Community Chorus Repertoire Recommendations

In our Winter 2017-18 issue of The Voice, Chorus America spoke to conductors and publishers about how to address the challenge of finding quality repertoire for community choruses. So what are some specific pieces that these publishers and composers would recommend for these groups? We asked a wide range of publishers and composers in the field to recommend one work from their own catalogue that they felt is especially suited to community choruses. The list we compiled represents a broad spectrum of cultural traditions, orchestrations, and voicings—including links to websites for more information when available.

Bonse Aba
Matthew & Shelly Armstrong
SATB with African percussion
Recommended by Jennifer Rosenblatt

“Cum Sancto Spiritu” (from Gloria)
Hyo-Won Woo
SATB (divisi), unaccompanied
GIA - Catalog no. WW1637
Recommended by Susan LaBarr
“A female Korean composer with a unique sound world.”

Music for men’s and women’s chorus

Two Friends Like Fireflies
Joseph Gregorio
SSAA, unaccompanied
Areté Music Imprints - Catalog no. 1220
Recommended by Joseph Gregorio
“Set to the eponymous poem of Syrian-American poet Mohja Kahf, the text is an ode to friendship inspired by two women. Once introduced to each other by Dr. Kahf, the women overcame a generational divide and differing backgrounds and ethnicities to find much common ground and, through conversation, arrive at many profound insights about life.”

I’ve Known Rivers
Gwyneth Walker
TTBB with piano (also available for SATB)
ECS Publishing - Catalog nos. 7297-7300
Recommended by Caitlin Custer
“One of our most frequent requests from community groups is for recommendations of multi-movement works from particular poets. Here is a hidden gem that sets the poetry of Langston Hughes.”

Completing the Circle
Dale Trumbore 
SATB unaccompanied
Recommended by Dale Trumbore
“An original, nostalgic Christmas carol with a simple refrain.” The text lends this piece to sacred and secular holiday programs alike.

“When Storms Arise” (from Three Dunbar Hymns)
Adolphus Hailstork
SATB, unaccompanied
Carl Fischer - Catalog no. 312-41849
Recommended by Beth Holub

Eye for Eye
Shawn Kirchner
SATB, unaccompanied
SKPublishing - contact publisher directly for purchase information
Recommended by Shawn Kirchner
Eye for Eye was written for San Diego Pro Arte Voices "Disarming Hate" concert this last spring, but has been quickly picked up by numerous choirs since then, including Tonality in Los Angeles.”

Music for a massed choir

Woven Together
Jacob Narverud
SATB (or massed choir) with piano; optional instrumental ensemble: violin 1 and 2, viola, cello, marimba, 2 horns, trombone, tuba, optional organ
Santa Barbara Music Publishing - Catalog no. 1151
Recommended by Barbara Harlow
“Composed for a massed choir event, it is that rare piece that can serve this purpose. Based on a pentatonic Sacred Harp tune, this piece affords several performance options beyond SATB. The introduction could allow a procession; a children’s chorus could sing one of the verses; a program insert could invite the audience join in on one verse. The uplifting text advocates togetherness and thankfulness and speaks to all ages.”

Epigrams, Epitaphs
Carol Barnett
SATB with four-hand piano
Beady Eyes Publications
Recommended by Carol Barnett

The Rain Song
Mark Growden
SATB with body percussion
Swirly Music - Catalog no. MGN-007
Recommended by Michael Kaulkin,
“It has a fun body percussion component that people really enjoy.”

Sun Quilt
Gabriela Lena Frank
SATB (divisi), unaccompanied
G. Schirmer, Inc. - Catalog no. 56717
Recommended by Mattie Kaiser
“Rising and falling lines of wordless singing/humming are used to convey the mesmerizing pieces of fabric that interweave together in the most skilled quilter’s hands.”

Major work for community chorus

The Seven Last Words of Christ
Richard Burchard
SATB with string orchestra (14-16 players); or string quartet + organ
Fred Bock Music Company - Catalog no. PM1015
Recommended by Stephen Bock
“This is a 45-minute composition for chorus and string orchestra. It can be performed with 14-16 players—in addition, an alternate accompaniment of organ and string quartet is available, so it is a major work that is budget friendly for smaller organizations.”

“Nearly Insane” (from Quilt Songs: Women Weaving the Fabric of Life)
Ysaye Barnwell
Graphite Publishing
SSAATB, unaccompanied
Recommended by Tim Takach
“At the end of her description of the quilt titled ‘NEARLY INSANE,’ Kay McCarthy asks ‘Was I nearly insane to make this quilt?’ This question really resonated with me musically, but I couldn’t put the pieces together as a lyric. I asked poet Mary Moore Easter if she could work on a text, and what she created worked perfectly for me. Her phrases became pieces/patterns of the quilt that I could weave, overlap and stitch together musically. This ‘piece’ may drive you nearly insane unless you simply listen to the whole in the way that you might first see the quilt at a distance.”

This Is A Good World
Bradley Ellingboe
SATB, unaccompanied
Hal Leonard Corporation - Catalog no. 50600728
Recommended by Trish Dulka
"Moved by the horrific Orlando night club shooting in June of 2016, Bradley Ellingboe sets this Kenneth Patchen poem to music as an outpouring of grief—and also of hope that all is not lost."

Canto de Esperanza
Alice Parker
SATB with claves, maracas, guiro, and conga drum
Melodious Accord - Catalog no. 865
Recommended by Marilyn Pryor
Canto de Esperanza is an arrangement of an Argentinian folksong that uses a variety of percussion and has the audience dancing in the aisles. The Spanish text, about singing for peace, is easily learned by rote, and repeated throughout an increasingly complex setting.”

Seven Line Supplication to Guru Rinpoche
Harry Einhorn
SATB (divisi), unaccompanied
See-A-Dot Publishing
Recommended by Fahad Siadat
“This piece is a setting of a Tibetan Buddhist mantra, and is a delight to sing. Mostly homophonic textures, quite memorizable, with a joyful quality and some great harmonies that the singers and audiences get into.”

Please Stay
Jake Runestad
SATB with piano
Melodious Accord - Catalog no. JR0062
Recommended by Jake Runestad
"An anthem for hope—an attempt to destigmatize mental illness and challenge all of us to support those who are dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide."

Mike Rowan is communications manager at Chorus America.

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