The First Readings Project
INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE:
The First Readings Project is a series of public performances of new works or works-in-progress sung by hired professionals. These are informal gatherings, on the model of literary readings, with opportunities for conversation between composers, performers, and audience members. My intention is that this project will enrich the repertoire of vocal ensemble music; provide an engaging performance opportunity; help composers develop good technique in vocal writing; and demystify the creation of such music for audiences. You, as a funder, would gain the satisfaction and the thrill of helping to train a new generation of composers.
In recent history, the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota) has had two high-profile competitive programs devoted to the informal performances of new choral works: Choral Ventures of the Dale Warland Singers, and Essentially Choral of VocalEssence under the direction of Philip Brunelle. Both programs have provided annual opportunities for emerging composers to have their works performed and receive creative feedback from musicians and audience members. The First Readings Project proposes to improve upon this model by providing this opportunity multiple times a year, and eliminating the competitive aspect of the program by offering it on a “first come, first served” basis.
THE APPLICATION PROCESS:
Composers will apply online by submitting a score, an application fee, and a preferred date for performance. Applications will be judged only on the basis of timeliness, completeness, and legibility of the score, and not by any qualitative musical judgment. The modest application fee will encourage self-selection by the composers, ensuring that they are taking their work and the opportunity seriously.
Readings will be presented several times a year in a variety of venues around the Twin Cities area. Venues will be deemed appropriate by dint of good acoustics, physical accessibility, comfort for performers and audience, minimum external noise, and donated or bartered rental fees. Each three-hour session will be divided into four forty-minute slots—each slot devoted to a single composer’s piece. Each composer’s time slot will include the following elements:
• An initial reading of the piece
• Coaching and input by the composer
• Discussion between the composer, music director, and singers
• Discussion with audience
• Final full reading
The audience would be provided with a program of the works, plus miniature copies of the scores being read (with the composers’ permission). There may be a nominal charge to audience members. Most significantly, these events will be professionally recorded in their entirety, and each composer will receive a copy of this recording. These will be invaluable for use as work samples in grant proposals and commissioning applications. Records of the conversation and feedback will continue to be useful as a tool for a composer's objective evaluation of their process.
IN A NUTSHELL...
I believe this project will raise the stature of music in the eyes and ears of the larger musical world. I believe it will help provide composers the means to learn the practical effects of their writing, and allow for audiences to better understand and appreciate the work that they do. Please donate and help bring this opportunity to life.