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Seeking unusual works for Female Choir

I'm looking for avant guarde and unusual works for women's choir. Anything leaning to the absurd, surreal and theatrical would be great!
I'd love to hear your ideas/suggestions. :)
Replies (24): Threaded | Chronological
on September 1, 2012 7:41am
oops...spell check fail!  avant GARDE.  :)
on September 1, 2012 7:52am
Please share a bit more info:  choir size, number of voices in each section, ability level, availability of instrumentalists, etc.  Thank you!
on September 1, 2012 7:54am
Hi Sarah,
I have a piece called God Says Yes to Me which is usually presented in a theatrical manner. The music is jazz influenced and is for Sop solo (or you can use more than 1 soloist)/ SSAA/jazz bass. It was brillaintly choreographed by Michigan State University directed by Sandra Snow in its premiere, and also has had wonderful performances by Vox Femina in Los Angeles, directed by Iris Levine,  and a few other choirs. The witty, fresh poem is a well-known offering by Kaylin Haught. In it God is a woman and really doesn't have interest in passing judgment on folks. It has always been well-received by singers and audiences because of its wry humor and outlook. You could also perhaps pair it with another interesting peice of mine, Eve's Confession, in which Eve (living in the big city with Adam) can't resist eating all the apple fritters she brought home from the bakery. While doing so, Adam just sleeps on. Wonderful poem and the setting is for SSA/piano, vey uptermpo.
Let me know if you'd like to see sample scores. God Says Yes to Me is self-published; Eve's Conmfession is published by Roger Dean, a division of Lorenz.
Paul Carey
on September 2, 2012 8:27am
This is an AWESOME piece!!!  Please take a look at it! 
on September 1, 2012 12:54pm
"Aglepta" by Arne Mellnaes (Walton)

"Tokkata" by Herman Rechberger (Sulasol)

Good luck.

Applauded by an audience of 2
on September 2, 2012 5:34am
I have been looking at Whitacre's "She Weeps Over Rahoon" for my women's chorale.  It's SSA with piano and english horn; the poem is by James Joyce.  Very surreal sounding and I have never heard it performed live.  Maybe you'll like it!  Good luck!
on September 2, 2012 5:35am
Unusual and somewhat absurd:  Knitting Patterns (three 18th c. rounds by Telemann and Caldara, arranged with new lyrics about knitting) - I would be happy to email you a sample PDF 
Sheena Phillips
on September 2, 2012 5:57am
Hi Sarah,
I have an SSAA + piano  piece called The Jumblies, a setting of Edward Lear's delightful and absurdist poem. The piece was commissioned by the Peninsula Women's Chorus, with conductor Martin Benvenuto. If you would like to take a look, please contact me at asst(a) 
Good luck with your search! 
Judith Shatin
on September 2, 2012 6:43am
Katharine Stevens' settings of three Dorothy Parker poems, if you can track them down--
we did them a few years ago in my SSAA chorus and they were fantastic. Very wry, but with musical depth. the late Boston Secession did them too--
I love Aglepta! Though it kind of freaks me out when sweet-looking kids sing it so well:
on September 2, 2012 7:26am
Hello Sarah,
My Coyote, SSA, might interest you. It's a setting of  Pima Indian lyrics, is mysterious and spiritual in a shamanic way, and includes ad lib woofs, howls, and yips. We performed it at the Bang on a Can festival at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center to an enthusiastic audience.
You can listen to it at Please send me your email if you'd like a perusal copy.
best wishes,
Anna Dembska
on September 2, 2012 8:14am
Hi, Sarah --
I might suggest my own composition, Martes, for SSAA choir a cappella.  It is an upbeat, quirky, fun piece that is based on a silly Spanish proverb.  It makes a great closer and I think there's plenty of opportunity for the theatrical within it.  You can see a perusal score and hear an .mp3 on this page of the Choralnet Composition Showcase:
Inside the front cover is a translation and explanation of the origin of the proverb.
All the best,
Joseph Gregorio
on September 2, 2012 8:18am
Judith Clingan "Witches Trio"
Pekka Kostiainen "Jaakobin Pojat"
R Murray Schafer "Miniwanka" (might be listed as SATB, but can be performed SSAA)
on September 2, 2012 8:44am
You might consider three pieces of mine.  The first two were commissioned
by the Peninsula Women's Chorus.  Each with piano accompaniment.
Rabbit Skunk is a silly setting of a very silly poem by an elementary school 
student.  It includes an elaborate fugue on the words Hippity hoppity
hop hop hop.  There is great drama in the discover that the creature
being summoned is not a cute little rabbit, but a skunk.  You can look
at the score and hear a recording at the Composers Website here.  Moderately
A second piece is Falling Rain.  Also based on a poem by a student.  
It is SSSSSSSSAAAA.  It is a study in clusters.  Very effective once you
put it together, but quite difficult.  Set me know if you care to see
a score and hear a recording.  The texture makes it unusual.
The third is The Ruined Maid, a setting of Thomas Hardy's poem.
SSA + piano.  Not the least bit avant guard.  Sounds like a 
Victorian Pub song.  But quite theatrical.  Care for a score Score? Recording?
Brian Holmes
Winner, 2012 AMerican Prize in Choral Composition
on September 2, 2012 9:04am
Dear Sarah,
If you like contemporary and difficult pieces, you may want to consider my setting of "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" for SSAA and harp. Extremely tricky (it was written for four professional singers) but hopefully worth the challenge:
Email me if you'd like a copy of the full score - chris(a)
It may need a little reworking for a choral setting, but I'd be happy to do that if you're interested.
Chris Hutchings
on September 2, 2012 11:24am
Consider the SSA version of Aaron Copland's "An Immorality" -
Aglepta by Millnas has been suggested several times - it is truly an amazing work and you'll find some fantastic performances on youtube.
Good Luck.
on September 2, 2012 2:18pm
Hi Sarah!
Please take some minutes to listen to this: or most people these refreshing.
If You want something VERY challenging try this:
There are much more for women's choir on the homepage - I hope You will find something to Your liking.
Best regards
on September 2, 2012 7:15pm
Try Libby Larsen's "Jack's Valentine" - short, not so sweet, challenging, and, at least for my high school choir, open to many different interpretations!  Larsen's website has tracks of many of her works to listen to - definitely worth checking out.
Kathleen Vadala
on September 3, 2012 6:41am
We are currently working on a SSA piece by Jean Berger titled Minnie and Winnie.  Whimsical poem by Alfred Tennyson.  Interesting modulations and dissonance though accessible.  It is an older piece.
on September 3, 2012 7:56am
Check out my SSA w/Piano arrangement of a lovely Welsh folksong (in English) called The Seven Wonders.   It is published by Boosey & Hawkes.   The final verses are below.   You can hear it (and most of my other published pieces) at my website.  Boosey also publises my  SA and SSAA setting of the nursery rhyme "Solomon Grundy."  (Also "A Little Curl" well there was a little girl who had a little curl.)
Nick Page
5) I heard it said that in Llangollen (slin-got-lin)
That the moon was teaching reading...
And an excellent verse he gave there...
And that is five of the seven wonders...
6) I heard it said that on the rock...
That the dove she kept a tavern...
With its little cup to test the drink...
And that is six of the seven wonders...
7) I heard it said of the swallow on the sea...
That he was making an iron horseshoe...
With golden hammer and silver anvil...
And that's the last of the seven wonders.
on September 3, 2012 1:34pm
for the sake of not offending the entire Welsh nation, Llangollen is not as you indicate the pronunciation.  (A typo?)  The 'LL' of Welsh is considered a (notoriously) difficult sound.  Actually, it's not so bad; and a  helpful way of getting over the problem is to use the Scottish pronunciation of Lodh Lomond.  This involves the spirated sound of the 'CH'.  Once you have isolatied this sound, simplly (huh?) add the 'L' of Lomond and you have 'CH-L'.  This is about as close to the required sound as you need to get.  The 'CH' of German 'ach' is close enough too.  Both the 'LL's in Llangollen need the same sound.
And not to be misunderstood, I am not suggesting that Scots Gaelic and Welsh are one and the same.  But they share simiilar sounds.
on September 3, 2012 8:46am
Hi Sarah,
My "Song of Perfect Propriety" has occasionally been performed "theatrically" - see various YouTube clips. 
SSA + piano
c. 4:00 minutes
text by Dorothy Parker
available from earthsongs
Thanks for considering it, and best of luck with your search,
Carol Barnett
on September 3, 2012 4:16pm
This is a terrific piece - we performed it in March of 2011 and the women really enjoyed singing it and the audience found it to be great fun! We've also performed She Weeps Over Rahoon - it's haunting and one of my favorites. We're about to do Libby Larsen's Book of Spells which was composed for the same commissioning project as Song of Perfect Propriety.
I am interested in several of the works mentioned in this posting.
Cricket Handler
Canzona Women's Ensemble
on September 3, 2012 4:17pm
hi, Sarah-
You may want to consider "I Never Saw Another Butterfly," Charles Davidson's SSA setting of the poetry of Terezin, the so-called "model" concentration camp designed by the Nazis during WWII. April 2013 will mark the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
Good luck with your programming.
Carol Kozak Ward, Founder and Music Director
Colorado Hebrew Chorale
on September 4, 2012 8:44am
Hi Sarah.
At you can hear performances of two MaySwenson poems, "Speed" and "Summer's Bounty". (Scroll nearly to bottom of list.) Performance is by the women's ensemble of the Pacific Mozart Ensemble.
Contact me if you would like to peruse the scores.
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