I love great repertoire! If you have been following my blog for some time, you know I devote a considerable amount of time to this subject. In this post, I will recommend five great college level SATB pieces that you absolutely must consider.
This past Spring, I wrote a five part series on finding great self-published choral music. The last two posts in the series presented several composers of self-published choral music and representative pieces by them. The post may be seen as a continuation of the series, but specifically for the college level.
Before diving into the repertoire/composers, I want to encourage conductors to make use of their conductor’s ear when perusing scores and listening to recordings. If a recording is less than perfect, the piece should not be discarded, but rather “cleaned up” by our conductor’s ear. I have found great pieces, that often only have a mediocre demo recording. As a composer, it can be difficult to get a good recording of a piece, even if sung by a fine choir. A lot of factors can mess up the recording of even a great performance. Of the five pieces presented, I would say two have recordings that do them justice, while the other three are adequate, but don’t capture the full life of the piece. One’s ear may make the difference in recognizing a great piece, even if only presented in “adequate” form.
Dale Trumbore is a talented young composer that has several traditionally published choral works as well as a host of fine self-published choral works. She has been making many of these works available through MusicSpoke.com. “Sing To The Lord” is a quirky, somewhat mournful, and yet exciting piece that I think would make a great opener (it can program suitably elsewhere in a program). The piece also is a great conducting piece.
Piece: There Is No Rose (Santa Barbara Music Publishing: full perusal score and recording)
Personal Website: http://www.melindabargreen.com/Melinda_Bargreen/Welcome.html
I became acquainted with this gorgeous Christmas piece a few years ago, when I was doing a search for self-published Christmas pieces. “There Is No Rose” has since been published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing. While I have generally focused on artist-owned music, I think this Christmas piece is a piece the choral world needs to know. Good intonation, vocal freedom, and choral balance are absolute musts to make a compelling presentation of the “There Is No Rose.”
Here is a fun piece that has depth to it. It is appropriate for a Christmas or more general winter themed concert. For maximum effectiveness, care should be given to very precise intonation (shouldn’t this always be the case) as there are many quick shifts between major and minor modes (often making use of flat-VII, and iv). I think this piece could serve as an “opener,” or even a “closing” piece as long as emphasis is given to the text. “Ring Out, Wild Bells” could then be a sort of choral New-Year’s resolution for singers and listeners.
I decided to include one of my pieces, which I hope is not too shameless. I invite you to check you this very exciting Second Advent Spiritual that singers and listeners alike have loved. The piece builds in excitement until a final climactic ending, but care must be taken to not over sing. “Are You Ready?” draws from the rich history of Second Advent Spirituals, making the second coming of Jesus the primary theme. It also can bring the house down in concert. I think it makes a great penultimate or final piece in a program.
Gordon Thornett’s “Gloria in D” for large chorus, soprano solo, and brass ensemble is a fantastic, compact work that could be featured in many Christmas programs. It sings (equally exciting and beautiful in my opinion) like a compact version of the Rutter “Gloria,” and could fill a similar niche in a program. In fact measures 226-227 seem to quote the famous Rutter work. It should be noted, however, that this 10 1/2 minute “Gloria” stands on its own merits. While written in one movement, the work has three clearly distinct sections. In my opinion, each successive section gets progressively stronger in a musical sense, although all three are well done. The “Cum Sancto/Amen” is positively thrilling and sure to excite both audience and singers.
I hope you have found this insightful and helpful. If you like one of the pieces, be sure to peruse other works by that composer!