A hire note

May 23rd, 2014 By Chris Anderson

If your plans for New Zealand Music Month involved seeing a choir or an orchestra, a ballet or an opera, then chances are the musicians learnt their notes from scores hired through the National Library’s Choral and Orchestral Music Hire Service.

Front illustration on score for Variationen über ein Thema von Joseph Haydn, showing cherubs and musical instruments.
Score for Variationen über ein Thema von Joseph Haydn, op. 56a. Record page.

The Radio New Zealand connection

It all started back in 1987, when Radio New Zealand donated its huge collection of music scores to the National Library. When I say huge, the replacement value in 1987 was put at almost a million dollars.

This collection had been built up over 50 years, to provide a programme source for broadcasting. It initially supplied music to the local studio orchestras, then to the Symphony Orchestra, and then later to choirs, national recording artists and ensembles as well. By 1987, however, it had become too expensive for Radio New Zealand to operate and maintain the collection, so they offered it to the National Library – and we gratefully accepted it.

Radio New Zealand felt that the National Library could assure the future of the collection, and a stipulated condition was that “the material would continue to be readily available to our staff and the country’s musicians and music organisations”

Part of Radio New Zealand's proposal to the National Library.
Part of Radio New Zealand's proposal to the National Library.

Well, true to our word we have maintained and built up the collection, and we make it readily available to Radio New Zealand, and to musicians throughout the country and overseas – we have current Hire Service clients in Australia, and have previously lent sets of music to organisations in Indonesia and Canada.

Some statistics:

  • We currently have 335 Hire Service clients
  • We have over 5000 orchestral hire sets
  • We have over 3000 choral hire sets
  • Between 1 May 2013 and 30 April 2014, we supplied 310 full orchestral sets, and 4086 choral scores to clients
  • Karl Jenkins’ ‘Armed Man’ and Handel’s ‘Messiah’ battled it out as the most issued Hire Service title last year
The music hire stacks at the Library, showing hundreds of folders of music.
Just a few of the thousands of sets available for hire.

New Zealand music (in any) month

A recent acquisition serves as a good example of how the Hire Service helps to ‘enrich the cultural and economic life of New Zealand and its interchanges with other nations...’ – as our legislation requires.

Earlier this year, the South Auckland Choral Society asked if we would consider buying 60 scores of ‘Songs of sea and land: 7 New Zealand folksongs arranged for mezzo-soprano, SATB choir and piano’ by New Zealand composer David Hamilton for a performance on July 20.

We were more than happy to. There’s not a lot of New Zealand folk music around for choirs and orchestras – as David himself alludes to in his programme notes for ‘Songs of sea and land’:

My first encounter with New Zealand folksongs came in the late 1990s when I was approached twice in quick succession by choirs seeking folksong arrangements. They had drawn a blank, apart from a couple of a capella arrangements by Douglas Mews...

Making this music available through the service helps everyone. When the choir performs the songs, New Zealand’s history, both musical and otherwise, is brought to light through the arrangement of original tunes, and through the stories told in the folk-songs. A New Zealand composer is recompensed for their work, both through our purchase, and through performance royalties the choir (and future Hire Service choirs) will pay to APRA. Choirs get to hire rather than buy the set (bear in mind that many choirs/orchestras are amateur organisations operating on a shoestring budget), and revenue from the hire comes back to the National Library, enabling us to maintain and increase our collections.

Finally, the musicians and concert-goers alike all have a thoroughly good time – we hope!

Have a listen to the 2nd movement of ‘Songs of sea and land’ (Apologies for the audio sync problem - Ed):

Embedded content: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9W9Zz3wI3Q

And as for enriching New Zealand’s ‘interchanges with other nations...’ Over to David Hamilton’s programme notes once more:

These folksong arrangements were prompted by a request from the conductor of The Grosse Ile Chorale (Michigan, USA) who were to tour New Zealand in mid-2014. He was keen to source some New Zealand folksongs, but had come across little except my set “Across the Line” - which turned out to be for male voices, so not really suitable for his group. One of their concerts on tour would be in combination with South Auckland Choral Society, a concert for which I had been engaged as guest conductor. These new arrangements were intended as a possible combined work for the two choirs.

So, if you’re in Papakura on Sunday 20 July, head along and have a listen to this combined choirs concert.

The hire service in concert

Here are some other New Zealand Music Month concerts around the country for which the Hire Service has supplied music:

Fri 23 May, 7.30pm, St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, 373 Manchester Street – Consortia Chamber Choir, University of Canterbury, performing Durufle’s ‘Requiem’.

Sat 24 May, 7pm, Wellington Cathedral of St Paul - Orchestra Wellington.

Sat 24 May, 7.30pm, Knox Church, Dunedin – Dunedin Youth Orchestra presents ‘Dreams and Nightmares’.

Sat 24 May, 7.30pm, John Dalton Theatre, Turner Centre at Kerikeri – Bay of Islands Singers, ‘HMS Pinafore’ and other musical treats.

Sun 25 May, 2pm, St Andrew’s Church, Gisborne – Gisborne Choral Society, Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’.

Details from Gavin MacLean, cullerlie@gmail.com or 06-867 4937

Happy listening – and enjoy the rest of New Zealand Music Month!

Post a blog comment

(Your email will never be made public)
Kate Mead
28 May 2014 3:20pm

Great history of the collection, Chris. Thanks for drawing a useful, and valuable, resource to our attention. Good to embed some music on the page too - David Hamilton writes so well for voices.

Rachel Prosser
23 May 2014 2:34pm

Hi Chris. You commented that "the musicians and concert-goers alike all have a thoroughly good time – we hope!"

Recent UK research backs you up: an LSE study found there people who attend concerts, singing in choirs for an audience (classified as "drama participation") had higher life satisfaction than those who don't.