There is such a tremendous wealth of newly published music on the scene that sometimes it can be easy to forget about the classics. There are also many pieces from the last few hundred years that have slipped through the cracks, and now editors are actively seeking them out and publishing them for today’s choirs. These are often some of my favorite finds! This post will feature three such works, specifically for women’s chorus.
The first is “Der Herr ist gross” by Baroque composer Heinrich Schütz, here edited by Bradley L. Almquist. This piece is from Schütz’s first set of Kleine geistliche Konzerte, specifically written with small performing forces in mind, and is for two treble voices. In four distinct sections, this work provides many opportunities for teaching melismatic singing, complex rhythms, shifts in tonality, and singing in German. Features of accessibility include imitation, logical sequences, modest ranges in both voices, and text repetition. This piece works very well for many different kinds of choirs, from children’s to church (the text is from Psalms), and is published by Alliance Music Publications.
The next piece, also published by Alliance, is the “Regina coeli” from Michael Haydn’s Litanie Della Madonna, edited by Betsy Cook Weber. Haydn (Franz Joseph’s younger brother) wrote a lot of treble music for the choirboys at the cathedral in Salzburg, and much of this music works very well for women’s voices today. This movement is best suited for a high school, collegiate, or adult women’s chorus, as the Soprano I range gets a little high and the Alto part sits low. However, the parts themselves are extremely gettable, with rhythmic and intervallic repetitions and largely diatonic writing (though there are, of course, Classical-era modulations). Parts for violins, horns, and continuo are available, though there is also a keyboard part for which you will need an excellent pianist. Notes and a sample of the score may be found here.
An excellent accompanist is also needed for the last work featured here, “Er ist gekommen” by Clara Schumann. As Schumann wrote mostly for piano and solo voice, this is an arrangement for three-part women’s chorus by Brandon Williams, but it is a very worthy one for many reasons. The musical material for the first two verses is repeated exactly, though each verse is broken into two distinct musical sections and styles. The only change is the German text. The last verse begins with the same material but quickly moves into a completely different style, featuring some complex but accessible harmonic writing as the entire song descends to its close. Directors will find excellent moments to address text and phrase stress, especially in a Romantic style, part independence as the piece shifts between unison and three parts (with a few divisi notes), German vowel unification, and intonation. My high school women’s chorus worked on this piece this past spring, and it quickly became their favorite of the year. It is published by G. Schirmer and can be found here.
As you search through piles of music for your own programming, what classics (tried-and-true or new-to-you) have worked for your choirs or are you interested in pursuing? Feel free to share in the comments! And, as always, if you have ideas for pieces you would like to see included in a post, send me an e-mail at .
Brandon Moss is a choir director, teacher, and composer/arranger living and working in Central Ohio. He teaches at Central Crossing High School, directs the Chalice Choir at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, and serves in leadership roles with the Ohio Choral Directors Association and the Ohio Music Education Association. He is currently working on the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Conducting at The Ohio State University.