By John C. Hughes
With the new school year upon us, it is well past time to think about programming some new music. I’ve selected a variety of pieces in many languages, and I’ve also included new editions of older pieces. Although very different, these outstanding pieces share common qualities – interesting texts, fresh accompaniments, appropriate vocal ranges, and varied harmonic language. I hope you are inspired by these new works to continue to offer your students the very best of the choral repertory.
Patrick M. Liebergen always provides wonderfully accessible arrangements of choral masterworks. This piece is an arrangement of the fourth movement of Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous “Cantata 140, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme.” Liebergen has transposed the melody down a fourth so that it lies within a comfortable vocal range. The score also contains useful information about Bach’s cantatas and German pronunciation. The opportunities for teaching through this piece are plentiful. Carl Fischer has wonderful online resources, including a full preview of the score, a nice recording, an instrumental-only track, and a vocal-only track: www.carlfischer.com/partbypart/twopart.htm.
Tim Winebrenner has made two excellent arrangements of German Christmas carols and combined them in a single octavo. Both pieces are unaccompanied and may be performed either as a set or as stand-alone pieces. The first piece, “Kling Glöckchen,” is quite lively as it imitates the Christmas bells. The second piece, “O Du Fröhliche,” is legato and contains beautiful phrases. These pieces are an excellent introduction to German and are quite fun to sing. BriLee has wonderful online resources, including a full preview of the score, a nice recording, and a vocal-only track of each part: www.carlfischer.com/partbypart/brilee/twopart2012.html.
Korean folk song (arr. Jungsun Lee)
Jungsun Lee’s arrangement of this popular Korean folk song makes it easy to perform. While some may initially shy away from singing in Korean, the transliteration makes it simple. Lee has also included a beautiful piano accompaniment; however, the piece can also be performed unaccompanied. It is very useful to program authentic multicultural works, and this piece is certainly worth considering. Score preview: www.sbmp.com/Scorch.php?CatalogNumber=1035
“Tres Motetinos no. 2”
Many choral musicians are familiar with Aguiar’s “Salmo 150.” These three motets are of comparable quality. The Brazilian composer has set three famous Latin texts: “Pater Naster” (the Lord’s prayer), “Ego Sum Resurractio et Vita,” and “Deo Gratias.” These unaccompanied arrangements are text-driven and homophonic. While not for beginning ensembles, the pieces are within reach of many advanced choirs. The Latin texts may be familiar; however, Arguiar’s unique compositional voice shines through. Score preview and recording: www.earthsongschoralmusic.com/catitem.php?seqnum=100992.
“O Jesu süss, wer dein gedenkt”
Samuel Scheidt (ed. Daniel A. Mahraun)
Daniel A. Mahraun has made a nice edition of a piece by the often overlooked German Baroque composer Samuel Scheidt. While choral musicians may have heard of Scheidt, few have performed any of his music. Mahraun’s edition is very straightforward and could be successfully performed by school and church choirs. Mahraun uses a notational style known as Mensurstrich, in which barlines appear in between staves rather than through the measure, to avoid misaccentuation (since Scheidt did not use barlines). This technique provides a wonderful opportunity to discuss the development of meter and notation with your choir. Mahraun also includes the complete German text, a literal English translation, as well as a poetic version. The piece requires solid three-part divisi; however, choirs will be richly rewarded for their work. Score preview: www.alliancemusic.com/images/products/O_Jesu_Suss_web.pdf.
“I Carry Your Heart With Me”
Dickau’s setting of this e.e. cummings poem is a wonderful choice for any advanced men’s choir. Dickau’s name is synonymous with quality compositions infused with sweeping romanticism. This piece is no disappointment. The beautiful text and superb setting make this a fantastic choice for an end of the year concert. It is also available in an SATB voicing. Recording: www.waltonmusic.com/Sound16/ICarryYourHeartWithMe/.
“Dreams of Thee”
Eric Barnum is a quickly rising star in the choral music world. Although he has written some very advanced music, his writing for developing voices is also fantastic. The lines are mostly conjunct and the ranges are appropriate for early high school singers. The accompaniment is straightforward, yet beautiful. Like all of Barnum’s other works, he demonstrates mastery of lyricism, interesting harmonic language, and superb text setting. Recording: www.waltonmusic.com/Sound16/ICarryYourHeartWithMe/.
THREE PART MIXED
“Music We Bring”
Jean-Baptiste Lully (ed. and arr. By Patrick M. Liebergen)
Certainly not a new composition, Liebergen has made a wonderful new edition and arrangement of this piece by the famous French Baroque composer Lully. Students will love learning about Lully’s service to King Louis XIV and his tragic death due to an injury sustained while conducting. Liebergen provides a wonderful page of history about Lully and makes the edition very accessible.
While not necessary for a performance, Liebergen includes two flute parts. Asking students to play these will not only feature them, but will also make this an even more special performance. “Music We Bring” is a wonderful concert opener. Scroll down this link for a full preview of the score, a nice recording, an instrumental-only track, and a vocal-only track of each voice part: www.carlfischer.com/partbypart/brilee/3partmxd2012.html.
“Oh, What a Beautiful City”
Spiritual (arr. Stacey V. Gibbs)
Stacey V. Gibbs is quickly becoming an authoritative voice in spiritual arrangements. The Detroit native balances being true to the tune with adding his own creativity and passion to the work. With a contagious melody, vivacious rhythms, and gorgeous harmonic language, this is a fantastic arrangement. Like all spirituals, this one contains significant repetition; however, Gibbs sets himself apart by making each repetition more interesting than the previous. The piece keeps building until its glorious and moving conclusion. Score preview and recording: sbmp.com/Scorch.php?CatalogNumber=1054.
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (ed. Richard Bjella)
Written in Amsterdam in 1619, “Gaudate Omnes” is one of the many pieces by the prolific composer, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck. The noted conductor Richard Bjella has made an excellent edition of this work. He includes a translation throughout the work and suggests numerous articulations.
Clearly polyphonically conceived, Gaudate Omnes will challenge any ensemble. However, as many modern composers write in a homophonically-dominated style, it is important to expose students to the difficulties and joys of counterpoint. With Bjella’s expert edition, advanced ensembles can certainly be successful. Score preview: www.alliancemusic.com/images/products/GaudeteOmnes_Sweelinck_web.pdf.
John C. Hughes is a versatile choral musician and pedagogue, drawing from experience as a K-12 teacher, collegiate conductor, and church musician. Presently, Hughes is pursuing the D.M.A. in Choral Conducting and Pedagogy at The University of Iowa, as well as serving as a music director at a church in Iowa City. Please contact him directly at his website: www.johnchughes.com.