Black Lives Matter Commissioning Project
In Partnership with the Natural Voice Network
Phase 1 Celebration Video
The journey from project conception, to fundraising, to commissioning, to the premiere of eight new songs by black composers in October 2022
The Story So Far
Fran André (UK choir leader and project co-ordinator), Kathy Bullock (US African American Music Specialist) and Siân Croose (UK choir leader and project consultant) were the steering group for this innovative song-commissioning project which completed with the hosting of the songs on www.choircommunity.net.
The idea for this project came out of discussions that were taking place within the singing-leading community as part of the Black Lives Matter movement. It was conceived in 2021 after a Black Lives Matter session for choir leaders at the NVN Annual Gathering, which asked challenging but necessary questions.
Our plan was to commission eight black composers, 4 UK-based/4 US-based, to write one song each for community choirs/singing groups. We began a process of researching composers and making a shortlist of those who we thought could create the most suitable songs for us. Individual singing leading practitioners and whole choirs were invited to support this project. We raised over £26K from over 50 choirs and singing groups in the UK, the US, Canada and New Zealand.
Huge thanks are due for the resounding support from Natural Voice Network singing leaders – we couldn’t have done this without you! Thanks also to the NVN www.naturalvoice.net, who have been supportive in partnering with this project, the Daily Antidote of Song Zoom Community (Carpe Diem Arts) for helping to spread the word to our friends across the water, and all the individual donators and practitioners who donated directly.
Original Shout-out for Funders Video – Nov 2021
Here’s our Why
As you may well know, so much black music has been appropriated, bought and sold with composers and performing artists not receiving proper remuneration and credit over the centuries. By asking singers and supportive patrons to make a direct contribution to creating these songs our aim to highlight this issue, and do something practical and creative that raised awareness of these transactions, and that they are long overdue. A big element of this project is that the funds came from normal people, like you! Our supporters may have been choir singers past or present, or simply individuals wanting to support black music and culture creation. It was so important to us that this is a grassroots project with the songs being commissioned from donations from members of the public – people power! A big part of the focus of this project was economic; acknowledging and attempting to engage in a small but hopefully meaningful way with the economics of racism and inequality in music.
Getting our Composer Ambassadors on board March 2022
Jennifer John and Lea Morris were the first two composers we selected from our shortlist. We approached them both asking if they’d like to compose for this project and whether they would become ambassadors for it.