New Releases - Sacred
New Releases - Secular
THE CHORAL MUSIC OF ERIC WHITACRE
Compositions Full of Tonal Promise
By Marie Stultz, Contributing Editor
American-born Eric Whitacre has become famous worldwide as one of the brightest stars in choral music in the world today. His music is regularly performed in festivals throughout Europe and as far away as Australia. His music displays stunning colors, brilliant text painting, harmonic complexity, and skillful compositional road maps that are all unique to his work. Whitacre's poetic selections are thoughtful and always set for great effect. At the age of 40, he has already developed a musical gesture that could rival Aaron Copland and Igor Stravinsky; and he may well leave a lasting mark on 21st Century American choral music. His music, however, is challenging, complex, and can be difficult to perform.
Eric Whitacre was born on January 2, 1970. As a student at Douglas High School in Minden, Nevada, Whitacre played keyboard in a rock group - while, during the same period, being expelled from his high school band! Whitacre began his musical training while an undergraduate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he studied composition with avant garde Ukrainian composer Virko Baley and choral conducting with David Weiller. It was here that he wrote his Cloudburst, Water Night, and Three Flower Songs for mixed chorus, and his Ghost Train triptych for concert band. Whitacre received a Master's degree at the Juilliard School, studying composition under both John Corigliano and David Diamond.
Whitacre is probably best known for his choral works; however, both his choral and instrumental styles use his signature "Whitacre chords." These are often seventh or ninth chords, with or without suspended seconds and fourths. Perhaps his most famous chord is a root-position major triad with an added major second and/or perfect fourth. Whitacre makes frequent use of quartal, quintal and secundal harmonies; and he is also known for his use of unconventional chord progressions. His use of rhythm often involves mixed, complex, and/or compound meters, including frequent meter changes and unusual rhythmic patterns. Another trademark of Whitacre's music is the use of unusual score instructions, sometimes involving hand actions and/or props.
Whitacre is becoming increasingly known for his work with virtual choirs. These pieces include Lux Aurumque, a work that includes 185 voices from 12 countries; and Sleep, which merges hundreds of tracks individually recorded and posted on YouTube. Whitacre is a founding member of the consortium BCM International, a quartet of composers which also includes Steven Bryant, Jonathan Newman, and James Bonney. According to its mission statement, BCM International aspires to "enrich the wind ensemble repertoire with music unbound by traditional thought or idiomatic cliché."
AWARDS AND HONORS
Whitacre has won awards from the Barlow international composition competition, the American Choral Directors Association, and the American Composers' Forum. In 2001 he became the youngest recipient ever of The Raymond C. Brock Commission given by the American Choral Directors Association. His musical Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings earned him a Richard Rodgers Award and received 10 nominations at the 2007 Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Awards. The album Cloudburst and Other Choral Works won a Grammy nomination in 2007 for Best Choral Performance. Since July 2004, Australia has hosted an annual Eric Whitacre Wind Symphony Festival; and Italy and Venice host annual Whitacre festivals as well. He was elected to a Visiting Fellowship program held at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge for Michaelmas Term (autumn) 2010. He acted as Composer in Residence as part of that Fellowship.
CHORAL MUSIC FOR SATB VOICES
A Boy and a Girl
Animal Crackers, Vols. I & II
The City and the Sea
Five Hebrew Love Songs
Her Sacred Spirit Soars
Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine
The Seal Lullaby
Sleep My Child
The Stolen Child
Three Flower Songs
I Hide Myself
With A Lily In Your Hand
Go, Lovely Rose
Three Songs of Faith
i will wade out
hope, faith, life, love
i thank You God for most this amazing day
When David Heard
CHORAL MUSIC FOR SSA VOICES
She Weeps Over Rahoon
Five Hebrew Love Songs
The Seal Lullaby
CHORAL MUSIC FOR TTBB VOICES
The Seal Lullaby
ANNOTATIONS OF FIVE WHITACRE MASTERPIECES
i thank You God for most this amazing day, English text, Hal Leonard, 08501708, SATB Voices(divisi) a cappella. This illuminating, soul searching piece is set to a popular poem by e. e. cummings. It is the third in a series of sacred music set to poems by this famous American poet and was first performed by the Northern Arizona University choir in 1999. The anthem was first published in the year 2000 by Walton Music. Sections of the piece were so difficult that the composer revised the work in 2009. This recently revised edition is the version discussed below. Difficulty rating 5. $2.45
This challenging anthem requires a committed and capable choir with advanced tuning skills. The use of simple melodic phrase shapes is consistently intertwined with complex tonal clusters ranging up to twelve parts. Whitacre uses the poem's rich imagery to full musical advantage. The text seems to drive the composition and the shape of the music. Dynamics and tempos are constantly changing as the choir learns to value a carefully constructed road map to properly interpret this luminous work. Since the piece is filled with constantly changing shades of light and dark, the choir must learn to change its tone to effect a powerful interpretation of this eight-minute work.
1. Play a recording of this work for the choir. There is a fine recording on the Walton Music website. The piece is beautiful, but difficult. The choir must be committed to a long learning curve.
2. Speak the words of the anthem in rhythm, section by section.
3. Organize the choir into four sectionals with a competent leader. This could be done in a home or at a music school where there are an adequate number of instruments. Often a section leader could be used to assist you in organizing this part of the learning process.
4. Assign early in the learning process the part assignments in the divisi sections.
5. The soprano soloist must have a pure, clear voice that can sail over the clusters of choral sound.
6. To become familiar with the composer's tonal style, teach the music on page 10 at measure 62 through 70.
7. Practice singing this music in a circle or a group of circles. It is paramount that the singers are able to hear each other.
8. To maintain accurate pitches, the finger in the ear technique would be a great tool.
9. Emphasize the importance of clean, clear diction. This will help with the intonation.
10. Uniform vowels are critical in a work like this, particularly in the extreme ranges with challenging dynamic levels.
11. Isolate the more difficult clusters, such as the one in measure 85. Once the choir can tune these cluster areas of the score, it will be easier to perform the entire work.
Nox Aurumque (Night and Gold), Latin text, Hal Leonard, 08751018, SATB a cappella. This mysterious piece is set to a poem specifically written for Whitacre by Charles Anthony Silvestri. It is a mirror child to Lux Aurumque (Light and Gold. The piece was composed and published in 2009. The poem was written in that same year and is the seventh setting Whitacre has done of a Silvestri text. Difficulty rating 4. $3.25
Nox Aurumque displays mysterious harmonies on chant-like phrase shapes that only Whitacre could conceive. There is less divisi in this score, which makes it more accessible than "I thank you god." The choir must learn to produce Whitacre's mysterious tone colors that are both dark and shimmering. Great for developing a choir's ability to sing elegant suspensions, this piece requires tremendous breath control in order to sing the long phrase shapes at a slow tempo. By working towards an evenness of gesture between the parts - plus following the dynamics carefully -- the choir's artistry will grow significantly.
1. Have the choir read the program notes printed in the front of the publication.
2. Discuss the role of the libretto and how it shapes Whitacre's music.
3. Have a member of the choir expressively read the translation of the Latin text.
4. Point out that although the piece is composed in F Major, the key or harmonic regions are constantly changing.
5. Have the choir write in the English translation under the bass line. In order to sing this music effectively, they must be in constant touch with the words.
6. Organize two sectionals: one for women and one for men.
7. Assign the divisi sections to the choir before the sectional. Balance is critical in this illuminating work.
8. Make sure the major and minor seconds are sung perfectly in tune.
9. Keep all vowels open and warm in tone color.
10. Sing the word "Aurum" (gold) with a centered tone.
11. After the sectionals, start to put the piece together. Interchange "Aurum" of the opening phrase with the word "Gold."
12. Isolate the unison octaves and have the choir mark them with a pencil. They must learn to sing these notes with a perfect unison.
13. Once the piece is learned, sing it in a circle so the choir will be able to build on their tonal sonority.
14. Maintain the vocal contrasts between the men and women. There is almost a response intertwined in the composition.
15. In the final section, the tenors and altos must sing their eighth note phrase shapes evenly on beautifully shaped vowels.
Sleep My Child, by Eric Whitacre, English text, Hal Leonard), 08751020, SATB a cappella. This elegant piece of music is a movement from Whitacre's musical theater piece, Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings, where it is first heard in the middle of Act II. It is set to a text by David Norona and the composer. This particular edition was created for Chanticleer, who insisted on having it scored for SATB voices, knowing the purity of tone they could create. This version was created in August of 2008 and published in 2009. Difficulty rating 4. $2.95
Sleep My Child is a glorious piece of music. It calls for large forces, because there are numerous tone clusters so typical of the Whitacre style. That said, this piece could easily be done with a three-part children's choir of small forces and an accomplished SATB chorus. For the short solo treble trio, well-trained adolescent singers or well-trained boy sopranos would sound fabulous. If using adult female voices here, they must be innocent and pure in tone quality, since the trio represents the voice of angels.
Pure legato singing is a must as the choir sings of paradise and the dream world. The anthem requires a gentle, elegant tone quality that must be ethereal in gesture. The piece works on intonation, the singing of elegant, long phrase shapes, and a blend that seems to come from another time. The repetitions must be sung identically each time, with the running eighth note passages growing in expression. Dynamics and score marks should be carefully followed, in order to build a moving artistic impression. The key change from g minor to G Flat Major should reflect some sharp contrasts in tone and style.
1. The treble soloists must be carefully selected and should have a glorious blend. They sing only two short "ah" passages, and they must replicate angels.
2. Rehearse the treble voices separately. Have them come to the rehearsal experience after the SATB chorus has learned their music.
3. The treble soloists should have their music memorized, allowing them to perform vocally and expressively with freedom.
4. The soloists could actually be staged if you so desire.
5. Place the two scales up on the board for the SATB chorus and sing them on both numbers and syllables.
6. Speak the words in rhythm, carefully working the triplets so they are sung with great accuracy.
7. Isolate some of the ascending phrase shapes and scales and sing them on "DOO" to get a centered, ringing tone quality.
8. The "wings" passages should be sung evenly by the men as the women sing their counter part with a rich warm tone quality.
9. If you have reached page 3 and the singers are struggling, break into men and women sectionals.
10. When the solo trio enters at the top of page 7, the choir must sing double piano, almost creating heaven itself.
11. This section should have a lyrical, lilting quality to it if it is to sound artistic.
12. The ending section where the choir sings "sleep my child" must sound like a gentle lullaby.
The Stolen Child, English text, Hal Leonard, 08751017, SATB & Sextet a cappella. This large piece was composed for the National Youth Chorus of Great Britain and the King's Singers. Set to a lovely William Butler Yeats poem, the work requires an accomplished youth chorus and a professional sextet of choral singers to perform it artistically. Because the piece is so demanding in terms of personnel and difficulty, I am limiting my remarks to this paragraph. However, it would be wonderful to see one of our premiere children's choirs perform this beautiful piece with a group of professional soloists. It is set to a poem written by William Butler Yeats. Difficulty rating 5+. $3.95
The Seal Lullaby, English text, Hal Leonard, 08749771, SSA & Piano (also available for SA and SATB voices). This lovely piece was originally written in 2004 for an animated film, The Seal Lullaby, set to a story by Rudyard Kipling. It was never used because the studio abandoned the project. The piece lay dormant for a number of years, when The Towne Singers asked the composer to adapt it for treble voices. It was rearranged and published in 2008. Difficulty rating 3. $2.25
The Seal Lullaby is perfect for building a choir's legato singing. This simple lullaby will build a choir's capability of singing with a gentle, focused tone quality. The poem is perfect for developing expression on dynamic levels that never go beyond a mezzo forte. Because of the dynamic demands, the singers will have to sing with clear, well-enunciated diction. This is the perfect starting Whitacre piece to use with a treble ensemble.
1. Speak the words starting at the top of page 2 in rhythm.
2. Encourage the choir to be expressive, making their voices sound like the words they are speaking.
3. Do a second or a third reading, working to follow the dynamics levels.
4. Emphasize the importance of clear diction with centered vowels.
5. Place the D Flat Major scale ascending and descending on the board,
6. Sing on syllables and numbers.
7. Have the choir analyze the score and mark the unison passages.
8. Read the first page "OO's" one part at a time.
9. Have the altos sing their part against the sopranos; then put all three parts together.
10. The opening section should be sung gently with a pure, ringing "OO" sound.
11. Use "DOO" to build tonal clarity and a gentle ringing sound.
12. Think the long phrase.
13. Move into two sectionals, dividing the sopranos into one group and putting the altos alone in the other group.
14. Carefully work the sopranos: unison and parts.
15. The alto part should sound like a lyrical, warm cello.
16. Constantly emphasize the importance of beautiful dynamics.
17. Build a lyrical, gentle performance of this beautiful lullaby.
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New Releases ~ Sacred
SATB VOICES ~ SACRED
*Canticle of Thanksgiving, by John Rutter, English text, Hinshaw, HMC2237, SATB (divisi men) & organ. Set to an original text by the composer, this simple but effective anthem will appeal to choirs of limited capability. Composed in common time, the anthem opens in the key of E Major with the men singing an accessible, lyrical unison melody. The sopranos and altos continue the unison theme with an alternate melody shadowing the men's part. The men's contrapuntal harmonies have a simple beauty that supports the women's unison singing. The D section modulates through three keys; G, F#, and A Major, with the choir singing in unison on the words "you always will be there," closing this simple anthem. Difficulty rating 3. $1.55
The Choir Invisible, by Dominick Argento, English text, Boosey (Hal Leonard), 48020830, SATB (divisi) a cappella. Composed for the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., this lengthy piece is set to a powerful text by George Eliot. Argento's unique style uses elegant harmonies that alternate between beautiful homophonic and contrapuntal passages. Filled with changing meters on changing key relationships, the anthem requires an accomplished choir if the performance is to have an artistic conclusion. The anthem requires singers with good ears; effortless tonality is the main ingredient in a work that begins simply and builds in harmonic complexity. Difficulty rating 5. $1.95
*Hail to the Lord's Anointed, arr. Austin Lovelace (b. 1919), English text, ECS, 7318, SATB & organ. This simple anthem is based on an adapted text by James Montgomery (1821), using a folk tune taken from William Walker's famous early American music collection, Southern Harmony. Lovelace has used this tune many times, including an arrangement for the Methodist Hymnal. I first came to know Lovelace's fine anthems while attending SMU and came to admire his choral work at Lovers Lane Methodist Church. His devotion to hymnody has created a catalogue of accessible anthems for church choirs throughout the world. Simple homophonic harmonies dominate this short anthem, set in f minor, which ends powerfully on an A Major chord. This short 2-minute anthem will work effectively with small forces. Difficulty rating 2-3. $1.55
Hymnus ad vesperas (Hymn at vespers), by Gábor Lehotka (1938-2009), Latin/English text, ECS, 6988, SATB (divisi) & organ. This piece, set to a 6th century text attributed to Saint Gregory the Great, with translation by John Mason Neale, can by found in The Hymnal Noted, compiled in London in 1815. Composed mostly in unison, the organ part requires an accomplished player. The alternative English text was adapted and edited by ECS's recently retired editor, Ronald Arnatt. The final homophonic section alternates between effective harmonies and surprising unison passages composed in octaves. The anthem begins in A minor on chant-like melodic passages, using elegant phrase shapes. The piece concludes on a surprising F# Major chord. The short harmonic section contains many accidentals that can be challenging. Difficulty rating 3. $1.85
*I am with you always, by John Rutter, English text, Hinshaw, HMC2223, SATB & organ. In typical Rutter style, this anthem is filled with beautiful melodic phrases sung mostly in unison. The harmonic passages contain some surprising shifts, which are set homophonically. Choirs will love this very accessible anthem, which is composed on passages from both Matthew and John. Set in the key of D major in 3/4 meter, it will be effective with small forces. The anthem concludes quietly on the repeated word "alway" (always) with the men humming mysterious divisi chords, beautifully supporting the musical pledge made by the sopranos and altos to be "with you always." Difficulty rating 3. $1.80
Jubilate Deo, by Gerre Hancock, English text, ECS, 7212, SATB (divisi) & organ. Using changing key signatures and complex rhythms, this piece provides challenge in both counterpoint and harmonies. The organ part is equally challenging and requires an accomplished organist. The piece is set to Psalm 100 and based on a version taken from The Book of Common Prayer of 1662. The anthem gains in complexity as it enters the final key of A Major. This anthem requires an accomplished choir with a good sense of rhythm and harmonic structure. Lasting five minutes, it is very effective and joyful, but requires large forces and advanced artistic capability. The imitative passages will help in the learning curve. Difficulty rating 4. $2.15
Kyrie (Have Mercy), by Bruce Sled, Latin text, Cypress Press, CP 1154, SATB (divisi) a cappella. This anthem is filled with challenging harmonies structured on parallel fourths. This anthem's dark setting contains references to the key of D Flat Major but seems to be constantly shifting to other key areas. The constant meter changes add to the rhythmic expectations of this homophonic setting of the Latin text. It would be a great choice for the accomplished college choir or choral society. Difficulty rating 4. $2.25
May Your Life Be Filled With Gladness, by Neil Stipp, English text, ECS, 7424, SATB, S & T solo, organ and opt. oboe. This anthem is the winner of the 2010 AGO/ECS Publishing Award Choral Composition. It is set to a text by Rae E. Whitney. Pointillism is used as the opening technique in terms of rhythmic and textual gesture. Composed in C Major, it begins in unison, using changing meters effectively. As the text becomes more expansive, so do the phrase shapes. The oboe part weaves ingeniously through the choir, tenor soloist, and organ part. The piece concludes as it opened -- except that it is framed with effective harmonies using sevenths, fourths, and seconds as part of the harmonic texture. This beautiful piece is four-and-a-half minutes in length. Difficulty rating 3-4. $1.95
*Shalom Rav (Grant Abundant Peace), arr. Joshua Jacobson, Hebrew text, Transcontinental (Hal Leonard), 00191622, SATB (divisi), solo & keyboard. This is a fabulous arrangement of a well-known melody composed by Jeff Klepper and Danny Freelander. Jacobson arranged this piece for the Boston Zamir Chorale's 2007 concert that honored the two composers. Set in D Major, the harmonies and rhythms are reminiscent of spirituals. It is the perfect piece to choose for liturgical purposes or, with the optional drum set, for a concert setting. This is a great choice for high school choral directors. Again, Jacobson displays great scholarship and ingenuity. Performance information, biographies, and a pronunciation guide are included in the edition. Difficulty Rating 3. $2.75
Shiru L'Adonai (Sing to God), by Ben Steinberg, Hebrew text, Transcontinental (Hal Leonard), 00191627, SATB & keyboard. Steinberg's fine piece would enhance a worship service or suit a concert hall performance. The harmonies and melodic material have a hypnotic quality about them, typical of Steinberg's choral writing. The text is taken from Isaiah 42:10, with five passages from Psalms 144, 61, 57, 81 and 100. Composed in F Major, the anthem uses numerous changing meters, with Middle Eastern harmonic colors and rhythms. The solo can be sung by either a soprano or tenor. The publication contains biographic information, Hebrew translation, and a pronunciation guide. Difficulty rating 4. $2.50
Four Choral Works for the Days of Awe, arr. Elliot Z. Levine, Hebrew text, Transcontinental (Hal Leonard), 00191628, SATB a cappella. These short settings by Elliot Levine, a founding member of the Western Wind ensemble, are for use in the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Zochreinu L'chayim harmonizes a well-known folk tune. B'sefer Chayim and Areshet S'fateinu are settings of melodies by Jacob Rapaport and Israel Goldfarb, respectively, though these tunes have been so integrated into the liturgy that they are often thought of as folk tunes. Yih'yu L'Ratzon (May the Words of My Mouth) is an original tune by Levine, set in canon form, that can be used for the High Holy Days and also throughout the year. This is an excellent, accessible collection for any synagogue choir. Difficulty rating 3. $2.25
My Beloved Son, by Gwyneth Walker, English text, ECS, 7451, SSA (divisi), mezzo solo, & organ. The use of major and minor seconds with numerous tone clusters dominates the harmonic fabric of this original carol set to a text by Charles Wesley (1707-1788) and Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179). The anthem opens with a simplistic organ part, with the SSA voices entering homophonically in three parts on the Wesley text. The recitative, sung by a mezzo soloist, is set to a von Bingen poem translated by Christopher Brunelle. The entire carol setting is filled with mystery, shifting from e minor to a minor with great effect. This is a wonderful eight-minute work by this fine American composer. Difficulty rating 3-4. $3.40
Sequentia de Virgine Maria (Sequences for the Virgin Mary), by Gábor Lehotka (1938-2009). Latin/English text, ECS, 6990, Unison, solo, & organ. Set to a text whose source is given as Anonymi Zagrabiensis, with translation by Leo Nestor, this simplistic piece has a haunting quality. The alternation of the tutti sections with the soloist adds to the mysterious aura of this short work. Shifting minor chords in the organ part support the elegant melodic line that uses surprising accidentals. Set in 4/4 meter, the simple rhythms are appropriate to declaim the text. Composed in 1991, this two-and-half minute work shifts through many key relationships and ends in F Major. Difficulty rating 3. $1.50
*Missa Brevis, by Stephen Chatman, Latin text, ECS, 7.0547, SSAA, soprano solo, & piano. This is a refreshing new short mass for treble voices, filled with shimmering harmonies on crossing voice parts. The Kyrie uses elegant counterpoint on piano clusters constructed homophonically. This first movement is composed in C Major and contains some challenging harmonies with numerous accidentals in the three parts. The second movement is a spirited Sanctus which must be sung with ease and great joy. Composed in G Major in 6/8 time, the various key changes add to the drama of the text. The Benedictus is in sharp contrast to the Sanctus, being more meditative in nature. The final movement, the Agnus Dei, is more reflective in mood. Opening with an elegant unison, it quickly moves to beautiful counterpoint sung in four parts. Composed in c minor, this is a quiet movement of great beauty on lovely contrapuntal lines. Composed in Vancouver in 2007, this short mass has also been adapted for SSATB voices and piano: catalog number 7.0546. The SSATB version is set a half step lower. Difficulty rating 4. $2.65
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New Releases ~ Secular
SATB VOICES ~ SECULAR
Bonzorno Madonna (Good Day Dear), by Antonio Scandello (1517-1580), Italian/English text, Hal Leonard, 085966791, SATB a cappella. Published in the key of E Flat Major, this edition by John Leavitt includes an English text by the editor. This is a fine new choice for introducing your singers to the Italian Madrigal form -- as well as for training them to sing in Italian. Composed with some simple counterpoint, this early music piece will build a choir's skill to sing independently. Only one-and-a-half minutes in length, your singers will enjoy this playful piece as they learn to sing a cappella. Difficulty rating 3. $1.80
How I Discovered America, by Francisco J. Nunez, English text, Boosey (Hal Leonard), 48020837, SATB (divisi), percussion, & hand congo a cappella. Set to a poem by Filipino poet Eric Gamalinda, this unusual piece depicts the 19th century migration of the Asian population to America. Commissioned by the Central Bucks High School-West Chamber Choir, it had its premiere at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. The piece uses the ancient southern rhythms heard in the Philippines, which are similar to the talking drums of Africa. Filipino rhythms and harmonies are used in both the percussion parts and the choral writing in this piece. The piece uses nonsense syllables and repeated ostinato as part of the musical fabric. Due to the numerous accidentals, this piece requires an accomplished choir. Conductors of advanced college choirs or choral societies should seriously consider this piece. Difficulty rating 4-5. $2.25
Love Looked Down, by Dale Warland, English text, G. Schirmer (Hal Leonard), 50486940, SSATBB, harp, flute, & cello. Although commissioned by the National Lutheran Choir for their 2006 Christmas Festival, the poem text by Laurence Houseman (1865) is actually quite secular in nature. It speaks of light, peace, and love, alluding to the trinity. The anthem is constructed in three parts, with three instruments, three women's parts, and three men's parts. Composed in E Major, the piece employs glorious text painting and glistening harmonies. Difficulty rating 3-4. $2.50
Northern Lights, by Ola Gjeilo, Latin text, Walton (Hal Leonard), HL08501748, SATB a cappella. Although composed in Latin and based on words from Song of Solomon, this piece is actually a love song that could be sung in either a sacred or secular environment. Composed at Christmas in 2008 in Oslo, Norway, the piece is constructed on even rhythms with changing meter signatures. The melodic and harmonic substance uses repeated motivic material and is chant-like in style. There is a marvelous reverent quality about the work that makes the music seem to float through the air. It is composed on shifting harmonies. Difficulty rating 4. $2.15
Song to the Moon (La Luna), by Z. Randall Stroope, English text, Walton (Hal Leonard), HL08501728, SATB (divisi), flute, oboe, & piano. Watery harmonies, imaginative phrase shapes, and imitative melodic materials dominate this wonderful poetic adaptation from Jaroslov Kvapil (1868-1950). This poem was used in Dvorak's opera Rusalka, completed in 1900. The poem depicts a water nymph, Rusalka, who wishes to be human so she can fall in love with a prince. The musical imagery found in this five-minute work is artistically challenging. Composed in the key of D Flat Major, the instrumental parts add to the watery images Stroope conjures up in this wonderful piece. It would be perfect for the accomplished high school or college choir. The composer has adapted some of the original text to suit his imagery of the story. Difficulty rating 4. $2.15
A Choral Quilt, by Leonard Bernstein, English text, Boosey (Hal Leonard), 00450146, SATB, soloists, & piano. This unusual work combines six songs from Bernstein's musical theater pieces composed between 1950 and 1976. Jack Gottlieb arranged this combination of: Take Care of This House (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), My House (Peter Pan), Make Our Garden Grow (Candide), There Is a Garden (Trouble in Tahiti), Somewhere (West Side Story) and Almighty Father (Mass). Despite some necessary changes to the individual songs, this is an effective adaptation that provides a good introduction to Bernstein's great Broadway music. Difficulty rating 4. $3.95
TREBLE VOICES ~ SECULAR
After the Sleet Storm, by Richard Kidd, English text, Boosey (Hal Leonard), 48020742, SSA & piano. Imitation is central to the basic structure of this composition, in all its parts. The guitar and piano parts include many descending passages that actually imitate the falling sleet. Composed in C Major on a 3/4 time signature, this wintry piece is set to the first verse of a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox entitled Not Quite the Same. The piece opens with an ostinato, using the words of the title in the second and alto parts, while the sopranos are assigned the melody. For the words "There are no more each days as dawned for us" the music is homophonic in nature. As the piece invokes the coming of spring, Kidd writes some elegant counterpoint. The anthem closes with imitative counterpoint on the words "Not quite the same." Program notes, biographical information, guitar, and cello parts are included in the edition. Difficulty rating 3-4. $1.95
Choruses of Trees, (from the opera, Fantastic Mr. Fox), by Tobias Picker, English text, Schott (Hal Leonard), 49017890, SSAA & piano. This fine composer has been able to create mysterious atmospheres with the use of shifting thirds. The opening of the first movement uncannily evokes the woods and the rustling of leaves. The simple rhythms and accessible harmonies make this an easy movement to learn. Chorus Two begins quietly, asking the question, "Who knows what trees see?" The questioning melodies and wonderful harmonies are set on simple but changing meters. The harmonic structure increases in difficulty as numerous accidentals appear. The choir is split into two parts as the movement closes. Difficulty rating 3-4. $1.95
I Have a Bonnet, arr. Georgina Craig, English text, Cypress, CP 1156, SSA (divisi) a cappella. This is a charming arrangement of an Irish folksong that speaks of a young maiden in a special bonnet going to a ball with her young man. Nonsense syllables begin the tale, with the opening music establishing the arrangement's themes. Set in G Major, the composer creates a wonderful mood of flirtation and dance. This simple, cheerful piece is beautifully crafted, with three motives effectively used to develop the folksong arrangement. Madrigal in compositional style, the piece creates a great vocal polka. Difficulty rating 3. $2.25
Mein Feinslieb (O Dear Love), by Johann Jeep (1581-1644), German/English text, Hal Leonard, 08596792, SSA (divisi) a cappella. John Leavitt is expert at discovering early music composers rarely heard today. Composition students should study the simplicity of this piece, observing how Jeep explores simplicity and surprising harmonies on beautiful compositional lines. Set in E Flat Major, the descending melodies shed a feeling of melancholy as the choir sings a spirited animato. Try the piece first in cut time and then slower: the artistic impression can be very different. Long phrase shapes, lovely counterpoint, and elegant harmonies permeate this wonderful short work. This piece is another perfect introduction to Renaissance music and German diction. Difficulty rating 3. $1.80
Va, Pensiero (from Nabucco), by Giuseppe Verdi, Italian text, Boosey (Hal Leonard), 48020745, SSAA & piano. This prayerful selection, taken from the great opera Verdi composed after the deaths of his wife and children, has resonated with listeners for years. The worshipful quality of this great treble quartet is unforgettable in its plea for joy, when Verdi was actually consumed with grief. Set in the unusual key of E# Major, the work opens with a lengthy prelude, which will allow the conductor the opportunity to add staging to the piece. Costumes would be appropriate, and staging appropriate for a musical comedy will familiarize your audience and singers with the world of opera. This edition is in Italian - which, after Latin, is the most important language for singers to learn to sing and perform. The edition is part of Doreen Rao's Opera Workshop series, an invaluable resource for introducing students to opera. Difficulty rating 3-4. $1.90
* New releases marked with an asterisk (*) are especially recommended.
Difficulty Ratings Guide: All selections reviewed in The Choral Room are given a difficulty rating to help you select the music most appropriate for your singers. 1 - easy; 2 - accessible; 3 - medium difficulty;4 - advanced difficulty; 5 - extreme difficulty
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