Looking for some new additions to your Christmas choir repertoire? Consider these pieces:
Looking for some new additions to your Advent choir repertoire? Consider these pieces:
My children’s choir anthem “Give Praise to God” (Choristers Guild) is one of four pieces on the repertoire list for the Choristers Guild Atlanta Chapter 2019 Children’s Choir Festival. The event is for grades 3-6 and will take place at Marietta First United Methodist Church on February 9, 2019, with clinician Dr. Martha Shaw. Take a look at the anthem, based on Psalm 150, here.
It’s never too early for musicians to begin thinking about the holiday season. Read my latest article on Prelude Music Planner, Christmas in July: Piano/Organ Repertoire for Advent/Christmas. This includes suggestions of 10 different collections, as well as links to free downloads of some classical pieces (through IMSLP).
Playing for any weddings this summer? Need some new piano music to enliven your repertoire? Read my latest article on Prelude Music Planner: Piano Music for Wedding Ceremonies. This includes suggestions of 25 sacred and classical pieces, with links to free downloads of the classical pieces (through IMSLP).
Do you have a favorite piece of music? Do you have a favorite composer? I have been asked these questions so many times, and it is always hard for me to come up with an answer. Maybe it’s because the genre is usually unspecified in the question. Maybe it’s because I like to reserve the right to change my mind. Mostly, though, I think it’s because it’s so hard for me to choose just one favorite piece of music. Without commenting on why these are my favorites—maybe I will write separate posts about that later—here is a list (with YouTube clips for you to enjoy) of my top ten choral favorites presented in alphabetical order. I’m focusing on this genre, because I write a lot of choral music. In some ways these pieces are always with me, circling in the back of my mind, when I write my own choral music, so they represent some of my key musical influences.
“Alleluia,” by Ralph Manuel (1987)
“Beati Quorum Via,” from Three Latin Motets, by Charles Villiers Stanford (1905)
“Cantique de Jean Racine” (Op. 11), by Gabriel Fauré (1864-65)
“Geistliches Lied,” Op. 30, by Johannes Brahms (1856)
“Gloria,” from Vespers, Op. 37, by Sergei Rachmaninov (1915)
“Nunc Dimittis,” by Arvo Pärt (2001)
“Only in Sleep,” by Ēriks Ešenvalds (2010)
“Sicut Cervus” (Psalm 42), G. Palestrina (1584)
“The Last Words of David,” by Randall Thompson (1949)
“Zadok the Priest,” Coronation Anthem no. 1, HWV 258, by G. F. Handel (1727)
Choosing repertoire for church choirs is one of the most difficult, time-consuming tasks of all choir directors, whether they direct larger or smaller choirs. There are some unique challenges facing those who direct smaller choirs, though. To support you in your work, I have written a blog post on the topic (with 25 anthem suggestions) on Prelude Music Planner. Check it out here.
Singing psalm settings is a wonderful practice for choirs of all sizes in churches of all denominations. If your choir is small(er), consider adding some of these well-written pieces to your choir’s repertoire either this year or in the future.
- The Twenty-Third Psalm – Psalm 23 (2-part mixed, keyboard, opt. treble inst.) | T. Shaw, Concordia
- Wait on the Lord – Psalm 27:1, 11, 14 (2-part, keyboard) | T. Shaw, Concordia
- Sing Praises to the Lord – Psalm 30:4-5, 11-12 (Unison/2-part, keyboard, opt. treble inst.) | T. Shaw, Kjos
- Create in Me a Clean Heart – Psalm 51:10-13 (SAB, organ) | C.F. Mueller, G. Schirmer
- God Be Merciful unto Us – Psalm 67 (Unison, organ) | D. Pinkham, E.C. Schirmer (recording)
- O How Amiable – Psalm 84:1-3 (SAB, organ) | C. Schalk, MorningStar
- O How Amiable – Psalm 84:1-4 (SATB, organ) | R. Vaughan Williams, Oxford
- Bow Down Your Ear – Psalm 86 :1-3, 5, 11 (Unison, piano) | A. Miller, Augsburg Fortress
- Jubilate Deo – Psalm 100 (Unison or SA, organ, opt. percussion) | D. Wood, Augsburg Fortress
- Psalm 117 (2-part mixed, keyboard) | T. Shaw, Concordia
- Psalm 121 (Unison/2-part, piano) | T. Shaw, Choristers Guild
- Psalm 150 (2-part mixed, organ) | J. Harper, Oxford
© 2016 Timothy Shaw. All rights reserved.
Many composers have written choral settings of the Nunc Dimittis, and one of the most hauntingly beautiful is by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (listen to it on YouTube). This canticle of the Christmas season was sung by Simeon, as a blessing on the infant Jesus, and it is recorded in Luke 2:29-32. During this season of Advent, as you wait on the Lord and hope in his promises, consider the circumstances that produced this stirring song.
Waiting is never easy, for children and adults alike. Children (and some adults, too) find it difficult to wait for Christmas morning to arrive, while adults (and some children, too) find it difficult to wait in line at the stores or on the roads. No one really likes to wait, which makes the story of Simeon all the more meaningful. When Jesus was eight days old, Joseph and Mary brought him to the temple so purification rites could be performed, according to the Law. And the Holy Spirt caused Simeon to be there at just the right time. Who was Simeon? He was an old man, a patient man who knew what it means to wait on the Lord. God had promised Simeon that he would live to see the Lord in the flesh. So for many years Simeon waited to see Jesus, until finally, at the end of his life, he did. He held Jesus, and he worshiped the Lord. His blessing on the child is an expression of thanksgiving for God’s gift of salvation, offered to all nations of the world. His words were so profound that Mary and Joseph were astounded. Simeon blessed them, too, helping them to understand, at least in some small measure, the gravity of what was taking place. Simeon was a man of patience, yes, but he was also a man of peace. He begins his blessing by saying, essentially, “Now I can die in peace.” What enables someone to face death so quietly, with such serenity? Faith in the Child. To all who patiently wait for his coming, to all who put their trust in him, the Lord offers blessing beyond measure. Truly, this is good news! (adapted from Behold He Comes: Advent Reflections)
Choral Settings of the Nunc Dimittis
Nunc Dimittis, A. Pärt | Difficult (SATB, a cappella)
Nunc Dimittis, F. Mendelssohn | Moderate (SATB, a cappella)
Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, R. Vaughan Williams | Easy (SATB, organ/piano)
Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, T. Shaw | Easy (SA/TB, soloists, piano)
© 2015 Timothy Shaw. All rights reserved.