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Adventures with Dorico…

As many of you will know, I have been using Sibelius for years, even preceding its notorious (and arguably permanently damaging) acquisition by Avid in 2006. Digital music notation programs have surely come a long way since 2005, when I received my first copy of Sibelius (version 4, to be precise) in the post; the scores that we are now able to produce with only very minor modifications are staggeringly good, especially when we consider that we used to have to produce scores in programs like SCORE and LilyPond.


I convinced myself that we had reached the proverbial ‘American dream’ when it comes to notation software. I had been fooled… Though it is absolutely possible to produce beautiful scores in Sibelius, why should we have to find clunky workarounds? Why should we have to pay for an annual subscription, even if we originally purchased a perpetual license?

Even though I started hearing about Dorico years ago, I never plucked up the courage to move. Yes, the workarounds that we have to use in Sibelius or undeniably clunky, but once you know them, you know them. Then, I started using Dorico, and the relationship that I had with notation software changed.

As part of my role with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, I work with scores in all kinds of formats: Sibelius files, MIDI data, MusicXML files, and most importantly Dorico scores. My line manager, Ruth Evans, set me on the task of producing a new transcription/edition of Undine Smith Moore’s Mother to Son, a beautiful piece for soloist and unaccompanied choir, and was told that I should do this in Dorico. I was slightly terrified at first as, though I knew the basics, I had never produced an edition in Dorico previously. It amazed me just how quickly I got to grips with it, and how intuitive it is. Within just hours, I was able to put together a nicely-formatted performance edition of a piece which has no in-print score (and only a few recordings). I am a total convert, and can’t imagine going back to Sibelius now (though it’s obviously worth saying that I am still very happy to keep editing/engraving in Sibelius for others!).

I must say a huge thank you to Daniel Spreadbury and the Dorico team for providing me with a license of Dorico Pro, and especially to the wonderful Lillie Harris (an alumnus of the NYCGB Young Composers scheme) for producing such fantastic documentation and always answering my questions, no matter how long or stupid. Thanks must also go to Ruth Evans and Ben Parry at NYCGB for converting me – I won’t be going back!

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