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Literature for chamber choir with orchestra

I am the assistant conductor of the Abilene Chamber Singers (Abilene, TX) and am hoping to do a collaborative performance with a local chamber orchestra.  I have been searching for literature that would fit this group/collaboration and I think I may have hit a wall.  My brain is so focused on what "I know would work," that I've developed tunnel vision and I need help!  The accompaniment is what's most important to me but I also want it to be pleasing to our audience.  This ensemble is made up of professional or retired professional singers and the orchestra is a similar group.  Any suggestions would be welcome!
Replies (19): Threaded | Chronological
on June 3, 2013 3:02am
The obvious one is Vaughan Williams' "Serenade To Music" (as long as some of the singers are confident doing solos) though I'm not sure how "chamber" the orchestra is for that.
Many things from oratorios would work quite well, the Handel oratorios all have decent chamber instrumentaton. 
Movements from the Faure Requiem would also work well.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 3, 2013 4:18am
My piece For What Can Be More Beautiful? had a most successful premiere in March this year. 
This 25 minute work comprises two movements, one with a text from the 'Song of Solomon', the other from an Edwardian fruit tree catalogue. They may be performed as a whole or separately.
  • SATB (very few divisions, no solos)
  • 2*,2*,2*,1
  • 1,1
  • Org.
  • Pno.
  • Timp.
  • 3 Perc.
  • Strings (solo, or up to around 3,3,3,3,1)
If this sounds interesting please contact me at the email address below for a perusal score and recording.
Christopher Marshall
on June 3, 2013 5:03am
Mass by I. Stravinsky (5 double reeds and 5 brass), Cantatas 4, 161, 196, and 150 of JS Bach, Masses of Mozart and Haydn could be a start in building this repertory.  J. Olesen/Brandeis University
on June 3, 2013 7:36am
I have almost this exact catalog written down already!  I really hope to program the Stravinsky but it's up to our conductor.
on June 3, 2013 5:14am
"Chamber orchestra" could mean many things in terms of orchestration.  When I think of a "chamber orchestra" I normally think of a small contingent of strings (maybe, winds, (in pairs, or not) a couple of horns, and maybe timpani and two trumpets.  Given that picture, the possibilities are endless.  It's hard to know what to recommend without knowing the instrumentation, but my first reaction to "chamber orchestra" is to go with the baroque period, or maybe a Missa Brevis by Mozart or Haydn.   
on June 3, 2013 7:39am
The orchestra compliment is similar to: 44321 strings, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, 2 horns, trumpet, trombone and percussion.  Of course this instrumentation is directly dependant upon how much of the group can commit to the performance.
on June 3, 2013 6:26am
If you haven't done so, I suggest you look at Fern Hill; also John Rutter has written several compostions that work extremely well with these ensembles. 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 3, 2013 8:49am
Second Fern Hill; I just performed it and performers and audience both loved it! It calls for harp and a handful of winds as well as strings. Challenging mezzo-soprano solo with big range. About 20 minutes.
There are actually three orchestrations of this work; the one I'm describing is the medium-sized one, arranged by the composer in about 1999.
on June 3, 2013 6:41am
Hi Travis,
I have a piece that might fit what you are looking for.  My A Day of Sunshine for Chorus and Orchestra (2222-4221-timp+2perc-hp-org[opt.]-strings) was originally a 13 minute 3-movement setting of 3 poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which won the 2010 Longfellow Chorus International Composers Cantata Competition, but I recently took the middle movement, which is 4 minutes and also shares the same name as the larger work, and reduced the instrumentation for chamber orchestra (2222-2200-timp+1perc-pno-strings) and this version was selected as a finalist of the 2013 Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra Young Composers Competition and performed by that group.
Here is a link to the recording of the entire 3-movement work in its original version.  The second movement starts at the 5'00" mark:
I do also have a recording of the second movement with the reduced instrumentation.  I have not put it up online, but I could email a copy to you if you would like to hear it, just send me a message and let me know.  Hope you enjoy listening to it!
-Keane Southard
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 June 3, 2013 7:18am
Dixit Dominus by Handel  - It's achallenging piece, but very rewarding to perform! It worked well for our chamber group in college.
on June 3, 2013 7:22am
How about John Corigliano's Fern Hill? I'm not exactly sure what the orchestration is, but the piano vocal score says "chamber orchesta" on it. Has a stunning mezzo solo in the middle.
on June 3, 2013 9:54am
Bach's Liebster Gott, wann werd' ich sterben (bwv 8) is one of his most charming and intriguing cantatas. Very nice writing for chorus and orchestra. It does call for oboe d'amore duet but, in need, flutes cover the range and do not detract from the effect.
Rutter's, What Sweeter Music is always pleasing. The Stravinsky Mass is stern stuff but very rewarding. Despite Stravinsky's denial of being influenced Russian Orthodox Church there is a very prominent musical symbolism featured in every Othodox Church.  Whose name will not come to me now, sorry).
on June 3, 2013 11:12am
Hi Travis,
I agree with those who suggested John Corigliano's Fern Hill - a great piece!  Here are some other suggestions from the G. Schirmer / Music Sales Group catalogue.  
Yehudi Wyner - Give Thanks for All Things
Michael Gordon - Tephillat Geshem (Prayer for Rain)
Franghiz Ali-Zadeh - Journey to Immortality
Rob Kapilow - Play Ball! (Casey at the Bat)
Best wishes,
Allison Weissman
G. Schirmer / AMP
on June 3, 2013 4:14pm
Gloria by Carcani, a lesser known lovely piece similar in difficulty to Vivaldi Gloria.
on June 3, 2013 10:24pm
Just performed the Haydn "Te Deum" for the Empress Marie Therese.  It's  SATB (no solos).    Very uplifting, my group loved it.  
on June 4, 2013 7:53am
Hi Travis!

Quaker Peace Testimony (SATB with Piano orchestra reduction) by Jack Curtis Dubowsky. For SATB choir and piano. Choral. Contemporary. Advanced. Octavo. Composed 2007. 16 pages. Duration 5:15. Published by De Stijl Music (D1.SM-07-0001C).

George Fox and the Quakers wrote this pacifist manifesto to King Charles II in 1660. Harmonically rich, angular, and complex.

Quaker Peace Testimony Orchestra SATB Preview
on June 4, 2013 11:39am
There are lots of candidates! I'll add one more - my four Songs of War and Peace, for SATB chorus and chamber orchestra. The original version, for SATB chorus + piano was performed at the Carter Peace Center in Atlanta, and the version with chamber orchestra comm'd by the Minnesota Center Chorale. The four poems are from After the First Rain, a collection of powerful Israeli poems translated by terrific American poets. If you are interested, I will be glad to provide perusal materials. 
Judith Shatin
Judith Shatin
William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor
Director, Virginia Center for Computer Music
McIntire Department of Music
University of Virginia
on June 4, 2013 11:44am
Hi Travis,
I am a composer based in Long Beach, California, and I have a work for SATB choir and chamber orchestra titled "Tonight A Stolen Moment."  This work tells the story of immigrants displaced from their homes, heading to a new land, and to a new life.  Original poetry by Baltimore based poet Bobbi J. Nicotera.
Here is a link to a recording of the SATB, string quartet, piano, and percussion version (the chamber orchestra version has not yet been performed).  I would be happy to send you a perusal copy of the chamber orchestra version.
Jenni Brandon
on June 4, 2013 3:39pm
Requiem Prayers, by Richard Toensing, is a deep and moving choral work with universal appeal for healing and remembrance, which may be timely and appropriate based on what we as a nation have already experienced this year—Boston Marathon bombing, fertilizer plant explosions in West, TX, and tornadoes in Oklahoma. In English, this work for SSATB choir and chamber orchestra draws from Orthodox funeral texts and has a performance time of ca. 9 minutes. For your review, a partial score is available at

Let me know if I can answer additional questions about this soothing and beautiful piece. I can assure you that your choir, your instrumentalists, and your audience will be deeply touched.

Janet Braccio
Bella Voce Communications
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