May 2, 2014

Choral Music for the Season | May 2014

Choral Music for the Season

Two wonderful choir pieces that will engross your choir

Something happens toward the end of the Easter season. Attendance in the choir becomes more sporadic. The commitment level has a tendency to drop off, forcing the choir director to choose music that works no matter how many choristers happen to make it that Sunday. One great way to keep the attendance strong until the end of the choir season is to program engaging music. Keeping the interest of the choir with a challenge has certainly proven effective in my experience. However, we also need to be realistic. A beautiful, sunny spring weekend can result in a tenor section with only three members. I can stress the importance of each singer to the overall sound—and the assembly’s worship—again and again, but programming music that is rewarding and just challenging enough makes them want and need to be there!

Here are two wonderful choir pieces that will engross your choir and keep them coming back for more.

Angela Westhoff-Johnson

Angela Westhoff-Johnson
Managing Music Editor for OCP
and music director at St. Mary's Cathedral in Portland, Oregon


May God Be Merciful to Us by Robert J. Powell

Scored for two-part choir and organ, this choral setting of Psalm 67 from the Book of Common Prayer is accessible and useful for choirs of varying levels of ability. Some choirs continue singing through the summer months without weekly rehearsals and pieces like this one are perfect for Sundays when the choir is perhaps not in full force. But that isn’t meant to downplay the quality of the piece. This setting works with like voices (all women or all men) or mixed voices, altos and basses taking the lower notes when divided. Featuring a general text with multiple uses, this well-crafted piece is worthy of attention.

Easy/Medium | Voicing: No Assembly Edition, Two Part

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Set Me as a Seal by Christopher Walker

Taken from the eighth chapter of the Song of Songs (8:6, 7), the text of “Set Me As a Seal” has usage well beyond that of a wedding. This setting may be sung by solo voices of mixed or equal voices, or with a two-part choir. It could also be sung with a solo voice on part one and a full unison choir singing part two. The options are numerous! The song begins as most duets, with voices in canonic entrances (“Set me as a seal upon your heart. For love is strong as death”). Composer Christopher Walker very effectively unites the two parts to end the first section, the A section, of the piece. The B section begins, once again, with staggered entrances but quickly joins together in harmonious homophony (“Many waters cannot quench love”). Returning to the A section, “Set Me as a Seal” ends as it began. This interesting setting is harmonically sophisticated but rhythmically simple, making it accessible for most choirs.

Difficulty Level: Easy/Medium | Voicing: Two Part

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