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Pieces about music and singing

I have heard and taught a lot of the standard repertoire about making music and singing. During this next season, I am looking for pieces that fall into one or more of the following categories:
1) new pieces
2) compositions that don't get performed very often
3) pieces for SSA/SSAA
4) pieces for TTBB
5) pieces for SATB
6) pieces composed in a faster tempo and contains more rhythmic intricacies

Thank you for your help. You can respond here or write me personally at t3maestro(a) Look forward to hearing from you.

Replies (26): Threaded | Chronological
on July 22, 2012 5:42pm
Take a look at my I shall keep singing!  It is for SSA(A) plus harp (or piano).  The
poem is by Emily Dickinson.  It has been published by William Thorpe.  Visit to peek at the music and listen to
a bit of a recording.  This piece was included on a CD issued by the San Francisco Girls
Chorus, and it was performed by a HS honors chorus at the national ACDA
convention in 2009.   
Brian Holmes
2012 Winner, American Prize in Choral Composition
on July 23, 2012 4:03am
Hello Mark:
I have two pieces that you may find of interest, and you may see and hear them in part on my website -  One is "Here's to the Music" for SATB a cappella.  This was the grand prize winner in the 2011 Freudig Singers Composition Contest.  The other is for SA and piano and is called "Small Feathered Bodies in Whom Reside the Ghost of Drummers."  Both were premiered by Albany Pro Musica.
Steve Murray
on July 23, 2012 6:16am
Howdy Mark:
New composer here, and I'd like to offer you two new pieces of my own, "Sing Away Our Troubles" and "Listen to Our Song."  Both are SATB, a cappella, and temporarily free.  The complete perusal PDFs and mp3s are here:  Scroll down to "Songs About Singing."
Best wishes,
on July 23, 2012 8:02am
Hi Mark. It doesn't fit criterion #6, but Frank Ticheli's 'Earth Song' is worth a look. It is slow, but has mesmerizing harmonies and is a piece I've done successfully with both my high school and adult community choir. Both groups (and their respective audiences) absolutely loved it. The text that fits your theme is: " and singing have been my refuge, and music and singing shall be my light. A light of song, shining strong: Alleluia!" It's relatively new, published by Hinshaw in 2007, HPC7098. SATB a cappella.
Best of luck,
Brad Burrill
on July 23, 2012 9:39am
This last of six Rumi settings fits some of your criteria. It's for double choir and organ, mostly fast, composed last year, performed once so far, by the Millenniu Consort Singers and the Pomona College Choir:
When the soul first put on the body's shirt,
the ocean lifted up all its gifts.
When love first tasted the lips
of being human, it started singing.
on July 23, 2012 10:30am
Bowlus - Altos' Lament - SSA (humorous)
Dickau/Heveningham - If Music Be the Food of Love - SATB (probably too slow for your purposes)
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 23, 2012 11:25am
Here are two pieces I composed that might suit you well:
* A rousing, shape-note inspired arrangement of How Can I Keep from Singing? with some slightly tricky rhythms. You can find it on this page if you scroll down; pieces are listed alphabetically by title:
* Tiburon, a rhythmically tricky, kinda dreamy round (not uptempo but not slow) preceded by a very short chorale with some crunchy chords setting the following lyrics from the Seri indians of Baha, Mexico:
First of the strangers the sea brought, old wise woman, the song she gave them, to Tiburon:
The island sings, "Watch me dance. I am heavy, but I can dance. See the edge of my skirt wave back and forth. It is the waves of the sea on my beach."
Please contact me for perusal score and/or recording.
Other pieces that come to mind are:
* the beautiful Bulgarian song Dragana, about a girl who has a singing contest with a bird. Uptempo with those tricky Balkan rhythms. It was arranged for female voices, but I was able to redo it for my SATB chorus.
*Sing We and Chant It, Thomas Morley
* Which is the Properest Day to Sing? Dr. Thomas Arne
both at cpdl, I think, both fairly easy and upbeat.
*Songs that include bird calls, like:
* the Nightingale the organ of delight, Thomas Weelkes, SAB, available at cpdl,
* Par Maintes Foys, SAB or SAT, very rhythmically challenging for the soprano, really fun, if you can find a copy.
* or my Woody, also perusable at --
both upbeat, fun, and a little rhythmically tricky.
Good luck, and please contact me if you have questions.
on July 23, 2012 2:26pm
Have no idea if "Clap Yo' Hands" (G. & I. Gershwin; arr. Pete King) has been done to death, but here's one very cool YouTube video of a performance by a boy's choir in Canada--are they having fun, or what??!!  (Unfortunately the first few seconds of the song are missing, but it's great anyway.)
I sang in a large (100+ voices) mixed choir in the early 90's, and we sang this as our encore in our 1991 Spring Concert--everybody loved it.  It begins "Clap yo' hands, clap yo' hands, clap yo' hands, hallelujah, everybody sing!" (I think...)
Alfred Music Publishing has it (various voicings):
on July 24, 2012 5:13am
Thank you all for your replies. A lot have been SSAA or for mixed choir. Any suggestions for TTBB? Thank you.
on July 24, 2012 5:45am
The Classic "In Hydraulis " by Busnois c.1460
on July 24, 2012 10:32am
Hi Mark,
Veljo Tormis wrote a fabulous set of five Estonian songs called Laulud Laulust Ja Laulikust (Songs about Song and the Singer).  They are based on Estonian folk tunes and range from SA to quite divisi SSAA.  There is something for every level here.  The second song of the set is the famous Lauliku Lapsepoli (The Singer's Childhood) which every director of treble choirs should know.
BTW all of Tormis' music is a cappella, filled with modal tonalities and multiple modulations.  
Good luck!
Andrew Brown
Piedmont East Bay Children's Choirs, Oakland, CA 
on July 25, 2012 3:17am
Hi Mark
What a fun query.
I have a piece that has been performed a few times - it's the "If Music Be the Food of Love" text set famously by Henry Purcell (by Col. Henry Hevingham) "If Music be the food of love, sing on!"
My piece is for SATB and set in primarily in 7/8. I would be happy to send you a copy.
If it appeals to you, I could rework it for TTB or possibly TTBB
Thanks for your interest.
I have also performed and loved Gwyneth's Walker's How Can I Keep from Singing. I believe there are multiple voicings available.
Emily John
on July 25, 2012 5:49pm
You may wish to consider " find a song" for SSAA or SATB and piano.  Released by  and can be found at other music distributors.  Another LHMP peice is "City of the Heart" for SATB and piano.  Here's a youbube performance:
Good luck.
Rick Bartlett
on July 26, 2012 2:53am
Mark I have three pieces for SSA/SSAA about music: Music Spread Thy Voice Around,-Handel, Sing to God-Handel and Sing unto God-Handel. If interested send me your e-mail address and I will send you copies.
Jerome Malek
on July 26, 2012 8:24am
Let's see now a song about music and singing, hmmmm... I'll get to work on that!  :)  BTW, your SSAA version of "The Awakening" has been released by Shawnee Press. Thank you for requesting that voicing.  
While I have your attention... have you heard "Sing Your Way Home" TTBB  Mark Foster.
Let Music Live!
Joe Martin
on August 8, 2012 2:31am
two fast/rhythmic pieces about music/singing:
firstly, for SATB and piano, "The Exercise of Music" (words by Henry Peacham)
on YouTube here:
secondly, for children's voices and piano, "Music to hear" (words by Shakespeare)
four different performances online to choose from:
Cantate Children's Choir, Virginia, USA

Jeugdkoor Academie Brasschaat, Belgium
Bradford Youth Choir, UK (starts at 2'50" - abridged version)
Kiliana Youth Choir, Belgium
[all of these are live performances, not perfectly-balanced or professional-edited studio recordings]
scores can be ordered at
and here are the texts to each (the words are great!)

selected passages from "The Compleat Gentleman" by Henry Peacham (1578-?1644)
words in brackets [ ] not set to music
spellings in musical score modernised

(i) choir SATB

[The Physitians will tell you, that] the exercise of Musicke is a great lengthner of the life,
by stirring and reviving of [the] Spirits,
holding a secret sympathy with them; [Besides,] the exercise of singing openeth the breast and pipes:
it is an enemy to melancholly and dejection of the mind; which S. Chrysostome truely called, The Divels Bath...
Plato calleth it, A divine and heavenly practice, profitable for the seeking out of that which is good and honest...

(ii) solo voice (mezzo-soprano, or soprano/alto if transposed)

Moreover the Muse, Mirth, Graces, and perfect Health, have ever an affinity each with either.

(iii) solo voice (tenor, or baritone if transposed)

I now from your private study and contemplation bring you abroad into the open fields,
for exercise of your Body, by some honest recreation,
since Aristotle requireth the same in the Education of [Nobility and] all youth,
since the mind from the Ability of the Body gathereth her strength and vigor.

(iv) choir SATB

Running and Agility of Body have beene esteemed most commendable
in the greatest [Princes and Commanders] that ever lived...

(v) women's voices in three equal parts

Leaping is an exercise very commendable, and healthfull for the body, especially if you use it in the morning...
Upon a full stomacke or to bedward, it is very dangerous, and in no wise to be exercised.

(vi) women's voices SSA

The skill and art of swimming is also very requisite in every [Noble and] Gentleman...

(vii) men's voices TB

Shooting also is a very healthfull and commendable recreation for a Gentleman;
neither doe I know any other comparable unto it for stirring every part of the body:
for it openeth the breast and pipes, exerciseth the armes and feete,
with lesse violence, than running, leaping, &c.

(viii) choir SATB unaccompanied

Infinite is the sweet variety that the Theorique of Musicke exerciseth the mind withall,
as the contemplation of proportion, of Concords and Discords,
diversity of Moodes and Tones, infinitenesse of Invention, &c.

(ix) choir SATB

...Infinite is the sweet variety... the contemplation of... Concords and Discords...
...sweet... invention... the exercise of Musicke

(William Shakespeare, Sonnet 8)
Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.
Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not gladly,
Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark, how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each, by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
Whose speechless song, being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee, - "Thou single wilt prove none."
on August 9, 2012 9:14am
Hi Mark:  Please look and listen to my "We are the Music Makers"  Published by Colla Voce.
SATB with op. brass.  Listen at
on August 10, 2012 7:28am
Everyone Sang--Dominick Argento
How Can I Keep From Singing--arr. Ron Staheli
I Have Had Singing--Steven Sametz
Chantez a Dieu--Jan Pieters Sweelinck
Each Day--Stephen Paulus
There is Sweet Music Here--L.J. White
If I Had a Harp--arr. Dominick Argento
on August 10, 2012 8:01pm
If I Had a Harp is actually called "So I'll Sing With My Voice".
on August 10, 2012 9:09am
Here's my progrma from  a few years ago on music and dance.  Some of these are of course dance but I'm leaving them in.  Please forgive the cheesy section titles! (:-)
We also included quotes about music scattered throughout the printed program.  People really liked that.
Fanfare for a Festival: All Praise toMusic Ron Nelson (b. 1929)
O Music!
OMusic, ThouMost Lovely Art Johann Jeep (1582–1644)
From Triptych Lloyd Pfautsch (1921–2003)
         Musicks Empire
         Consecrate the Place and Day
Sing We & Dance
Dance, DanceMy Heart Emma Lou Diemer (b. 1927) (GREAT piece)
SingWe and Dance Sonja Poorman (b. 1955)
An Hour to Dance Gwyneth Walker (b. 1947)  (LOVE THIS PIECE!)
The Food of Love
BeMusic, Night Bradley Ellingboe (b. 1958)  (GREAT piece)
Music,When Soft Voices Die John V.Mochnick
     (from Shelley Songs)
IfMusic be the Food of Love David Dickau (b. 1953)
Dances from Afar
A Dance of Ghosts: A Midnight Revel Hector Berlioz (1803–1869)
Tancuj! Slovak/Moravian folk song,   arr. Václav Kálik
Ungheresca Lajos Bardos (1899–1986)
The Need for Music
I am in need of music David Brunner (b. 1953)  (GREAT piece)
Oh, How Can I Keep from Singing Robert A. Harris (b. 1954)  (SO many settings of this.  Gwyneth Walker's is lovely also.
SingMe to Heaven Daniel Gawthrop (b. 1949)  (anyone NOT know this piece?) (:-)
Can’t Stop Dancing
Jig for Voices Alec Rowley (1892–1958)
Chindia Alexandru Pacanu (1920–1989)
Ah! Si mon moine voulait danser Canadian folk song, arr. D. Patriquin (b. 1938)
Can’t Stop Singing
Bones Be Good! Gwyneth Walker (Love this piece)
       (from Dreams and Dances)
I Have Had Singing Ron Jeffers (b. 1943)
Tambourines (from Harlem Songs) Gwyneth Walker (Fun!)
The Big “Finnish”  (i know, I know, I'm sorry!)
El Hambo JaakkoMäntyjärvi (b. 1963)
Domaredansen Swedish folk song, arr. B. Hallberg (b. 1932)
The Musical Trust Joseph W. Clokey (1890–1960)
Other pieces I considered:
Billings Modern Music
Schumann Music surges??  Mx 162
Ye Shall have a song!
RVW - A Choral Flourish?
Perpetuum mobile 
Orpheus with his lute - Schumann, RVW
Round: Music alone shall live
Shearing Music to hear
Fa una canzona
Libby Larsen - Song for a dance 
Donate All Ye Who Music
Hassler now start we with a goodly song 
Chatman There is sweet music here
Shank Music tangens...
Chatman Song and Music
Sound of Music Medley
Moses Hogan Music Down in my soul
Jeffers I Have Had Singing!!!!
morton gould a cappella 
Beethoven In Praise of Music
Sing we and chant it
chester book on singing and dance
Singet frisch und wohlgemut
o bella fusa
on August 10, 2012 4:17pm
Mark -- You may want to look at and listen to "A Few Plain Hints:  William Walker's Words for Singers."  It's fun, varied advice in eleven short pieces.  Here's one, "When Singing In Concert."  The 19th-century American text is usually sensible and often humorous.  It includes four solos and some ensemble sections, one movement each for sopranos/altos and for tenors/basses.  The text is excerpted from the preface to Walker's "The Southern Harmony."  I wrote it to be flexible -- you could do some of the movements, a cappella if desired (but the easy piano accompaniment adds a lot).  Details, review score and sound files at this info page at my website.
cheers, chris
Christopher J. Hoh

on August 11, 2012 7:43pm
Two things come to mind based on your criteria:
(If you can find it): Gregg Smith: *Music* from *Four Concord Chorales* (Text by Ralph Waldo Emerson; SATB, pno 1X4 or organ) (G. Schirmer)
My own *Lady Music Speaks* (unis. with descant, pno; text by Martin Luther; trans. Carl Schalk). Obviously singable by treble, male, or mixed groups.
Please let me know if the latter might be of interest.
Hope this helps,
Robert A.M. Ross
on August 12, 2012 5:53am
I have also used "Modern Music" by William Billings - might be on CPDL.  Another one I've used is "Tutto lo di" by diLasso (Day after day all they say is sing! sing! sing!).  It's a nice madrigal that's very approachable (I've used it with high school freshmen but also with my chamber choir).  It is on CPDL.
on August 12, 2012 7:41pm
I have a diptych that sets two poems by Emily Dickinson, titled On music. It fits categories 1, 2, & 5, though it requires two violins and a (preferably alto) soloist... I'd be happy to send a copy to your email address if you would like. 
on August 15, 2012 10:02am
Dale Warland, who has been more heavily focused on composing since retiring from the Dale Warland Singers in 2004, has a lovely work titled Always Singing (2009). It's published by Graphite Publishing. Here's a link to the specific webpage on the Graphite site: Dale's website is
on August 16, 2012 6:56am
I know Schubert's "An die musik" has been arranged for SATB and possibly for other voice groupings.
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