Multitude of Voyces

The choral music 'publishing event' of the last couple of years may well have been the release of the first two volumes of Multitude of Voyces - Sacred Music by Women Composers.

Published in November 2019, Multitude of Voyces Volume 1 contains twenty-two anthems for SATB choirs, ranging in date of composition from the sixteenth to the twenty-first centuries. The composers range from the Italian nun Sulpitia Cesis (1577-c.1619) to the American singer-songwriter Rani Arbo (b.1968). Arbo's setting of Tennyson's Crossing the Bar appears here in a simple, moving and effective setting which fully justifies the composer's inclusion alongside such luminaries as Judith Bingham, Sarah MacDonald, Cecilia McDowall and Judith Weir.

Multitude of Voyces Volume 2, published in association with the National Youth Choir of Scotland, has just been released and contains 24 anthems for upper-voice choirs. Here, the composers span almost a thousand years, with the inclusion of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), and the choice of texts includes not just those from liturgical and biblical sources, but also Julian of Norwich, Jane Austen and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Speaking to the Church Times in November 2019, editor Louise Stewart explained that 'the aim was to expand choirs’ repertoires to include women com­posers “both recognised and over­looked. The greatest challenge was not to find beautiful liturgical music writ­ten by women composers: there is plenty of that,” she said. The diffi­culty had, rather, been practical: “pre­­­paring our first publication with­out a major sponsor, and with­out any of our team having pub­lished a book before”.'

It's fair to say, the research, editorial and production teams have all done a first-class job from a standing start, and these excellent volumes are sure to be a worthwhile, attractive and well-utilised addition to choirs' libraries for years to come. There is also the promise of more riches to come, with the launch of Volume 3 (Liturgical Music) planned for later 2020, and the editors currently inviting submissions for Volume 4 (Advent/Christmas/Epiphany).