What to do with really old choir scores
  • tandrews
    Posts: 108
    I've been tasked with purging boxes of old music from the Cathedral rectory. The problem is I don't like getting rid of music that is 100+ years old and clearly was valued by New Ulm's German heritage and culture back in the day. Most of it is old Mass settings by Witt and Singenberger. Do I hold on to one copy of SATB each, the whole collection, or just discard the lot? This is printed music that probably hasn't seen the light of day for 50 years. I want to preserve the history of the culture at the Cathedral for posterity's sake, but I don't want to save dreck either.
    Thanked by 2NihilNominis Elmar
  • MarkB
    Posts: 700
    Scan one copy of each for a digital archive, then toss the sheet music.
    Thanked by 1chonak
  • It is likely that this collection does not feature much if any musical quality. If you want to preserve it as part of your church's heritage you might keep one copy of each score and soberly discard the rest. This is more or less as Mark advises except that I would keep a real, material, copy. It is highly unlikely that any of this music would be used for future performance.

    I was once in your position. It was specified in my contract that I would not throw away any music. Well, there just happened to be a large unused room half way up the belfry which had a very old and large green cabinet (the 'green thing') into which I put all the old stuff that no one would ever use again. Although this was a large Lutheran church, I left it with a library that any Episcopalian cathedral choirmaster or Lutheran seminary professor would drool over.

    No matter the age, there is that in each of us which respects and preserves old stuff even if we would never use it.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 360
    Just bear in mind as you go that what is dreck to you may be judged usable by 1) future church musicians or 2) future academics. Look at the doctoral theses that have been published about the most trifling music in surprising places. “Cathedral Music in a Rural German-American Diocese at the turn of the 20th century” may be an excellent dissertation for someone 30[0] years hence to write.

    I would do the following:

    1) Scan to PDFs at 600 dpi, including any marginalia. Put a digital copy (CD and/or thumb drive) with the paper copies, in addition to any online storage, which may be lost if the diocese switches IT vendors, etc. Consider uploading to CPDL/IMSLP later too, to benefit others outside the diocese.
    2) Keep 3 copies of each work, in a suitable environment in appropriate, organized acid-free folders. That way there is an archival copy to keep in storage all the time, a working copy to be given to anyone who would like to study the piece, and a spare in case the working copy is destroyed.
    3) While you’re at it, make an Excel spreadsheet listing title, composer, date, source within the diocese (if known), and number of copies present when collection was culled. This would let future researchers discover that X Mass only had 8 copies, and probably was not sung for a big event by a big choir, but Y Mass had 100, and thus Y would be the unspecified Witt Mass which the newspaper said was sung at the consecration of the cathedral. Print said spreadsheet on good paper and store with music in case .xlsx is an unusable file format in 50 years.
    4) Type up a description of your work. How you did it; who told you to, what state the collection was in and its past history as far as you know, and what files and in what format are on the digital media.

    I hope I don’t have to perform any of the music you describe any time soon, but the collection itself is irreplaceable and part of diocesan history, and you never know if you have the last surviving copy of a piece.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 360
    Tangent, from personal experience:

    Such collections are also enlightening for [young] zealots, who might assume that Pontifical High Mass in your cathedral in 1931 meant a Byrd gradual, a Palestrina offertory, a Isaac communion followed by Spem in allium, and the Vierne Mass for the ordinary, and then Vatican 2 unleashed Satan himself, who caused everyone to inexplicably dump that great music and worship Marty Haugen. Witnessing the mundanity of what actually was sung at sparsely-attended High Masses before the Council, can help people in our shoes understand that great polyphony and authentic propers sung in full (not psalm-toned) are truly premiere [liturgical] performances and novelties in most places in America, and, in order to be comprehensible and appreciated, need to be presented as such, and not as “a nice piece that you probably heard when you were 7 and made your first communion”.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,611
    Burn cd’s. Magnetic media can go bad easily. Burn two copies and keep one offsite.
  • Give them to me. We sing that kind of stuff.
  • Seriously, how many boxes?
  • tandrews
    Posts: 108
    Thanks everyone! This is really helpful.

    Also, there's about a dozen of them.
  • When can I come take a look / what's the deadline?
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,862
    I would say the following:

    First, scan everything for IMSLP. And keep archival copies for yourself and your successors, you won't be the last musician there.

    Second, look through the archive to see if there is a Mass that was used on an important date: e.g., If a particular Mass was used on the 50th (or other important) Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral, it might be worth re-visiting for the 125th. (I actually revived a decent Mass (in F) by W.A. Leonard for my choir's 100th Anniversary, they and the people loved it, and we recycle movements from it every so often during the year.)

    Third, some of these settings while not "top tier" are worthwhile. Read through them; you might find that a Kyrie from one Mass "might be nice for Midnight Mass" or something. Sometimes Dewar's is more appropriate than Glenfiddich.

    Fourth, some choirmasters might want some of these (i.e. NihilNominis, here).

    Fifth, don't throw them away, there are people who collect old sheet music, you could make some extra money for the music program selling them on E-bay and the like.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 521
    Sell the copies on ebay, there are always buyers looking for old mass settings, choral pieces, hymns, etc. Keep copies for the parish archive, if you have one, if not start an archive. A complete list of what you have may help you decide what to do.
    Thanked by 2Jeffrey Quick tomjaw
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,225
    Ask Peter Meggison ( www.catholicdevotionalhymns.com ) if he wants any of it
    Thanked by 2oldhymns tomjaw
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,373
    IMSLP is the way to go. Those scores will be preserved for anyone who wants them in the future.
    Thanked by 2Jeffrey Quick tomjaw
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,797
    I'm interested. In cleaner copies, for IMSLP. Especially if you have works by Bruno Oscar Klein or Walkiewicz.
    Right now my website is down, and haven't found the heart to fix what's ailing it (a problem with the wiki software, I think) otherwise, you could check them against what's there.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,734
    A lady recently contacted CMAA with a similar question: what to do with some old vocal scores that her late mother had kept? I asked her to send me photos of the first page of each piece, and then I selected a few for her to send me. I transcribed a couple of them (Easter pieces) for CPDL using Lilypond, since the composers were notable (J. Vincent Higginson and Carl Greith) and I could imagine an EF parish making use of them.
  • I would scan a copy of each, save the files and upload to imslp/cpdl, save two hard copies of each, and toss the rest.

    If you want to RECOGNIZE the Church's heritage instead of just preserving it, you could get some frames and hang the first pages of a few scores in the choir loft, or in the stairwell, or in the office.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • TCJ
    Posts: 782
    I have pitched a lot of what I've found, kept a few copies here and there, and haven't gone through some of it. To date, my choir has used one thing which I found lying around in a cabinet.

    Also, when I was reading this thread title, when I saw "What to do with really old choir..." my mind filled in the blank with "members".
    Thanked by 3tomjaw Elmar CharlesW
  • Craig Cramer at Notre Dame sometimes solicits older music for to collect and/or sell.
    He has advertised numerous times on our Forum for old choral or organ music.
  • tandrews
    Posts: 108
    Also, when I was reading this thread title, when I saw "What to do with really old choir..." my mind filled in the blank with "members".


    Similar thing. Preserve some of them, recognize them, pitch them...

    /snark
    Thanked by 2ServiamScores tomjaw
  • What about semi-random English language hymn and sacred music octavo scores under copyright from the 1950s-2000? Bonfire?
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,177
    What about semi-random English language hymn and sacred music octavo scores under copyright from the 1950s-2000? Bonfire?


    They are great to use to light the new fire on the Vigil...
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,797
    Music from the transition period (1964-1970) might be worth taking a look at, particularly if it's from one of the older publishers (Fischer, McLaughlin & Reilly). The translations are closer to today's, and they hadn't totally sold out to the folk mass movement yet. Chances are, though, that it's a vanity, and bonfire-worthy.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Don9of11
  • Thanks guys. I will recycle the post-1970 stuff and anything older that isn't based on a liturgical text. Of course Latin pieces will be retained.
  • This was how we acquired our Liber Breviors. The Music Director at the time (more than 20 years ago) was told to throw them out by the pastor, but she (MD) gave them to the Latin Mass community instead, or so I’m told.
    Thanked by 2CCooze tomjaw
  • Sponsa,

    When edicts don't comport with right reason, they lose some of their force.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • I pitched all of the English stuff (~500 scores) and about half of the Latin stuff due to dreckiness. Orchids occupy the freed-up space.

    Next up: the Children's choir.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,611
    Day One on Church Job

    I pulled into the church on my first day and went down to the music room to find two filing cabinets full of photocopies of ocp, gia, wlp music, almost entirely composed for guitar and voice. It was all under copyright and illegally copied. I loaded it into four boxes and shipped it out of the church pronto.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 382
    Day One on Church Job
    I pulled into the church on my first day and went down to the music room [...] loaded it into four boxes and shipped it out of the church pronto.
    Must have been an interesting job description that allowed you to do so, even before saying 'good morning' to your new boss... you didn't get fired in the afternoon, did you?
  • IdeK
    Posts: 85
    As a special collections librarian, I'd say exactly what Gamba said, except in the reverse order.

    I'd do the following :
    1. Assess what you have. Identify everything and make the Excel spreadsheet he says. Keep it a .CSV, because it is the best format for long-term conservation. Print it on good quality paper (aka non acid) too.
    2. Keep three copies, as he says, in non acid folders. Keep them in a place where temperature and relative humidity are fairly stable. Avoid placing them under a roof or an evacuation pipe : a leak could happen.
    3. Digitize it. 600 dpi is quite much, I'd say (that's what we do where I work for manuscripts or artworks such as prints, not everything), except if there is a lot of annotations. 300 dpi is a minimum ; 400 is better and should do the trick, except for scores with a lot of annotations (then go to 600). When you digitize it, keep the TIFF file. It is the best conservation format.
    4. Keep a record of the which score, as identified on your spreadsheet, identify with which image files.
    Make three copies of the digitization. One on a thumb drive kept with the scores, two on other places (might be on the diocese's cloud or servers if there are any).
    5. (And only 5) Put the digitized scores online in a public repository such as cpdl.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 360
    Thank you, IdeK!! I am obviously not a special collections librarian – just another organist. When I was in such a situation, I asked a college librarian for advice, but evidently the past few years have removed the appropriate order of operations from my brain.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,373
    I am both a librarian and an organist. ideK gives good advice.

    Then again, you could always box them and put them in the storage closet with the aging sopranos who never leave...