be sure you have enough and make sure you let your catering team know how many will be coming. Remind the cake makers and sandwich makers of the date etc (unless someone is doing that for you) and that they are contributing food for the event. Any sort of salad stuff and milk needs to be bought on the day.
20. You will also have to remember to see the person who is responsible for the heating if it is in the winter to make sure the venue is warm and also the person responsible for the sound system as Francis may need a microphone if the venue is large.
21. On the day – make sure you are at the venue early to help set things up. If you haven’t got church keys you need the person who has to be there.
22. Put out jugs of water and disposable cups to save washing up for people to have when there is a break.
23. Stand at the door and meet and greet everyone who comes to make them feel welcome and tell them where to go and hang their coats up. Francis will indicate where he wants people to sit.
24. Before the workshop starts, stand at the front and welcome everyone. Tell them where the fire exits and toilets are and mention where the tea will be served if it is in a different part of the building.
25. Hand over to Francis and join in and enjoy yourself.
26. When the workshop is over, make sure everyone knows where to go to have tea. Try to walk round and speak to people and let the tea-makers dish out the tea.
27. Pass a bucket or bowl for contributions towards costs and make sure you pay Francis his expenses or fee.
28. Help to clear up.
29. Best of luck!! Val Harrison
No copyright is claimed in this article, which may be freely reproduced for promoting knowledge of West Gallery church music.