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Seeking Repertoire Suggestions: "The American Experience"

Partly in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner, the focus for our spring concert will be music that is from or about various periods in US history, from colonial times to the present.  And, hopefully, with some pieces reflecting various ethnic groups.  (And all in about 60 minutes of music!)  Does anyone have repertoire suggestions? (a cappella, piano, or small instrumental ensemble accompaniment) We are a good, 20-voice, community women's choir.
Thank you,
Kate Thickstun
Pacific Women's Chorus
San Diego, CA
Replies (20): Threaded | Chronological
on December 6, 2013 4:46am
Anything by William Billings.  He is considered to be the "Father of American Choral Music."  He has a variety of songs from fun and silly to beautiful hymns and rounds.  
on December 6, 2013 9:59am
Yes, I'm using When Jesus Wept as a processional and will open with Chester.
on December 9, 2013 9:02am
In their day, Chester and Yankee Doodle were considered our unofficial national anthems.  Woodrow Wilson--who as president of Princeton would not admit Paul Robeson ("we'll have no coloreds here"), and as President of the US would not support an anti-lynching law nor women's suffrage--decreed the Star Spangled Banner to be our National Anthem, and Congress made it official in 1931.
on December 6, 2013 4:48am
Kathryn: I have an arrangement of Black Is the Color of My 
True Love's Hair that might fill the bill. Send me our e-mail and I will send you a copy.
Jerome Malek
on December 6, 2013 11:09am
Hi Kathryn,
You might enjoy my REMEMBER THE LADIES for SA and piano.  Here's the blurb, and a link to Hal Leonard:
While John Adams was in attendance at the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, his wife Abigail was at home in Braintree, Massachusetts, running the farm, raising four children, and maintaining a lively correspondence with her husband on a wide range of topics. The sprightly text is adapted from Abigail's letter dated 31 March 1776, and strongly suggests the role women should play in the newly formed government. Set for treble chorus and piano in a style partially influenced by the music heard in Europe during the late 1700s. Duration: 3:20.
Best of luck with your search,
Carol Barnett
on December 6, 2013 11:33am
Please consider my unaccompanied SSAA setting of A Rainy Day by 19th Century American poet John Brainard (1796 - 1828).  
You may hearing recordings and download a free perusal PDF score on my website: 
on December 6, 2013 11:24pm
Chanticleer put out a CD called Our American Journey which contains an amazing variety.  It may provide some inspiration.  Voices of Autumn by Jackson Hill strikes me as ripe for a women's choir even though it's written for unaccompanied SATB.  
on December 7, 2013 7:14am
Amy Kaiser, with the Y(MHA) Chorale in NYC presented Virgil Thomson's setting from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass-:Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" about hoards of Imigrants daily, busy. routinely building the nation. Lacking the score think it was saatb, but perhaps can be arranged upwards.  A keeper!
on December 7, 2013 6:24pm
Stephen Foster
Oh, Shenandoah
Anything by Irving Berlin (especially God Bless America and Alexander's Ragtime Band)
Sing, Sing, Sing
on December 9, 2013 8:50am
There's a recently published book entitled God Bless America, about the history of the song, and Wikipedia summarizes its origins in a 1906 "Jewish novelty song", its evolution through peace and war, and its use by FDR, organized religion, professional sports, post 9/11, and causes right and left.  I found it particularly interesting that Woody Guthrie wrote God Blessed America for Me in protest, which he renamed This Land is Your Land; and that Irving Berlin gave all royalties to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.  All in all, quite a gift from an impoverished immigrant.
on December 7, 2013 8:46pm
Hi Kate,
Two things off the top of my head (and somewhat off the beaten path) are "Ye souls who are bound unto Caanan" (SSA), arr. William Averitt - it's a mid-1800s hymn tune/text, and "Dream song" by Mabel Wheeler Daniels (1878-1971), which is SSAA and quite lovely.
Of course there's Amy Beach, Randall Thompson, Samuel Barber, Stephen Foster, Aaron Copland, various eras of musical theater (for which there are many varied arrangements) etc., but you've probably considered those already.  I'd be happy to share a few recommendations if you'd like.
Dale Trumbore is a young composer writing some really great things right now, so be sure to check out her website (  Not easy, but wonderful text selections and interesting music.  
Anyhow, more as I think of them...
Best wishes,
Tim Reno
on December 10, 2013 12:38pm
You may also want to check out these two works of Warren Benson, a NY State composer, who (I found out a few years ago) was the grandfather of one of my students when I was conducting the Women's Chorus at University of Maryland.  There are a few pieces for women's choir:
Song of the Pop-bottlers (1970) - 3pt, easy
Psalm XXIV (1959) - SSAA+piano or strs. - med. diff.
Just another something off the beaten path.
Tim Reno
on December 8, 2013 2:22am
You might consider HOPE  by Philip Stopford for soprano solo, chorus, organ and drum.
It is based on the poem by Carl Daw writen for the first commemoration of 9/11 and the words of St Francis of Assisi "Where there is despair let there be hope....."
Published by
on December 8, 2013 10:59am
Stephen Hatfield's, All too Soon, (see link, below). expresses the immigrant experience of leaving hardships of leaving home and moving to Nova Scotia (the composer is Canadian). The immigrants work hard to make a new life and then watch their children grow only to see them travel, themselves, to find new lives. I view this as a country town meeting celebrating new high school graduatuates, who, inevitably will leave to find their own lives. Succeding generations or singers requested repeats of this piece. 
Altho this is the composer is conducting, he rather hypnotizes the piece. I chose a sturdier tempo. 
on December 9, 2013 9:13am
Anything from Sweet Honey in the Rock. We Are is a favorite:
on December 12, 2013 9:25am
Yes, and one that's particularly good for your theme is "How Long?"  It's in Bernice Johnson Reagon's book Compositions: One.
on December 9, 2013 10:07am

You might like to consider my setting of the Civil War poem by Ethel Lynn Beers, All Quiet Along the Potomac (SSAA, piano, drum set), premiered last year by the Columbus Women's Chorus, Ohio.  
Best wishes
Sheena Phillips
on December 10, 2013 8:23am
There is a wonderful contemporary piece that  performed for a patriotic concert last year.  "How I Discovered America" by Francisco Nunez.  Both my students and I loved it.
Marti Martinez
Mt. Carmel High School
San Diego, CA
on December 10, 2013 10:03pm
It used to be a warhorse, but I haven't heard it done in ages, so I'll throw it out there: "Give me Your Tired your Poor" 
If you are not familiar with it, it's the inscription on the statue of liberty. 
There are some newer settings that you might want to try. While the notes might not be old, the text certainly falls into the "American experience"
on December 11, 2013 11:09am
You might have Zaninelli's American in your files. It is a real extraviganza travelling accross the US from the Shenandoah River to the West. Pepper says it out of print.  S
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