If the “crowd editing” mentioned in the previous post made you curious, here you will find more information. Read on!
You can imagine that being a librarian of a semi-professional choir (by “semi-professional” I mean that our repertoire is quite professional, but we don’t quite make money by singing) can be a lot of work. Since we have limited funds, we try to use freely available scores, but often they are not available (or not satisfactory) and we have to prepare our own performance materials.
That was precisely the case with Handel’s Dixit Dominus (HWV 232), which we worked on during summer and autumn of 2012. We had found a free edition prepared by Philip Legge, but while it contained a conductor score and instrumental parts, there was no vocal score. So, despite all the work he had put in creating that edition, we couldn’t use it 🙁 – singing from a conductor score would be too cumbersome. Neither could we adapt his work, because he had used proprietary Sibelius format which we were unable to open 🙁
How do you go about preparing a new edition of a piece this size, then? After all, it’s 40 minutes of music for SSATB choir and orchestra, and since we’re hobbyists, it means that no one’s getting paid for doing such work. If the conductor says “I need the 5th movement for the rehearsal next week”, you’re in trouble unless you have spare time at the moment… or divide the work.
The idea is simple: several choir members each copy a fragment of the movement. The tricky part is executing this smoothly: for example, let’s say that I create the file, set up headers and staves, and send it… to whom? Should it go to the person who’s going to copy the first sopranos’ part, or someone else? I could ask who will have time soonest, but that’s usually hard to know for sure (remember that we’re doing this in our spare time). So, that approach wouldn’t work.
Obviously, the answer was to use separate files – first soprano in one file, second soprano in another, etc. This way everyone worked on the part assigned to them, independently of others, and after the job was done the results could be copied-and-pasted into one file (and I would make any touch-up work that was necessary). The only thing that I didn’t quite like about this approach was the copying-and-pasting – it felt somewhat wrong to me, and there was a slightly increased chance of introducing errors.
Fortunately, LilyPond offers a smarter way – you can link to the part files from a master file (it’s called ‘including’ in LilyPond, and you can read how it works in the documentation). Each of the part files continues to be an independent, self-contained description of respective voice, and at the same time another file combines them into full score.
This way, with the help of some fellow sopranos (these girls are really wonderful!) we created our own vocal score of Dixit (you can download the pdf of 1st movement by clicking on the image) – and even though it wasn’t meant for publication, don’t you think that it’s actually better-looking than the version created by Philip Legge using Sibelius?
And this is just the beginning…