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College Piece for a Learning Conductor

I am currently in an advanced conducting class at my University, and I am looking to find a piece to conduct for my University choir for a concert. The group I will be assigned to will be SATB of about 16 advanced singers (4 on each part). I would love to find a moderately slow secular song that is very emotional, challenging, but also can be learned in a month. It can be accompanied or not, but I prefer the text to be in English.  Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you,
Replies (9): Threaded | Chronological
on February 19, 2013 7:36pm
Have a look at William Schuman's "Carols of Death" -- 3 unaccompanied songs to Whitman texts; can be done individually (you didn't mention duration), and will challenge both you and the singers both musically and technically.  Published by Merion Music (a Presser imprint).
Best regards,
Jerome Hoberman
Music Director/Conductor, The Hong Kong Bach Choir & Orchestra
on February 19, 2013 8:02pm
Hi Samantha, 
A couple of years ago I put together a chamber group at the university where I study and for 3 months we worked on putting together an entire concert (45 mins) of choral music. Of course we had both sacred and secular works, but the group was, as I assessed, advanced. Since none of us have heard your group, I'd say that our advice should be taken with a grain of salt because what you may define as "advanced singers" may differ from my idea, Jerome's idea, or anyone elses. 
With all of that said I will share some pieces I know that work well with 16 singers (4 per part). 
Stars I Shall Find (SATB w/piano) - David Dickau
Sure On THis Shining Night (SATB (div) w/piano) - Morten Lauridsen
This Marriage (SATB a cappella) - Eric Whitacre 
Wondrous Love (SATB (div.) a capella)- Alice Parker/Robert Shaw
Oh Shenandoah (SATB a cappella) - arr. James Erb
Pilgrim's Hymn (SATB (dv.) a cappella) - Stephen Paulus (this one is more of a folk song than sacred piece)
Northern Lights (SATB (div.) a cappella - Ola Gjeilo
April is in my Mistress' Face (SATB a cappella) - Thomas Moreley
Johnny I hardly knew ye (SATB a capella) - Jonathan Quick
Hard Times (SATB a cappella) - Arr. Craig Hella Johnson
Just a few off the top of my head. Hope this helps you in your search for pieces to conduct. 
All The Best + Be Well, 
Alan Davis
Bachelors of Musical Arts (Choral Conducting) - May 2013
Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, WA 
Founder -
on February 20, 2013 5:00am
Hi Samantha --
There are many pieces that could work.  It would help to know:
if there is a particular emotion you wish to pursue, or if your intent is a wide emotional change of some kind,
if you have a time period/genre in mind.
what your singers would consider a cchallenge.
what you would consider a challenge.
Look at the Samuel Barber "Reincarnations," or Britten's Five Flower Songs.  Lots to pick from in there, and quite challenging to sing/conduct well.
Tim Reno
Siena College
on February 20, 2013 7:30am
Sing Me To Heaven by Daniel Gawthrop 
Light Everlasting by Olaf C. Christiansen
Wondrous Love by Paul J. Christiansen
Almighty and Everlasting God - Gibbons
Purge Me, O Lord from All My Sins - possibly Tallis, but it could be by Morley
If Ye Love Me - Tallis
Thou Knowest Lord the Secret of Our Hearts - Purcell (this piece is very easy, but I thought I would include it anyway)
You might want to do a search in cpdl. There is so much great stuff from the Renaissance an it would all be free on cpdl!
on February 20, 2013 12:18pm
One or several of Edwin Fissinger's Four Pastorales.  Unaccompanied with oboe obligato.
Sleep: Eric Whitacre
Those are the first things that come to mind. 
Best wishes
Bill McConnell
on February 23, 2013 6:44am
William -- do you by any chance mean Cecil Effinger's Four Pastorales?  (Their names do sound very similar.)  
on February 20, 2013 7:48pm
Hi Samantha,
I have a 3 minute long a cappella work that fits your description pretty well that you can check out.  It is called "Do You Hear How Many You Are?" and here you can hear a recording and follow the score:
And if you are interested, PDF copies can be purchased through my website:
Thanks for taking a look!
Keane Southard, Composer/Pianist
M.M. Composition, University of Colorado-Boulder
B.M. Composition + Theory, Baldwin-Wallace College
Email: keane.southard(a)
Ph: 508-340-5449
on February 22, 2013 5:03pm
Hi Samantha,
I was recently in the same scenario.  Of the pieces I rehearsed and conducted then, "The Blue Bird" by Stanford seems to fit.  
Best of luck,
on February 23, 2013 6:47am
Check out Three Pieces by Robert H. Young published by Fred Bock music. The tempi in order of songs are moderate, fast, and slow. They are unaccompanied and in English and work very well with small groups. The texts are gorgeous.
Some other suggestions include:
Nocturne - Adolphus Hailstork
This Marriage - Eric Whitacre
Flower of Beauty - John Clements
Red, Red Rose - James Q. Mulholland
Marques L. A. Garrett
Director of Choral Activities
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania
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