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Most important American choral works written in last 50 years

Greetings, Colleagues.
 
I am preparing to teach overseas a semester-long course in American choral literature, and to that end I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on what you consider the most "important" Amerkcan choral works written over the past 50 years. "Important" may mean different things to different people--e.g., influential vs. not necessarily influential but unique/effective/brilliant, etc.--so let's keep it flexible and maybe just state why you've chosen to include whatever pieces(s) you cite. I'm looking for a mixture of shorter and longer works, ones that are either sacred or secular, for mixed/men's/women's/children's choruses, a cappella settings as well as those with small or large accompaniment. The course will focus primarily on works from the U.S., but if there are especially significant works to mention from the greater North America then that would be good too. 
 
Of course, there will be a few "big names"--Lauridsen, Whitacre, and the like--who are likely to be mentioned. That's fine, of course, but in such cases perhaps list what in your view are the most important one or two works by each (as opposed to "anything written by x..."
 
This is a far more difficult (and interesting) question now than in decades past, due to the ongoing proliferation of divergent musical and culture-based choral styles that have emerged in recent decades in this country; so any thoughts on effective organization of such a course would be welcome as well.
 
Thank you in advance for your suggestions.
 
Regards,
 
Bob Cowles
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Replies (12): Threaded | Chronological
on April 5, 2014 10:39am
Disclaimer:  I am not a professor.  I find it very hard to express in words what is best experienced in performance.  Nevertheless, this is a very exciting era to be choir musician so I felt compelled to reply with this rough list of American choral works since 1964 for your curriculum.
 
-Samuel Barber:  Twelfth Night & To be sung on the open Water – a beautiful contrasting set of the neo-romantic movement
-Leonard Bernstein:  Chichester Psalms – a piece that stands up to formal analysis; a study in resolving “dissonance” with lyrical results
-John Biggs:  Japanese Fables – breaks through the traditional barriers between cultures to present a universal beauty
-Dave Brubeck:  Light in the Wilderness – pulls together an eclectic but thoughtful celebration
-Duke Ellington:  Sacred Concerts – simple choir participation in a work essentially for jazz band but a good contribution by America’s greatest composer.
-Morton Feldman:  Rothko Chapel – very ethereal, mystical, really touches most audiences
-John Harbison:  Flight Into Egypt – evocative, formal, & dark; really gets you thinking about the suffering of humanity
-Kirke Mechem:  Bicentennial Choruses Op. 46 - something of how the neo-classical style works so well with American folk songs 
-Meredith Monk:  Panda Chant II, Travellers-Churchyard Entertainment, Plague – beautiful use of everything a voice can do
-Steve Reich:  You Are (Variations) – one of the best examples of minimalism for an American choir; the texts are almost as eclectic as we are
 
There you go.  Hope that helps.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 6, 2014 5:01am
I also  would include:
 
Barber: The Lovers
Foss: Psalms
Daron Hagen: Walt Whitman Requiem
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 6, 2014 6:47am
Don't overlook the works speaking to causes.  Their importance is of a different sort, hopefuly both profound yet ephemeral, perhaps less about music than about music as the medium to communicate and educate.  A literature survey is incomplete without recognizng them.  Since the greater social struggle of the last few decades has been gay rights many are focued there.  Consider: 
Sing for the Cure, a compilation/commission, chorus poetry texts, focused on Breast Cancer, Women's Chorus of Dallas and Turtle Creek Chorale
Through a Glass, Darkly -- oratorio about drug abuse.  Michael Shaieb commissioned by Twin Cities GMC.
Harvey Milk -- choral/theatre oratorio biography.  Multi-chorus commission.
Many shorter songs in support of marriage equality.
 
 
on April 7, 2014 4:29am
I think Barber's Prayers of Kierkegaard should be at the top of the list!! Otherwise, I agree with the above!
on April 7, 2014 8:34am
Perhaps it is a "small" bit of info.....but the 'last 50 years' would be nothing before 1964....which certainly changes some of the above.....now if you want to say 75 years that is a bit different.
on April 7, 2014 12:49pm
Whitman Cantata or American Oratorio by Ned Rorem
Parable of Death Lucas Foss
Chrstmas Cantata Daniel Pinkham
on April 7, 2014 2:51pm
Corigliano: Fern Hill
David Lang: Little Match Girl Passion
Hindemith: When Lilacs Last in The Dooryard Bloomed (1946) a little early, but written in American, for the death of FDR commissioned by an American choir...
John Adams: "El Nino" and "Harmonium"
Bernstein: Chichester Psalms
Copland: "In The Beginning" (1947) and "The Promise of Living"
 
on April 9, 2014 4:13am
Two remarkable vocal writers who happen to be best known for arrangements (which still fall under the heading of great choral literature).
 
Gene Puerling. If asked to pick just a few things, I would go with "All the Things You Are," "Fool on the Hill," and perhaps "Georgia on My Mind." (All SATB) His work list is wide and deep, though.
 
Alice Parker. I'm not so familiar with her output to be able to select the most outstanding things she's written since 1964, but I would include "Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal," (SATB or SSAA) "L'Amour de Moy," (TTBB) and "Vive L'Amour." (TTBB) Again, her work list is SO broad and worthy.
 
I invite others more familiar with Gene's and Alice's ouevres to please suggest other contenders for your project.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 9, 2014 7:17am
Here are five to consider. 
 
Biebl Ave Maria
Lauridsen O Magnum Mysterium
Whitacre Water Night & Sleep
Rutter Requiem (can we list major works?)
Dickau If Music be the Food of Love
 
 
 
 
 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on April 9, 2014 7:21am
Sorry, I should have justified this.  I am guaging "most important" on how many choirs perform them.  I would add Bestor's Prayer of the Children to this list.  This one, along with the previous five I mentioned, are in my mind some of the most frequently and widely performed modern choral works there are.  It's like songs on the radio that are "over played".  There's a reason they get so much air time. ;)
on April 9, 2014 8:19am
Biebl and Rutter are/were not American, as far as I know.
 
-- 
Steve
on April 10, 2014 2:20pm
Carols of Death - William Schuman
The Hour Glass Suite - Irving Fine
 
 
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