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Women Poets/Women Composers for women's chorus

What are your favorite compositions for women's choir of the words of women?
I'm looking to create a program for my women's community chorus entirely of settings of women poets (either published poetry or folk poetry from women's perspectives). Women composers would be a plus, but not required. Edna St. Vincent Millay's writings are on my radar, but I'm open to any women poets/writers.
I'll be happy to post a compilation if there is interest.
Thank you!
Meagan Smith
Music Director, Amasong
Replies (25): Threaded | Chronological
on October 24, 2009 6:00pm
Here's a ChoralNet resource on this topic. Here's another.
on October 24, 2009 8:17pm
Here are two suggestions - both of which have been very favorably received by the women (of all ages) singing and conducting them: 
"O Eve" by Sr. Columba Guare
"Echo" by Christina Rossetti
Frank La Rocca
on October 24, 2009 9:51pm
 I did a program last year for the ACDA-PA High School Women's Honor Choir which featured music by contemporary women composers that spoke to the life experience of women.  Not all women poets, but wonderful music by women composers, none the less.  Titles were:
Come, Ye Makers of Song - Ruth Watson Henderson
Away, Far Down the River - Alice Parker (from a set of 3 folk songs about women's experience as the West opened up for settlement)
Crossing the Bar - Gwyneth Walker (written for the memorial service for her mother, and premiered there with GW at the piano, and her sister singing)
Child With the Starry Crayon - Eleanor Daley (poetry by a child)
Still I Rise - Rosephanye  Powell (Commissioned by the women's choir Vox Femina, Iris Levine conductor)
on October 25, 2009 5:14am
Wonderful choice of focus!
This was my dissertation topic, so I'm very passionate about this set of repertoire!  Diss title is "By Women, For Women: Choral Works for Women's Voices Composed and Texted by Women, With an Annotated Repertoire List." Includes 150 repertoire suggestions in the 'by women, for women' category, with annotations on the text and music of each. Geared towards conductors of women's choral ensembles for choosing repertoire. Its not available via UMI yet, but I'd be happy to send you a copy. Just shoot me an email. Below, I've listed a number of women poets that you might consider. 
Please let me know when the concert is - I have some friends that were members of Amasong while they lived in Urbana and I would love to attend. 
Shelbie L. Wahl, D.A.
(317) 919-0556
*****Here are some quick suggestions of women poets, plus some women composers that have written their own texts:
Allen, Elizabeth Akers           
Angelou, Maya          
Baez, Joan      
Barth, Carol   
Bass, Alberta 
Bass, Althea   
Benjamin, Diane         
Bradstreet, Anne        
Cooper, C. E. (Christa)          
Clifton, Lucille           
Craven, Gertrude       
Cuneo, Marilyn M.   
Cunningham, Janie Gardner   
de la Cruz, Sor Juana Ines      
de Vinck, Catherine    
Dean, M.K.    
Delmonte, Pauline      
Dickinson, Emily       
Dieker, Nicole
Elfyn, Menna 
Farjeon, Eleanor         
Finch, Annie  
Frostic, Gwen
Fusek, Serena 
Goedicke, Patricia      
Goldberg, Barbara      
Hadewijch II  
Hamilton, Cicely        
Harter, Penny
Haskins, Minnie Louise         
Hershey, Laura          
Hervey, Eleanora Louisa        
Hildegard von Bingen  
Huber, Ruth   
Johnson, Jody Kristine          
Joseph, Jenny
Julian of Norwich      
Jun, Lucy       
Karush, Becky           
Kenward, Jean           
Kenyon, Jane 
Khoury, Maryam      
Kilkelly, Ann 
Kimes, Janice 
Kohn, Leslie   
Kosloff, Doris
Kunhardt, Susan        
Lasker-Schüler, Else   
Lauber, Peg    
LeGuin, Ursula K.     
Levertov, Denise        
Lindberg, Anne Morrow        
Long, Lily A.     
Lowell, Amy  
Lyon, George Ella (f)      
Macklin, Elizabeth     
Madrigal, Adrianna    
Marshall, Jane
Miller, Jane Ramseyer           
Moore, Sue Carroll    
Mora, Pat       
Mother Teresa of Calcutta    
Nye, Naomi Shihab    
Oliver, Mary  
Parker, Dorothy Rothschild  
Pearlberg, Gerry Gomez (f)        
Pitt, Jane Roman        
Powell, Rosephanye  
Powis, Barbara           
Prefontaine, Joan Wolf          
Qiu Jin           
Queen, Claudia Howard         
Raum, Elizabeth         
Reagon, Bernice Johnson       
Ridge, Lola     
Roosevelt, Eleanor     
Rossetti, Christina G.
Saint Teresa of Ávila 
Sarton, May   
Schnapp, Patricia L.   
Schneeberger, Susan   
Sigourney, Lydia Huntley     
Sister Madeleva Wolff           
Smith, Stevie  
Swenson, May           
Teasdale, Sara
Towson, Edwina        
Traynham, Katherine 
True, Anna B.
Truth, Sojourner        
Vasiliauskaite, Kristina          
Vilarino, Idea  
Walker, Alice 
Walker, Gwyneth      
Walter, Lana   
Wang Erbei     
Whitney, Mary          
Wilson, Natalie          
Wylie, Elinor  
on October 25, 2009 8:33am
I have recently done "An Emily DIckinson Mosaic" with the Treble Chamber Choir of James Madison University. The poems are all Emily Dickinson poems, 6 movements: some short, some long, the entire work is about 12-13 minutes. The work is composed by Daniel Pinkham, so chromaticism does come into play, but they were very interesting settings. 
Lynn A. 
Lynn G. Atkins, MM/DMA '12
Conductor, JMU Treble Chamber Choir
Doctoral Graduate Assistant to the Director of Choral Activities
James Madison University
Harrisonburg, VA
on October 25, 2009 8:50am
Hi Meagan,
I have composed a setting of the Hail Mary prayer (theme of peace) for SSA with piano accompaniment using the piano keyboard and strings. In a live acoustic space the singers may sing into the open piano (lid is taken off) for a lovely haunting  effect. Duration is about 2 minutes.
For further information please contact me privately at:
Maryanne Rumancik
on October 25, 2009 12:16pm
Check out Libby Larsen's "The Womanly Song of God," with text by Catherine de Vinck. It's simply a stunner, both textually and musically, and if your group can pull of SSSSAAAA, I can't recommend it highly enough. San Francisco Girls Chorus (Chorissima) has recorded it brilliantly on their "Voices of Hope and Peace" CD, directed by the wonderful Susan McMane.
Other composers who I believe have either written their own texts or set women poets' texts include Joan Szymko and Abbie Betinis.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on October 25, 2009 12:17pm
I'm not absolutely sure of this, but I seem to recall that both Clara Schumann and Cecile Chaminade also wrote songs that would address this - but please don't ask the details, this is a rather fuzzy recollection at best.
Ron Duquette
on October 25, 2009 5:01pm
Hi Meagan --  I was commissioned to write a trio of pieces for a women's group in Vermont (Cantabile).  Two had texts from female poets; the third was St. Anselm.  The grouping was medieval sacred texts.
Lord, You Are My Love (2004) -- Mechtilde of Magdeburg (1210-1282)
Wit it Well (2004) -- Julian of Norwich (1342-1417)
Merciful Lady (2004) -- St. Anselm (1033-1109)
They are all three in Sibelius Files; I can also send a .pdf, and I believe I have the recording somewhere...
If you have any interest, let me know & I'd be happy to send you whatever's most convenient.
Best wishes,
Patricia Norton
on October 26, 2009 6:47pm
What a rich resource of material out there for you to create a very wonderful program.  If I may introduce you to "The Lost Lagoon", words by E. Pauline Johnson.  She was a Native American poet from Canada with a very interesting biography.  The link below is to a pdf sample score of the SSAA and piano choral work, published by Lighthouse Music Publications.  Sister Sound - Lexington Women's Chorus premiered the work in Jan 09. 
on October 27, 2009 7:27am
  If you google The American Choral Foundation/Jennifer Flory you'll find a complete listing of my choral works. Women poets whom I've set to music include Hildegard von Bingen, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, Sarah Teasdale, Amy Lowell, Dorothy Diemer Hendry, Alice Meynell, Mary Oliver, Ina Coolbrith, Catherine de Vinck, Helen Skinner Adamson, Flannery O'Connor, Marguerite Hoffman, Charlotte Brontë, Fannie Stearns Davis, Lizette Woodworth Reese. You can also contact me at eldiemer(a) Emma Lou Diemer
on October 27, 2009 6:59pm
Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful suggestions! Amasong often does music with texts and/or music by women, so even if I'm not able to use all suggestions on this program, I now feel armed with a great list of resources. I'd love to continue to hear from composers, too. I'm working on a set of three Dickinson lyrics for premiere next Spring, and can also recommend other pieces out of Amasong's past repertoire if others are interested in the same topic.
on November 12, 2009 2:50pm
I have a piece for SSAA (unaccompanied) setting these words by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross:  "People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."  I'd love to share it with you if you are interested.  Best wishes on your program!
Melissa Bergstrom
on December 28, 2010 4:47am
Hello Melissa:  My name is Carole Birch and I am the director of the Wayzata Women's Chorus.  I am looking for a new piece for my choir
and yours looks so interesting.  I studied Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' writing at the University of Minnesota.  My chorus has been notified that
we are accepted into the Langothlin Choral Competition in Wales.  I would love to see your piece ! I love the text!  Thank you so much in
advance.  Sincerely, Carole Birch
on December 28, 2010 6:57pm
     If you can abide a male composer, consider Let Evening Come, my
setting of Jane Kenyon's wonderful poem.  SSAA + piano. Published by
William Thorpe, who also publishes a mixed chorus version.
     Here is the poem:
     Here is the Peninsula Women's Chorus singing the piece:
(I want them to sing this piece at my funeral, preferably
not very soon.)
Brian Holmes
on December 28, 2010 8:57pm
I have loads - but all of them in Icelandic :þ  Do be in touch if that's not a hindrance.
on December 29, 2010 10:00am
Don't know if this thread is still helpful to you, but everyone needs to check out Carol Barnett's "Somg of Perfect Propriety," which sets a fabulous poem by Doeothy Parker. Commissioned by Cornell University & Scott Tucker as part of their "No whining, no flowers" series, it's about piracy. Not an easy piece, but a blast to perform.
on December 29, 2010 3:30pm
One of the most exciting works for women's chorus with women's texts that I've performed is Libby Larsen's "Stepping Westward."  Check her eponomous website for this and numerous other strong works that fit your criteria.  I would also strongly recommend Gwnyth Walker's "Now I Become Myself" with text by woman (maybe May Sarton).
Another resource is , click at the very bottom of the home page.
Best, Michele
on December 29, 2010 4:31pm
I'm sure Gwyneth Walker has written many pieces on texts of women poets.  Her catalogue at is terrific, and you can always email her direectly' she's quite approachable.  Her wonderufl and interesting set An Hour to Dance is " seven musical settings present an overview of the life and work of poet Virginia Hamilton Adair."  Also As a Branch in May, Bones Be Good (I lvoe this piece)... The main catalogue at lsts the poets for each piece, so you could just scan down the page.
on December 30, 2010 9:33am
Ramona Luengen wrote a beautiful piece for Elektra Women's Choir in 2009 on a poem by Japanese Canadian poet Joy Kogawa.  It's called "How the Blossoms are Falling".  The themes are seasons, especially spring and fall, and looking back on life with fond and rich memories.  Starts with an extended a cappella section before the piano comes in.  Total time is 5 1/2 minutes.  I don't think it's published, but Ramona can be reached at info(a)
Best of luck in your programming.
on December 30, 2010 9:20pm
Hi Meagan,
I sometimes write my own texts.  Please check out "A Little Bird" , "Field of Violets", "Star", "All the Pretty Little Horses" (folk song setting) and "Promise of the Garden", all published with Hinshaw Music; also a setting of "Follow the Drinking Gourd" (African-American song), published with Brilee Music.  
Best wishes,
Valerie Crescenz
on January 1, 2010 4:56pm
Hi Meagan,
I have a choral cycle of three pieces collectively entitled After Love, which is based on poems by the fabulous poet Sara Teasdale (1884–1933) who was the first recipient in 1918 of the Columbia University Poetry Society Prize (which later became the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry). The three pieces in the cycle are "Spring Night," "Oh Day of Fire and Sun," and "Joy," which was performed at the 2009 ACDA National Conference by the Mirinesse women's choir from Seattle, WA. The cycle was composed with the concept that these poems are autobiographical and that it is Sara herself who is describing her own experience with love. Here are the texts:


THE park is filled with night and fog,

The veils are drawn about the world,

The drowsy lights along the paths

Are dim and pearled.

Gold and gleaming the empty streets,

Gold and gleaming the misty lake,

The mirrored lights like sunken swords,

Glimmer and shake.

Oh, is it not enough to be

Here with this beauty over me?

My throat should ache with praise, and I

Should kneel in joy beneath the sky.

Oh, beauty are you not enough?

Why am I crying after love,

With youth, a singing voice and eyes

To take earth's wonder with surprise?

Why have I put off my pride,

Why am I unsatisfied,—

I for whom the pensive night

Binds her cloudy hair with light,—

I, for whom all beauty burns

Like incense in a million urns?

O, beauty, are you not enough?

Why am I crying after love?




Oh day of fire and sun,

Pure as a naked flame,

Blue sea, blue sky, and dun

Sands where he spoke my name;


Laughter and hearts so high

That the spirit flew off free,

Lifting into the sky

Diving into the sea;


Oh day of fire and sun

Like a crystal burning,

Slow days go one by one,

But you have no returning.



I am wild, I will sing to the trees,
I will sing to the stars in the sky,
I love, I am loved, he is mine,
Now at last I can die!
I am sandaled with wind and with flame,
I have heart-fire and singing to give,
I can tread on the grass or the stars,
Now at last I can live!
Lo, I am happy, for my eyes have seen
Joy glowing here before me, face to face;
His wings were arched above me for a space,
I kissed his lips, no bitter came between,
The air is vibrant where his feet have been,
And full of song and color is his place.
His wondrous presence sheds about a grace
That lifts and hallows all that once was mean.
I may not sorrow for I saw the light,
Tho’ I shall walk in valley ways for long,
I still hear the echo of the song,—
My life is measured by its one great height.
Joy holds more grace than pain can ever give,
And by my glimpse of joy my soul shall live.
Please let me know if you're interested in any of these pieces, and I'd be happy to send you perusal scores and recordings.
All the best on your search for repertoire!
John Muehleisen


on January 3, 2011 3:44pm
I concur with John...please check out his works!  On a similar note, please also consider the same Teasdale poem "Joy" set by Minnesota composer Jocelyn Hagen.....she writes wonderful music and I had the privilege to conduct the premiere a couple years ago with the MN All-State Women's Choir.....great piece!
Best wishes,  Vijay Singh
on January 4, 2011 12:30pm
Hi Meagan:  Please look at "The Kiss" 
Text by Sara Teasdale, published by Colla Voce
Tom Council
on January 5, 2011 12:24pm
hello meagan,
in addition to the excellent and many suggestions already made, i would add the distinguished british composer, judith bingham. her music is dramatic, even when written on a small scale, and intense..... and approachable - not always the case with contemporary composers! she frequently writes her own lyrics, and she has written for women's voices. i would recommend especially "lace-making", but you can find more on her publisher's website - she's published by Edition Peters.
i would also recommend another british composer, sasha johnson manning. she wrote a haunting version of a poem by sara teasdale, for women's voices & piano, as a commission for a competition piece from the parkway north high school in st. louis, mo. the director there, brian reeves, could probably help you get hold of a copy. or you could contact the composer directly, <sashajohnsonmanning(a)>.
from australia, there's clare maclean, whose "rain" is the nearest thing i've heard of as a choral compliment to vivaldi's "four seasons" - it's scored for a cappella upper voices. you can find out more about her work via the australian music centre.
best of luck with your researches,
philip barnes
st. louis, mo.
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