Remember to use your conductor’s ear when perusing scores and listening to recordings of the pieces. Not every recording is great, even if the piece is. I have found many terrific pieces that don’t have great recordings by “cleaning up” the sound and imagining them as could be.
***Disclaimer: I am not being remunerated or even asked to promote these composers and their pieces, but I do retail music with MusicSpoke, from which come three of these pieces.***
Piece: Miserere Mei Deus (MusicSpoke: full perusal score and recording)
Miserere Mei Deus sets portions of Psalm 51. It is not the usual beautifully morose interpretation that focuses on sorrow expressed in repentance. Rather, this piece seems to musically focus on the idea of joy in forgiveness which gives way to praise (an aspect also shared in the Psalm’s text, but often overlooked musically). The piece is thoroughly triumphant and joyous, though not bubbly, in a deep and almost solemn way. It would make a great festival piece (such as an all-state) as well as being a dynamic addition in most choral programs. I personally find this piece very moving.
I met Kevin at the 2017 TMEA convention. We both had a pieces included in the MusicSpoke reading session for advanced choirs (he with a treble piece titled “Pine Needles,” me with “Soon One Day” – links at the bottom of this post). After the convention, I checked out his music and became acquainted with his piece, “The Cloud.” It is scored for SSAATTBB + celesta and piano. I find this piece to be very effective in idea painting (akin to word painting, but creating an expression of the meaning of the text in its totality). One could easily picture an afternoon looking at the sky, watching clouds drift by. It would be a great fit in a nature themed program or in a days of creation themed program.
I encountered Dr. Bernhardt’s writing while perusing Swirly Music’s mixed choir titles. He has several compelling pieces on that website. “The Gift Disguised,” which won the 2010 Ithaca choral composition competition, is a sensitive, homorhythmic setting of a meaningful text. With good intonation, choral balance, and diction, this piece could be the deep/profound piece in a program that really makes listeners think.
Piece: Ubi Caritas (MusicSpoke: full perusal score and recording)
Personal Website: https://composersforum.org/members/directory/emily-feld
The “Ubi Caritas” text is usually set in a beautiful, solemn way, often hearkening back to the feel of the original chant. The text, however, fits a variety of interpretations. Emily chose a jubilant and dance-like interpretation, which I find delightful and effective. Precise intonation is key for the choir that includes this piece in a program, especially in the staccato sections (of course every piece demands precise intonation, but choirs should know their limitations, and good intonation may be more difficult for some choirs on this one). However, the choir that does this piece well will delight their audience. I think this piece could fit many places in a program, including being used as a concert opener.
Alexis Renee Ford
Piece: Christus Factus Est (Swirly Music: full perusal score and recording)
Here is an absolutely gorgeous setting of the “Christus Factus Est” text (Philippians 2:8-9). If your choir will perform in a cathedral or in a church or concert hall with excellent live acoustics, do this piece. Performed well, it has an almost crystal glass quality. Every program should have a piece that is just beautiful (or several pieces). This piece is just that, stunningly beautiful.
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!
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