How Does One Choose Music for Restoration?

How Does One Choose Music for Restoration?

I received this email, and I wanted to answer it on the blog so that everyone might see it. It brings out several points that should be addressed. Of course, I welcome your comments at the bottom of the post.

Greetings from northeastern Pennsylvania. I have purchased a few pieces from you in the past. I was just looking at your current catalog and wondering about something. How do you decide what to make available? Do you take suggestions from people/clients? Are pieces given to you to restore?

I agree with you that so much irreplaceable music is being lost to the ages because of the way publishing has gone. This is a tremendous shame that so much marvelous material will never be heard again unless by chance someone happens to find a copy in a used book sale or library. This said, how do you decide what needs to come back and what will be forgotten? There are any number of great pieces that are now permanently OOP (out-of-print). I’ve got a list myself and I know others who do as well. How does one go about finding things in the first place to even try bringing them back? I want to believe that almost anything can be found and revived, but that hope has been fading of late as I see less and less being available. Online sites such as eBay, Abebooks, etc. are a help, but the worthwhile works are few and far between. Your service is a valuable one as well, but how do you pick and choose? It must be like pulling one star out of the whole galaxy to take a chance on. What is the thought process here? Just wondering.

—Pennsylvania, USA

First, I want to recommend two items I have already prepared that address some of these topics. The first is and it covers the topic of restoration. The second is a post I made in February 2015 regarding the venerable Saint Cecilia Series. And, I have posted some interesting images of organ music on my Facebook page. You may certainly examine them all, but I would recommend especially that you start with the following image and then click forward for some of the music that I have or will restore:

Now, I’ll address the specific points raised in the email.

  • How do you decide what to make available? Do you take suggestions from people/clients? Are pieces given to you to restore?

I take into consideration what physical material I have such as original pieces, not photocopies or scans. I try to choose pieces that the most people will like and play. I try to choose pieces that provide variety in the areas that are not well represented in the academic environment such as novelties. I plead for suggestions! About 30% of what I offer was the result of one or more suggestions. You can make your suggestions through this blog or in an email to me. Since I need an original to use as the basis for my work, I receive pieces from organists. I desire them to be in good shape, but sometimes the only copy available was used for 30 years and is covered in marks, sometimes even in colored pencil! I have used music from libraries of Dudley Buck, Clarence Eddy, Douglas Rafter, and Frederic Archer autographed by A L Barnes (thanks to Steve Best). I always look for the original edition because that best preserves the look and feel of the time and increases the historical interest.

  • How do you decide what needs to come back and what will be forgotten?

My own preference is for music by Americans. I look for interesting music that has already been forgotten. Sometimes, it’s because the music fell out of stylistic favor, and sometimes it’s because the music wasn’t very good. I try to choose the beautiful music of our American past that represents a time when music did indeed soothe the savage breast. Additionally, I am interested in music that, though not written by an American, was performed and published in the USA. One of my favorites was Lemare’s “Andantino,” and I restored the original engraving by Cocks in 1892. It was played in this country, later published here by Oliver Ditson; Lemare spent most of his career in the US. This was made possible by Dr John Henderson who also contributed the ultimate article on it which I include in the restoration. There have been many different editions and engravings of this beloved piece, but this is the original. I realize that I can only dip my toe, so to speak, into the sea of organ music that deserves to be heard and played in the future, so I try to make good decisions that will provide the best of our past for as long as I am able.

  • How does one go about finding things in the first place to even try bringing them back?

I ask people and hope for the best. Sometimes, it’s the administrator of an organist’s estate who wants advice and is willing to share. Sometimes, it’s an especially helpful music librarian who is willing to loan music not catalogued yet. And, the very nicest way is for the publisher who has decided not to reprint a piece to assign the copyright back to the composer. In this way, I can take on the role of publisher, restore, reprint, and distribute (sell) the music worldwide. Everyone is happy: the composer’s music is back “in print” and he gets a royalty from me where before he received nothing from the previous publisher. You know, that’s a big misconception for organists who don’t have published music; after the initial check, the royalties drop off to nothing very fast, and once the music is OOP (out of print) or POP (permanently out of print), they’re gone for good.

So, if you’ve made it this far, consider what music you think is unavailable through the remaining publishers, look through your files and see what good, clean pieces you have in your library, ask your friends, visit your libraries if they have organ music, and let me know your thoughts. I have always welcomed suggestions and always will.


This entry was posted in Church, Concert, Customer Service, Education/Information, Theatre. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.