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Top 10 Choral Classics

What are the top 10 shorter choral works (2-10 minutes) that should be a part of every SATB chorus's repertoire?  We would like to develop a concert program featuring choral treasures or classics (we usually do major masterworks, both classic and contemporary).  After 40 years choral directing (school,church, community) my mind simply explodes with the possibilities and I'd love some help putting a little focus to the thinking.  If you had an SATB choir of moderate skill and could perform just 5-10 pieces with them, what would they be?
Thanks for the suggestions.
Bob Eaton
Replies (17): Threaded | Chronological
on March 12, 2014 9:34am
Hi Robert,
My *go to* piece for something like this is the Mozart "Ave Verum".....and if I were to pick one piece to do on my last day of life, it would also be the Mozart "Ave Verum !"  I would also suggest the Randall Thompson "Alleluia." The Alleluia might take a bit more than moderate skill but the extra effort would be worth they already have the text down!  This sound like fun concept....can't wait to see what others come up with.
on March 12, 2014 11:03am
I really look forward to reading the results on this one.
1. "Sing Unto God" - Handel
2. "Ave Verum Corpus" - Mozart
3. "Sing Me to Heaven" - Gawthrop
4. "I Got Shoes" - arr. Parker
5. "Elijah Rock" - arr. Hogan
6. "The Awakening" - Martin
7. "Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal" - arr. Parker
8. "What Sweeter Music" - Rutter
9. "Bogoroditse Devo" - Rachmaninoff
10. "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" - arr. Wilberg
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on March 13, 2014 9:10am
Wow!  I can't be specific as to when, but has not this question been asked on several occasions on Choralnet, in one form or another?  I mean, certainly not to be disrespectful...but how many best, top ten, favorite, and/or dream choral works are there? I think this question has been answered by many, many choral listers on this site.  A little searching will turn up their selections, I'm sure.  A 40-year choral directing career, in school, church, and community, seems more than ample...and I think that many people would look to you, Robert, for your top 10.  Good luck in your search.
on March 14, 2014 5:59am
1. Mozart, Ave Verum Corpus
2. Cantate Domino, Pitoni
3. Wie Lieblich Sind, Brahms
4. Bogoroditsye Devo, Rachmaninoff
5. Hallelujah Chorus, Handel
6. Zion Hears the Watchmen Voices, Bach
7. Verlieh un Frieden, Mendelssohn
8.  Dirait - on, Morten Lauridsen [needed contemporary American]
9. Alleluia, Randall Thompson [candy for a chorus]
10. Quick, we have but a Second - Stanford [because it's fun to sing and would be a great way to end the concert]
Now, this is selfishly the list I would like to sing as a chorister. Are they all "classics/choral treasures"?  Depends upon your perspective.  Zion Hears the Watchmen Voices, for me isn't that challenging - but it deifnitely is a classic.
So - if I were going to sing a concert - this is what I would like to sing. Ask the singers.
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on March 15, 2014 6:42am
"Ubi Caritas" - Durufle
"Rockin' Jerusalem" - either Andre' Thomas or John Work
"What is a Heart?" - Dede Duson (out-of-print, but I have copies!)
"Summer in Winter" - Gustav Holtz (If you don't know this, look at the slightly-prefaced-extended text.  Beautiful poetry!  Easy teaching.  He masks it, but Sop and tenor switch in 2nd verse.)
"My Love is Like a Red Rose" - Dickau
"The Lord is My Shepherd" -  A. Halistork
"Hallelujah (from the Heart of God)" - ending of B. Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb
"The Lord's Prayer" -  Edwin Gershefski
"Witness" - Halloran
"Ezekiel Saw the Wheel" - W. Dawson
10.b - Just in case you toss one above, or others don't mention it: "Ain'a That Good News" - Dawson
--Lucy H. Stembridge, who has spent most of her life conducting and/or singing - as chorister and I bring the perspecitve of both sides of the podium; the work has to have singable phrases, words that will reach an audience, and that special quality that captures - Allen Pote called it the "hook" :).
I agree with others - great idea, and am interested to see what else emerges..
on March 15, 2014 8:02am
Lucy, just want to say I really love your statement of criteria:  ... the work has to have singable phrases, words that will reach an audience, and that special quality that captures - Allen Pote called it the "hook" ...   and to it I would add (based on decades of experience accompanying choirs & soloists, + singing & conducting) that any top-10-worthy choral that isn't meant to be sung a cappella should have an accompaniment that is truly complementary to the vocals - appropriately supportive, never intrusive, and crafted to exploit the unique qualities of the instrument(s).
on March 18, 2014 9:54am
Good point, Toni!  Thanks.
on March 16, 2014 5:05am
If the quesiton had been "Which are the best phrased, etc. " it would have been a different list. The question was which are choral treasures/classics. While some contemporary composers have reached that pinnacle - Morten Lauridsen, John Rutter - very few have reached "classic" level. If you mean those pieces that choristers love to sing - not necessarily those that conductors love to conduct - then the list becomes entirely different. Maybe you should ask two separate groups: conductors then choristers. I suspect, I highly suspect, that you will receive two separate lists. Singing and performing music is a different experience - even if you've been a singer before . . . .fill in the blanks
on March 18, 2014 9:59am
Another very good observation, Phyliss.  And I really think it depends on the experience and musical ability of the choir.  Personally, I guess I was using favorites that I love, and that I have heard others  - directors and choristers - say they love as well.  My list is composed of pieces that I hope all singers would get a change to sing at some point.
on March 16, 2014 10:00am
Musik's Empire - Lloyd Pfautsch
Beati Quorum Via - Charles Villiers Stanford
Sleep or Water Night - Eric Whitacre
The Culprit - Richard Peasley
Sicut Cervus - Palestrina
Bogoroditse Devo - Rachmaninoff (or, if you've got the basses, Gretchaninoff's Our Father)
Elijah Rock or The Battle of Jericho - Moses Hogan
The Lord Bless You And Keep You - John Rutter
**If they're an especially good group, Crucifixus - Antonio Lotti
Kasar Mie La Gaji - Alberto Grau
on March 16, 2014 3:34pm
The Eyes of All / Jean Berger
Last Words of David / Randall Thompson
Rain Come Down / Shawn Kirchner
Set Me As A Seal / John Leavitt
Grace / Mark Hayes
Va pensiero / Verdi
Wassail / Vaughn Williams
He Watching Over Israel / Mendelssohn
How Lovely is thy Dwelling Place / Brahms
O Sacred Head Surrounded / J.S. Bach
Ave Maria /Vittoria  (preceeded by Ave Maria chant
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on March 17, 2014 5:36am
Great list!! 
Would add the Biebl Ave Maria also
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on March 19, 2014 6:31am
Hi Bob,
Too many pieces - perhaps:
Lassus      Tristis est anima mea
Victoria     Versa est in luctum, from his 1605 Requiem
Monteverdi Final Magnificat of Vespers
Schütz      Selig sind die Toten
Brahms     Movement #3 of Fest und Gedenksprüche
Brahms     Warum ist das Licht gegeben
Brahms     O schöne Nacht
Bruckner   Os justi meditabitur sapientiam
Barber      The Coolin from Reincarnations
Martin      Kyrie from his Mass
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on March 20, 2014 3:25am
Many of the works above would be on my list too, but to complement those here are other favorites of mine.
1. Abendlied, Joseph Reinberger
2. Pilgrims' Hymn, Steven Paulus
3. All Meine Herzegedanken, Johannes Brahms
4. Thou shalt know him when he comes. Craig Carnahan
5. Magnum Mysterium, Morten Lauridsen
6. Magnificat, Arvo Pärt
7. Sommarpsalm, Carl David av Wirsen (If you want to pick one Swedish classic this is it, English translation "The Earth Adorned")

My last three choices would be for the more advanced choirs:
8. O Sacrum Convivium, Oliver Messiaen
9. Friede auf Erden, Arnold Schönberg 
10. Agnus Dei, Sven-David Sandström
Olav Vahtras
on March 20, 2014 6:46am
Great lists! How about more options in secular pieces? I direct a community choir in the Minneapolis area who would like to do more "classic" choral works, but wants to stay more to the secular side. Ideas?
on March 21, 2014 5:03am
Charles v. Stanford The Bluebird
Frostiana. thompson
on June 12, 2014 3:16pm
My list of "choral gems" in no particular order:
Miserere - Allegri
Bogoroditse Devo - Rachmaninov
Ubi Caritas - Durufle
Locus Iste - Bruckner
Ave Maria - Bruckner
Versa Est in Luctum - Lobo
Ave Verum Corpus - Mozart
Salve Regina - Poulenc
O Magnum Mysterium - Lauridsen
Adoramus Te, Christe - Palestrina
Crucifixus - Lotti
Agnus Dei from Mass for Double Choir - Martin
Ave Maria - Lukaszewski
Pheonix - Gjeilo
Nunc Dimittis - Part
Magnificat - Part
Data est mihi potestas - Macmillan
Sicut Cervus - Palestrina
Pilgrim's Hymn - Paulus
Earth Song - Ticheli
Sleep - Whitacre
Water Night - Whitacre
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal - Mealor
Weep, O Mine Eyes - Bennet
Fair in Face - Willan
A Spotless Rose - Howells
Rest - Vaughn Williams
The Turle Dove - Vaughn Williams
Tonight Eternity Alone - Clausen
The Dying Soldier - Short
Flower of Beauty - Clements
Abendlied - Rheinberger
The Day is Done - Paulus
Somewhere in between:
The Lamb - Tavener
Funeral Ikos - Tavener
There is an Old Belief - Parry
Light Everlasting - Christensen
And finally I'd like to add a few of my favorite quicker pieces, as we are all guilty of over programming slow beautiful music:
Walking on the green grass - Hennagin
Upon a bank - Mealor
Mata del Anma Sola - Estevez
In your Light - Elder
With a lily - Whitacre
Loch Lomond - Quick
Andrew Major
Artistic Director
Aoide Chamber Singers
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