The following introduction was included in part one (nearly verbatim), so if you have already read it, you may wish to skip to the recommended pieces.
This two part blog series will share ten different choral pieces, each by a different composer. Each piece has a link to a full perusal score and recording, as well as to each composer’s personal websites. Every piece in this series is artist owned (self-published), meaning the composer owns all the rights to their piece and that the piece is not traditionally published. The emphasis in this series is on Christmas music you may be interested in for the holiday season.
Included in these two posts are four pieces for varying levels of SATB choirs; two pieces for children’s choirs; two pieces for women’s choirs; and two pieces for men’s choirs. Part one introduced five of these pieces, with at least one in each category. Part two follows up with five more pieces.
For most people the holiday season starts in late November or early December. For us choir conductors, we start planning our holiday and Christmas repertoire now (or earlier). Enjoy!
***I have not included any of my own choral compositions in the posts, but I invite you to check out my Christmas pieces here: Christmas.***
Special Note: When perusing scores, it is so important to use one’s conductor ear to internally clean up imperfections in a recording and to imagine a quality sound with the piece. Remember that not every great piece has a quality recording. Always be sure to “hear” the music as if it were sung beautifully!
Composer: Jack Jarrett
Piece: Go Pretty Child, SATB unaccompanied
Personal Website: http://www.jackmjarrett.com/
This piece is most interesting as it was published in 1970 by Lawson-Gould and went out of print. However Mr. Jarrett acquired the copyright in 2015 and is now self-publishing the piece through MyScore at JW Pepper. “Go Pretty Child” is not an easy piece to sound excellent on for most choirs, but when performed well, will prove to be a terrific and “different”addition to a holiday program. It uses very interesting harmonies (often highlighting augment triads) without sounding like someone trying too hard to not use a traditional harmonic framework. The whole piece seems natural and flows well, and certainly has a fresh sound (even though it was first published over 40 years ago). This piece is available for purchase at JW Pepper here: http://www.jwpepper.com/Go%2C-Pretty-Child/10554700.item#.V0Jh0LgrKM8
Composer: Timothy Michael Powell
Piece: O Magnum Mysterium, SATB accompanied
Personal Website: http://www.timothymichaelpowell.com/index.html
Mr. Powell’s setting of the well known “O Magnum” text slowly unfolds and builds to a glorious musical climax that is truly moving. This piece could be a capstone “heart” piece in a holiday concert. There are versions available for SATB + 2 part chorus, SATB, SSA, SAB, and 2 part. This piece is accessible to many choirs, but still has interest for higher level groups. It is available from his personal website (orchestrated version included) and from MusicSpoke.com here: http://musicspoke.com/downloads/o-magnum-mysterium-5/
For Children’s Choir
Composer: Gordon Thornett
Piece: The Sleepy Shepherd Boy (unison/two-part) accompanied
Personal Website: www.newcarols.com
Here is a truly delightful elementary level children’s choir piece. Available with orchestral or piano accompaniment, this piece will be a joy for your children to sing, and for audiences to hear. I think it is ideal for children’s choirs with singers in the 8-11 year old range. However, emphasizing use of a beautiful head voice is key to a successful performance. (Here is a link to a post on ways to develop a beautiful head voice in young children’s choirs). This piece is available for purchase from swirlymusic.org here: http://www.swirlymusic.org/music/choral-music/gordon-thornett-the-sleepy-shepherd-boy/
Women’s Choir Pieces
Composer: Kathleen Allan
Piece: Ring Out, Ye Bells, SSA unaccompanied
Personal Website: http://www.kathleenallan.com/
Here is a jubliant Christmas piece that could make a great opener in a holiday program. The poetry is delivered well and in a relatively straightforward musical way, but with enough nuance to not at all seem formulaic. Musical interest is created by metric and key change, along with short periodic usage of musical devices such as canon. I found this piece while perusing on MusicSpoke.com. Ms. Allan is a talented young conductor and composer who’s music and work is worth knowing. This piece is available for purchase from musicspoke.com here: http://musicspoke.com/downloads/ring-out-ye-bells-2/
Composer: Kentaro Sato
Then Christmas Comes, TTBB unaccompanied
Personal Website: http://www.wisemanproject.com/music-e-top.html
“Then Christmas Comes” is a lush and warm homorhythmic men’s chorus piece that just seems to fit the spirit of the Christmas season. Simple and not forced, the piece is truly lovely. Perusing and purchasing the piece could be a bit of a challenge (but is worth it). To purchase the music, one needs to follow the instructions on the above linked page for his website. One should note that the performing license only grants performance rights for 10 years. This is certainly a bit unusual in the choral world for those who sell artist owned music, but be sure to follow proper legality (In other words, if you choose to purchase this piece, be aware that the licensed copies of the piece cannot remain in your choral library indefinitely). To look at a full perusal score, and listen to a good recording, you need to click on the “Choral/Vocal Works” tab at the top of his music page. Once there, you will see an impressive amount of (high quality) choral and vocal works that would take quite some time to peruse in entirety. You need to scroll about 3/4 of the way down the page to find the piece. It may feel a bit serendipitous finding “Then Christmas Comes” as the titles don’t seem to be listed in alphabetical order or by category (hopefully this will change in the future). However the piece is of such a quality that the search is worth the time. As noted, directions for purchasing scores is on the personal website link above. Here is the link to his choral scores: http://www.wisemanproject.com/music-e-choral.html (remember to scroll 3/4 of the way down). The composer sent me this link also: http://www.wisemanproject.com/comp-workinfo-ThenChristmasComes.html
I hope you have found this series useful in acquainting yourself with new holiday pieces and seeing the work of some high quality composers retailing artist owned choral music.