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Asia-Pacific Orchestral Librarians’ Summit 2014

Just a couple of weeks after world leaders descended on Brisbane for the G20 Summit, orchestral librarians from around Australia and overseas convened for the Asia-Pacific Orchestral Librarians’ Summit 2014 on the 29th of November. The day-long event was hosted by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra at the ABC Building in South Bank and was attended by 24 delegates from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan and the USA. Having representatives for the first time from as far afield as the Kansai Philharmonic Orchestra, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra was made possible through the collaboration of the Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association (MOLA) with Symphony Services International in organising the event. Many delegates arrived on the previous day to take part in the pre-conference dinner at Viet de Lites, a popular Vietnamese restaurant in the heart of Brisbane’s buzzing dining district in South Bank.

The Summit opened with a welcome address by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Chief Executive Officer, Sophie Galaise, formerly of another QSO, the Quebec Symphony Orchestra. Delegates were then plunged into the deep end with an in-depth discussion on “Revisions in Contemporary Music” featuring a panel comprising representatives from the Australian Music Centre, Hal Leonard Australia and Music Sales Australia, as well as G. Schirmer in New York via Skype. The discussion dealt with a range of issues arising from revisions that almost all composers make to their works after the premiere performance and with the way in which publishers, hire agents and orchestral librarians manage the revision process. While publishers and hire agents can attempt to establish effective protocols and lines of communications with composers in order to ensure that the most up-to-date performance materials are supplied to performers, scores and parts which are out-of-date or inconsistent with each other occasionally remain undetected until the first rehearsal resulting in a hold-up or breakdown and wasting valuable rehearsal time. The panellists revealed many interesting insights, including an explanation of what makes composer Tan Dun’s specially reserved sets of parts for his own works unique, and also offered suggestions to orchestral librarians as to how to better prepare for problems arising from revisions.

The second session was presented by Patrick McGinn, Principal Librarian of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and current Board Member of MOLA, who spoke about the benefits and importance of networking amongst orchestral librarians. MOLA’s growth from a small group of twenty-five North American librarians who had their first meeting in 1983 to an international organisation today with a membership of almost 270 institutions attests to the advantages of orchestral librarians having regular and convenient means of contacting each other, including an annual conference, a quarterly newsletter, and a website with resources such as an online discussion forum and an errata database. Through the activities of its various committees and its links with other music service organisations, MOLA has also provided a unified voice for orchestral librarians to express their views and concerns in many areas of interest such as music publishing and copyright.

In the first of the afternoon sessions, I provided delegates with tips and strategies for sourcing performance materials for early music and for film music. While these repertoires were discussed together not for any apparent similarities that exist between them, these repertoires tend to pose difficulties for symphony orchestra librarians who deal for the most part with symphonic concert music from the 18th to the 20th centuries. As it becomes increasingly common for symphony orchestras to work with conductors and soloists specialising in period performance practice, demands for authentic editions to be sourced can occasionally require that orchestral librarians prepare new editions themselves by transcribing original manuscripts as was demonstrated in a case study of a rare aria by Vivaldi that was performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra earlier in the year. Much film music also needs to be transcribed or arranged for concert performance since the original performance materials may be lost after the soundtrack was recorded. Fortunately a number of established companies specialise in this kind of score preparation so that excerpts, suites and medleys of film music rescored for the forces of a symphony orchestra are now readily available.

Capping off the Summit was an entertaining and thought-provoking paper by Peter Grimshaw, Managing Director of BTM Innovation, on “Music Publishing in the 21st Century – From Paper to Digital”. BTM Innovation is a company that has worked with the classical music publishing industry since 1995 to provide software and web solutions for the distribution of sheet music. As a young student at the Queensland Conservatorium performing in the short-lived Albinoni Chamber Orchestra, Peter recounted his first experience of sourcing parts for Stravinsky’s ballet Apollon musagète in which he made the alarming discovery that the only way to obtain them was to hire them from a publisher for a fee. Little did he realise that he would end up working for Boosey & Hawkes Australia and be the person responsible for implementing HLMSW, an electronic system for managing music hire libraries which has been adopted by major music publishers worldwide. With the rise of tablet devices such as the iPad in recent years, publishers are now eager to deliver their music digitally and BTM Innovation’s current project emREADER is being developed to enable this to happen.

For some of the delegates, the Summit concluded with a rousing performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony by the QSO under the baton of departing Chief Conductor, Johannes Fritzsch.

Vi King Lim
Library Manager, Symphony Services International