by Steve Peter, Adjudication Chair, OR ACDA
Little did I know when I began working with singers back in Wichita, KS, January 1976, that forty+ years later I’d still be loving what I (and WE) get to do: make and share music for a living. Is this the life or what?
So here I am, still doing what I love to do: compiling lists of choral titles for young (and perhaps a few, “not-so-young”) friends and colleagues to consider as you design your future festival/seasonal sets.
Understand these are simply lists of pieces that have served me (or in a few cases, other respected directors’) well. These are titles that contain a variety of musically gratifying elements (melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, and or text-appeal). It’s my sincere hope that you might find a few that will work for you and your singers, too.
Obviously the lists are not offered as comprehensive or complete repertoire lists for the ages. They span the gamut of the arc of music history (from Sweelinck to Laura Farnell), with a decided focus on the 20th and 21st centuries. However, their one common characteristic is that they’ve all worked well for, “so-mi-so” (solfège for, “This Old Man”).
It ALL begins with programming.
So take a look and a listen, and hope you find a title (or two) that will work for you as well.
1976-1984 Wichita School District , Wichita, KS
1984-2010 Reynolds (Troutdale), Roosevelt, Cleveland and Wilson HSs (PPS SD)
2011-2014 University of Portland Women’s Chorale, Portland, OR
2012-2016 Pacific University Concert Choir, Forest Gove, OR
1995-2017 MS & HS Honor Choirs throughout the Portland metro/Oregon
I – Accessible for most developing HS ensembles
II – Better suited for more sophisticated ensembles
III – Challenging, but WORTH IT!
Should you have difficulty locating any of the titles on the lists, please feel free to reach out to me and I’ll do my best to steer to toward a source.
OR ACDA Adjudication Chair
Choral Favorites – February 2017
SATB – Holiday (Sweet 16…)
- Adam lay y bounden – Hubert Bird Rhythmically exciting, fast. Sung in olde English.
- Ask the Watchman – Caldwell/Ivory Male solo feature/accompanied/percussion/call & response.
- Coventry Carol – Arr. Steve Pilkington Uses tone bells/interesting choral writing/dramatic elements.
- Hodie – Healey Willan Old chestnut, but well worth revisiting – wonderful closing, “Alleluia.”
- Hodie – Lee J. Kesselman Fanfare-like choral writing. Harmonically dense, but satisfying.
- Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming – Hugo Distler Subtle delicate and rhythmic challenges.
- Make we joy now in this place – Richard Prior Strophic/features a variety of solo/small ensemble elements.
- Maria Walks Amid the Thorn – William Hunt Lovely choral writing.
- Noche de paz – Cesár Carrillo “Silent Night”, with a Latin flair.
- Noel – J. Edmund Hughes “Carol of the Bells”, in FOUR!
- O, my dear heart – Edmund Jolliffe Extended and very interesting harmonic design/structure.
- Pat-a-pan – Chester Alwes Fun, incorporates terrific flute (piccolo) and snare drum soloists.
- See Dat Babe – Stacey V. Gibbs Classic early Gibbs.
- Sir Christèmas – William Mathias Short, but sweet, and rhythmically sophisticated.
- Stopping By Woods – Larry Nickel Tuneful, melodic, and non-Christian (winter flavor).
- Today the Virgin – John Tavener Old chestnut, wonderful tuning incorporating chant elements.
SATB (50 Nifty)
- Ago Lona – Marlos Nobre Rhythmic 6/8 tour de force.
- Ah, el novio no quere dinero! – Arr. Mack Wilberg Highly accessible, calls for strong soloist and percussion.
- All Creatures Now Are Merry Minded – John Bennett Six-voice English madrigal.
- Alma Redemptoris Mater – Palestrina Largely homophonic Palestrina motet.
- Angelus Ad Virginem – Eleanor Daley Lots of Latin – numerous rhythmic and harmonic surprises.
- Ave Verum – Flor Peeters Lovely accessible choral writing (minimal harmonic challenges).
- Banks of Doon – Donna Gartman Schultz Accompanied, fine accessible choral writing.
- Beati quorum via – C.V. Stanford Six-part (SSA/TTB) one of my all-time favorites.
- Cantemus – Lajos Bardos Wonderful opener with exciting text (spicy tuning throughout).
- Cantique de Jean Racine – Gabriel Fauré (cpdl) Classic late Romantic French choral music – no divisi, wonderful acc.
- Chindia – Pascanu With or without keyboard – fun either way/some tricky rhythms.
- Daemon Irrepit Callidous – Gyorgy Orban Exciting/a bit on the short side, but challenging on several fronts.
- Doluri – Alexi Matchavariani Harmonically tricky/divisi in women’s/men’s parts/rhythmic.
- Eli, Eli – Lajos Bardos Dramatic – text taken from the Crucifixion.
- Ev’ry Night When The Sun Goes In/Polly Wolly Doodle – Arr. Norman Luboff Personal favorite/paired set.
- Famine Song – Matthew Culloton Moving text connects with young singers/dramatic elements.
- Flanders Fields – Aitken Challenging for young tenors, but very fulfilling for entire choir.
- Flower of Beauty – John Clements Harmonically accessible/strophic (two verse) and lovely writing.
- Gede Nibo – Källman Rhythmically challenging with some harmonic surprises.
- Gloria – Greg Knauf Gender divisi/rhythmic aleatoric elements/exciting.
- Guadete Omnes – Sweelinck Favorite Renaissance motet for six-voices (SSA/TBB) cpdl.
- Hills of Tomorrow – Sondheim (Arr. David York) Wonderful piece for commencement – a cappella/fulfilling text.
- Homeland – Z. Randall Stroope Patriotic – works very well with brass ensemble.
- Horizons – Peter Van Dijk Body percussion added to a wonderfully moving text.
- How Can I Keep From Singing? – Arr. Penny Tullock Accessible treatment/accompanied.
- I Am Not Yours – David Dickau Accompanied, and tasteful accessible choral treatment throughout.
- I Love My Love – Gustav Holst Strophic (six verses) each verse is unique and gratifying.
- In Remembrance – Elenor Daley Moving text set in a memorable manner (accessible).
- kasar mie la gaji – Alberto Grau Challenging rhythmically, harmonically and emotionally.
- Kpanlongo – Derek Bremel Tricky rhythms, but catchy and gratifying for choirs and audiences.
- Lamentations of Jeremiah – Z. Randall Stroope Accompanied, contains Carl Orff-like elements throughout.
- Laus Trinitati – Frank Ferko Tricky 12/8 against 4/4 rhythms and tuning challenges.
- My Spirit Sang All Day – Gerald Finzi Old chestnut, but worth revisiting.
- North Country Folks Songs (set of three) – Philip Wilbye Each of the three is memorable. #2 and #3 are faves.
- Orpheus With His Lute Made Trees – Nick Page Beautiful, but rhythmically complex and satisfying – Lydian mode.
- Remember – Stephen Chatman Lovely choral writing. Works well at commencement.
- Rise Up My Love, My Fair One – Healey Willan Fine choral writing. No divisi with soaring tenor lines.
- Rise Up My Love, My Fair One – James McCray Old chestnut. Calls for accomp. and solo instrument (flute or violin).
- Rytmus – Ivan Hrusovsky Rhythmic and harmonic challenges throughout.
- Seinn O – Arr. J. David Moore Yearns for movement. Performed by South Salem in 2010. GREAT!
- Set Me As a Seal – David Childs Calls for solo instrument. Beautiful choral writing.
- Tambur – Lajos Bardos Old chestnut – fun features solo elements within all four voices.
- Three Secular Christmas Carols from Transylvania – Tudor Jarda Difficult, but exciting!
- Tu es petrus – Palestrina Six-part choral writing – harmonically accessible. Gratifying.
- Two Japanese Proverbs – Gary Kent Walth Divisi in all voices. Tricky rhythms throughout (ABA form).
- V’ chit’ tu (Song of Peace) – Alice Parker Wonderful opener. Exciting writing (no divisi) some body percussion.
- Verleih’ uns Frieden – Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Soaring men’s and women’s lines. Accessible.
- Vine Hulpe di la munte – Tudor Jarda Wonderful rhythmic elements/canonic, but not easy!
- Vorspruch – Hugo Distler Old chestnut. Marvelous text. Range-y (ABA form).
- Your Fragrance – Edward Henderson Interesting harmonic elements (Lydian mode). New age-like.
SA, SSA, SSAA (Double Sweet 16…)
- Ave Maria – Caccini (Arr. Liebergen) Tastefully set. Great piece for line (with solo instrument).
- Ave Maria – Joan Szymko Early Szymko – lovely and well-designed.
- Be Like the Bird – Abbie Betinis A simple round by the granddaughter of Alfred Burt.
- Bring Me Little Water, Silvey – Arr. Moira Smiley Catchy, with gratifying movement (on YouTube).
- Cantate Domino – Nancy Hill Cobb (SA or TB) 6/8 with an engaging energy throughout.
- Cedar Swamp – Jay Broeker Terrific writing, with a sassy character.
- Early Spring – Kathleen Allan Well-written, unaccompanied and melodically satisfying.
- Eliyahu Hanavi – Valerie Shields SA, with solo instrument and piano accompaniment. Personal favorite.
- Famine Song – Matthew Culloton Works just as well as the mixed arrangement.
- Fare You Well (Nora’s Dove) – Ruth Elaine Schram Good for beginning three-part women’s chorus.
- Five Hebrew Love Songs – Eric Whitacre Women’s choir with solo violin. 8-10 minutes.
- Followers of the Lamb – Arr. Nancy Grundahl Wonderful opener. Spirited and connects with singers and audiences.
- Goin’ Up A Yonder – Arr. Sivatka Loving energy, and wholly accessible choral writing.
- I Am Not Yours – David Childs Tender text and set to a wonderful piano accompaniment. Moving.
- Jesu – Andrea Ramsey Short, but lovely. Two-part.
- Jubal’s Lyre – Handel, Arr. Carolee Curtwright Good for intro to melismatic-singing.
- Lux aeterna – Z. Randall Stroope Particular favorite for vowel work. Accessible.
- Mbiri Kuna Mwari – Lee J. Kesselman Lively, triadic, rhythmic.
- Nani, raza mea de soare – Gabriel Dumitrescu Tender lullaby. Mostly accessible (four bars of harmonic challenges).
- Nigra Sum – Pablo Casals Old chestnut. Still a must-visit.
- Nine Hundred Miles – Philip Silvey Tender and dramatic. Multi-faceted piece with character changes.
- O Yo Yo – Stephen Hatfield Melodically/rhythmically intriguing! Personal favorite.
- Poet Sings, The – Z. Randall Stroope Wholly accessible. Great piece for emerging treble choirs.
- Revelation – Z. Randall Stroope Tour de force for mature and ambitious treble choirs.
- Silver Creek Lullaby – Drew Collins Accessible and tender treatment.
- Songs from the Sea – Aulis Sallinen Four short pieces – each with its own challenges. Great texts.
- Storm is Passing Over, The – Arr. Barbara W. Baker Fun, accessible, Gospel, “hip”, accompaniment!
- Summer’s Here – Sue Bohlin Very tricky. Interesting rhythmic elements. Good end-of-year piece.
- Turtle Dove, The – Valerie Shields SA, but filled with cross-parting/cross-voicing. Soulful writing.
- Wanting Memories – Ysaye Barnwell Very rhythmic. Four-part writing with very low voicing.
- Water Under Snow is Weary – Henri Wessman Virtuosic flute intro, but highly accessible choral writing.
- Weep No More – David Childs Lovely writing. Wonderful use of echo-effects. Accompanied.
TTBB (Sweet 16…)
- Ad amore – Lee Kesselman Exciting and full harmonic writing.
- Bar’bry Allen – Joshua Shank Almost new-age like. Wonderful solo, exciting ending.
- Cantate Domino – Nancy Hill Cobb (SA or TB) 6/8 with an engaging energy throughout.
- Cantique de Jean Racine – Fauré (Ed. DG Mason) – cpdl # 02744 TBB Old chestnut. Worth revisiting again.
- Drive the River Down – Brad Printz Fun and accessible for younger men’s ensembles.
- Gaudete – Michael Englehardt Tour de force. Calls for fine percussion ensemble.
- Harambee – Robert I. Hugh Great 12/8 groove. Personal favorite!
- How Can I Keep From Singing – Judith Herrington Good for emerging men’s ensembles.
- I Think My Love So Fair – Laura Farnell Tender treatment of a gentle text.
- In Flanders Fields – Alexander Tilley Two-part. Particularly good for Veteran’s Day /November events
- In the Hills of Shiloh – James Friedman/Michael Levi Set in Lydian mode. Soulful and moving.
- Noel – Steven Sametz Tricky, but great setting for intermediate men’s ensemble/choir.
- Set Me As a Seal – Laura Farnell Accessible…good for the emerging young men’s ensemble.
- She Moved Through the Fair – Vijay Singh Tender text, and equally tender treatment. Featured soloist.
- She Walks in Beauty – Laura Farnell Lovely writing – particularly for younger men.
- Soldier’s Elegy – Michael C. Kregler Personal favorite. Almost sounds as if it’s from a Musical.
Cuckoo, The – Robert I. Hugh Terrific closer. Calls for a good accompanist and a cajon player.Nsa Ni O – Patricia A.B. Sandler SAB piece addressing the horrors of alcoholism. Exciting movement.
Dance of Zálongo – Carol Barnett Personal favorite. Calls for full SATB choir & SA ensemble. 7/8!