BCMG celebrates 75th Sound Investment premiere

  • The original music crowd funding scheme began in Birmingham
  • Public donations contribute to the creation of new classical music
  • The 75th Sound Investment premiere will take place in February


The UK’s first crowd funding scheme for classical music will celebrate the completion of its 75th commission later this month.

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group set up its Sound Investment programme in 1991. Its aim was to raise much-needed funds to support living composers through the commissioning of new music.

24 years on, the group has supported the creation of 75 new pieces of classical music, with several more currently in progress.

Noteworthy composers who have benefitted from the scheme include Judith Weir, recently named Master of the Queen’s Music, and Thomas Adés, considered one of the most important figures in British classical music.

Not all Sound Investment commissions have been confined to the concert hall: In 2014 the American composer David Lang created Crowd Out, a musical work for 1000 shouting, singing and talking voices. It was performed by local Birmingham people in the atrium of Millennium Point to international critical acclaim, followed by performances in London and Berlin.

Emerging composers have also been supported by the scheme, including Tansy Davies. The young artist was commissioned by BCMG in 2007 to write Falling Angel, which toured to Paris after its UK premiere and was subsequently recorded. Tansy has since been commissioned again by BCMG and now has an international reputation for her work.

BCMG Artistic Director Stephen Newbould explains:

When we set up Sound Investment in 1991 it was ahead of the time. This was the era before the internet and the term ‘crowd funding’ was not yet common parlance. The scheme has allowed us to commission a great number of composers, giving established names free reign to try new creative ideas, and giving a step-up to others who are right at the start of their career. I truly believe that it has been essential in keeping contemporary classical music alive and vibrant in this country.

Sound Investment was the first crowd-funding scheme for classical music in the UK. Music fans can ‘invest’ set sums of money, which allows BCMG to commission composers to create new pieces of music. The Sound Investors are then invited to hear the premiere of their works as well as visit rehearsals and meet the composer and performers.

Just under 350 individuals have become Sound Investors to date, raising over £300,000. They come from across the UK and indeed the wider world.

Most of the works commissioned through Sound Investment have been heard internationally after their Birmingham premiere – notably Last Round by Osvaldo Golijov, which has been performed over 100 times since its 1996 debut in 11 different countries. Likewise Judith Weir’s Musicians Wrestle Everywhere has received over 50 performances in 9 countries and is now known as her ‘calling-card piece’.

The 75th Sound Investment commission will be premiered at the Wigmore Hall in London next month before a performance at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham. Gerald Barry’s Crossing the Bar is a song for soprano and a small ensemble. The Irish composer has also penned five operas and has enjoyed a long association with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

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