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Home > Articles > Why is there no Full Score available?

Why is there no Full Score available?
Kevin McChesney
12/3/2014
I completely understand directors' frustration concerning the lack of availability of a full score for larger works with handbells. In an ideal world, these scores would be made available as a matter of course.

Unfortunately, this is a cost/editing issue. With the advent of print-on-demand in recent years, there is more potential to create something like a full score for Now the Green Blade Riseth (full choral-keyboard-handbell choir version) or Procession of the Nobles (3-5 octave handbells, piano four hands and/or brass sextet).

The problem without print-on-demand is cost - while some directors desire a full score, a large majority of directors and performers do not, either for ease of reading or because they are comfortable with a score containing only cues. So the idea of printing 1000 copies of something that's only going to sell maybe 20 just isn't feasible for the publisher.

So why aren't these scores available on a print-on-demand basis? I suspect that eventually they will be. Meantime, the bottom line continues to be business-based. The score has to be engraved, there are a great many pages and complications to a full score, even in this computer age, and that runs into a cost that may or may not - likely not - be recouped from sales.

So, we still live in the world of keyboard reduction scores that pass as full scores. If we're lucky these contain cues for the fuller forces written in; if we're not so lucky we draw a bunch of cues and marks in ourselves.

If it's any consolation, this kind of thing should be remedied as we go along, as print-on-demand becomes more common, and as we refine the engraving/editing process even more.

One consideration in this area that has been mentioned to me more than once is that the handbell world needs to catch up with the rest of the musical world when it comes to major works. I could not agree more! The consideration here, though, is "major works."

Procession of the Nobles, performed with brass sextet, piano four hands, and maybe even multiple bell choirs is, to you and me, a major work. Even if it is a hit in the bell world, though, sales are pretty restricted. It isn't exactly Handel's Messiah or Mendelssohn's Elijah or Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Even in the choral world, there are quite a number of pieces that don't have a true full score available for the same financial and logistical reasons as in the handbell world, despite the fact that sales are likely to be higher.

Bands and orchestras seem to have it worked out (despite the sometimes enormous expense in creating full scores) but in a way that's apples and oranges. The handbell score to a bell work IS a full score in that sense - one that contains all the individual ringers' parts.

In any event, the need for full scores for larger works involving handbells is no less important because the standard system in place at the moment does not provide these scores. While the situation isn't likely to change very soon, it's important that the need be kept in mind so that publishers will continue to seek cost-effective solutions. Keep in mind that there is little to nothing that composers and arrangers can do about this situation since they are not in charge of the financial decisions made by publishers. But it would be good for publishers to hear, from time to time, of the need for providing full scores to larger-scale works. Someone will come up with a financially sound, logistically feasible solution from which we will all benefit.

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