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Take What You Need is more than just a piece of music. It is a warm, safe, equitable space, where musicians and community can connect with one another, where stories can come forward, and where the foundations of a relationship can be built and nurtured.
Bring Take What You Need to your community. Discover your story.
Of the many performances of Take What You Need, very few of them have been in traditional concert halls. Most performances have taken place in jails, homeless shelters, support groups, schools, memorial services, places of worship — in places where people can gather to see and honor the humanity in one another.
Take What You Need was first written for Urban Voices Project, a choir made up of people who are experiencing or have recently experienced homelessness — so many of whom have trusted this piece with their own stories of loss and redemption, and who I am so honored to count among my dearest friends. But this piece is also meant to be a resource for musicians and communities to come together and build the lasting relationships that plant seeds for social change.
Take What You Need is licensed under Creative Commons, and scores/parts for many different arrangements of the work are available for free.
There are many versions of Take What You Need — the piece has been arranged to accomodate a variety of performance needs. Please find the version that works best for you, and feel free to arrange/edit it further to suit your needs.
A full list of versions of Take What You Need is in the sidebar of this page.
Note about lengths: These versions vary greatly in length because some of the arrangements have 3-4 choruses, each one slightly different. However, you can mix and match, either omitting choruses or repeating choruses as needed. Generally, the least amount of repetitions possible (with cuts is) 2 choruses with one interlude in the middle – which is the smallest amount of minutes listed). The longer amount of minutes comes from playing the arrangement once straight through. However, based on what your speakers do in the interludes, or if you decide to repeat choruses, it can easily be longer.
THIS VERSION: Double Choir and String Orchestra
This is the largest version of the work. It has four choruses and three interludes. It requires two choirs — the ‘call’ choir is in SATB, and must be able to divide either into 8 parts or 4 parts (if you omit the 3rd chorus). The ‘response’ choir sings in unison, and can be any group of people you choose — they do not need to be musicians.
It is also possible to make cuts in the work so that it reduces down to as little as 2 choruses and 1 interlude, if time is an issue.
Additionally, if the ‘response’ choir is made up of non-musicians, it is helpful for the soprano singing the solo at the beginning to function as an intermediary, inviting the response choir to sing with her during the choruses.
The string orchestra has Violin 1 divided into 3 parts and Violin 2/Viola divided into 2 parts at times. It will also require a conductor.
The full recording of the premiere performance of Take What You Need (4 verses, 3 choruses).
Take a moment
Take a breath
Take a step
Take a chance
Take a stand
Take a moment
Take a breath
Take what you need
“There weren’t just bits of the “Messiah” but also an engaging new piece by the young Street Symphony composer-in-residence, Reena Esmail, “Take What You Need,” that sounded like Sondheim at his most lyric and without the cynicism. The engagement included places for the strings to vamp while three members of the Urban Voices came forward to tell their stories.” – LA Times
Following that is a performance by Urban Voices Project, a 17-person choir composed of homeless and formerly homeless Skid Row residents. They perform a song called “Take What You Need,” written for today’s performance by composer Reena Esmail. Choir members take turns telling their stories on the mic. A woman named Pamela Walls shares that she slept in more than 35 places during her five years of homelessness, often sleeping behind the school where she was taking computer classes and once stumbling into an emergency room with a 108-degree fever due to pneumonia. She wanted to give back to the community after finding permanent housing, so she joined the choir.- LA Weekly
The purpose of this collaboration was not only to expose their students to a unique performance experience, but also to share a musical theme of community and love. Romero and Butler felt that “Take What You Need” was an especially important piece because of its focus on accessibility to students of diverse backgrounds and to build a crucial sense of community with students across the Twin Cities. – St.Olaf.edu