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Major Works Appropriate for HS Singers

I'm a new vocal music faculty member at a large high school with an excellent orchestra. This year the music department is combining the forces of choir and strings with Carmina Burana (woodwinds/brass are being sourced from local college music departments). The choice of repertoire was left to the guest conductor. This collaboration looks like it will go over well with the adminstration, making it easy to get funding for similar projects, but I would like to have a list of repertoire to suggest that will be easier on my young singers' voices yet just as interesting for audiences. Vivaldi was the first composer to come to mind but other suggestions would be really helpful! What is your dream choral/orchestral collaboration project for young singers?
Replies (17): Threaded | Chronological
on March 3, 2014 7:59pm
The Vivaldi Gloria would be great, the high school I student taught at did it.
Faure's Requiem, Schubert's Mass in G, selections from Messiah (I know of a high school that did all of the Christmas choruses except Purify), Leavitt's Missa Festiva, Forrest's Te Deum.
Thompson's Frostiana or Testament of Freedom either one would work great with high schoolers.
Composer John Purifoy just wrote a Civil War work titled The Blue and The Grey, right now only selected movements are available for individual purchase but if you want I can put you in contact with John.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on March 4, 2014 4:15am
Arwel Hughes - Dewi Sant, Gweddi
Felix Mendelssohn - Psalm 42, Lobgesang, Gloria
Leonard Bernstein - Chichester Psalms
Karl Jenkins - Requiem, Songs of the Earth
Franz Schubert - various Masses
J. S. Bach - Magnificat
Carl Heinrich Graun - Weinachtsoratorium
James Whitbourn - Son of God Mass, Missa Carolae
George Gershwin (arr. Bennett) - Porgy and Bess (concert version)
Gabriel Faure - Requiem
John Rutter - Gloria, Magnificat, Requiem
W. A. Mozart - Requiem, missa brevi
Franz Schubert - Magnificat
Giovanni Pergolesi (Durante) - Magnificat
Antonio Vivaldi - Gloria, Magnificat
Carl Orff - Carmina Burana
I have done a "Messiah" sing as a fund raiser in the past - using choruses from Part 1 + Hallelujah.
I have done all of these major works with my high school choir over the past 28 years - hope this list helps you out!
on March 4, 2014 6:32am
The Schubert Mass in G is a lovely selection for young voices.
on March 4, 2014 12:42pm
Henry Purcell - Come, ye sons of art
Wachet auf! - J.S. Bach
Peaceable Kingdom - Randall Thompson - a cappella
Magnificat - Vivaldi
All the above I have done with H.S. choirs with orchestra.  They have ideal length and tessitura.
on March 5, 2014 2:50pm
I just suggested this for a community choir post, and I believe it would fit the bill for high school groups as well. Karl Jenkins' "The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace," which is an excellent, ecumenical sort of work. It has a fairly large orchestra, is about an hour long, with minimal optional soloists, and accessible writing for the voices. Both the orchestra and the choir love it!
on March 6, 2014 9:29am
I have a work specifically written for the forces you describe: Of Arts and Elements, a cantata for SATB div., 3 trpts, pno, 2 perc commissioned in 1999 by my alma mater, Radnor HS outside Philadelphia, for the dedication of their new performing arts wing.
Please let me know if you would be interested in seeing a vocal score/hearing the recording.
Hope this helps,
Robert A.M. Ross
robertamross(a) <Robert Ross 11>
on March 6, 2014 8:30pm
Poulenc - Gloria
Brahms - Nanie
i also "second" the Vivaldi "Gloria," Schubert "Mass in G," and Mozart "Requiem"
I've done each of these with high school choirs with good success.
on March 7, 2014 2:00pm
Great list!
Add Missa Sancti Johannis de Deo-- J. Haydn
on March 8, 2014 10:02am
Years back I had an outstanding student pianist who's repertoire was heavily into works by composers from Bach to Rachmaninoff.  One fine Spring day she and I discussed doing a piano/choral/orchestral work for the next school year, giving her lots of time to prepare.  What work did we perform?  Why, of course, it was the Beethoven Choral Fantasia.  It was a tremendous success. Though it is a precusor of the Ninth Symphony, this work does not have to be a vocal "screamer" if your singers are prepared correctly!  If you have a fine pianist and a equally fine orchestra this work is very approachable.  Good luck!
on March 9, 2014 11:00am
Here are the major works we have done in our high school with choirs and chamber orchestra.
Best wishes to you!
(Over a period of four years, a student will perform a substantial work from each of the four most recent music eras.)
2014    Baroque:     G.F. Handel: Israel in Egypt (excerpts)
2013    21st Century:     Josh Schmidt: Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird -- commission/premiere
2012    19th Century:     F. Mendelssohn: Psalm 42
2011    Classical:     F.J. Haydn: The Creation (excerpts)
2010    Baroque:     J.S. Bach: Lobet den Herrn & G.F. Handel: The King Shall Rejoice
2009    20th Century:     Vaughan Williams: Dona Nobis Pacem
2008    19th Century:     J. Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem (Mvts. 2, 4, 6)
2007    Classical:     W.A. Mozart: Idomeneo (excerpts)
2006    Baroque:     G.F. Handel: Messiah (Selected Movements)
2005    20th Century:     Aaron Copland: The Tender Land (Excerpts)
2004    19th Century:    Felix Mendelssohn: Elijah (Selected Movements)
2003     Classical:     W.A. Mozart: Davide penitente K. 469  (Selected Movements)
2002    Baroque:    J.S. Bach: Selected Movements from Erschallet, ihr Lieder, BWV 172; St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244; Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
2001    Music of the USA:   Corigliano: Fern Hill
2000    19th Century:    Brahms: Neue Liebeslieder Walzer Op. 65  & Beethoven: choral portion of the Choral Fantasy Op. 80  
1998    20th Century:    Bernstein: Chichester Psalms
1997     Baroque:      J.S. Bach:  Magnificat  BWV 243
1996     19th Century:    Bizet:  Carmen  (Selected Choruses)
1995     Classical:      W.A. Mozart:  Requiem KV 626  (Selected Movements)
1994     20th Century:     Carl Orff:  Carmina Burana (Selected Movements)
1993     Baroque:     J.S. Bach: Christ Lag In Todesbanden Cantata BWV 4  –  
1992     19th Century:     Gilbert/Sullivan:  The Mikado  (Selected Movements)
1991     Classical:      W.A. Mozart:  Missa Brevis in C  K.220
1990     20th Century:     Aaron Copland:  Old American Songs
1989     Baroque:    J.S. Bach: Nun Komm, Der Heiden Heiland  Cantata BWV 61
Applauded by an audience of 1
on March 9, 2014 11:23am
Andea, the writers herein have listed a marvelous repertoire from which to choose.  I echo the listing of each one of these known classics.  I do wish to remind you of that which Dr. Barbara Doscher, internationally beloved and renowned teacher of the singing voice, said to all of us: "Above all, do not hurt the voice."  It is not the performing of the Carmina that could be detrimental.  The rehearsing required could be detrimental to these young voices.  If these singers were all experienced with the Carmina and/or read choral music fluently, that would one thing.  But I suspect that they are not so experienced.  We are told continually of the damage done by incorrect singing for hours per day.  Can these singers perform this work on 45 minutes of singing per day?  If not, I severely question the pursuit of this goal.  Is the Guest Conductor a trained vocal teacher?  By this selection, I suspect not.  I suspect that the conductor is trying to find a work that is challenging for the orchestra as well as for the choir, that is rhythmically exciting for the performers and also for the audience, and that has some melodies which are beautiful and "singable."  I also worry about the translated text as the words do not always invoke wonderful mental images.  In other words, I believe the Carmina (and I truly and absolutely love conducting and performing this work) is physiologically too much a strain for this choir.  I also understand that I do not know your choir whatsoever, so I could be wrong in my assumptions, but I believe that I am on solid ground.  For the same reasons that your Guest Conductor has chosen the Carmina, I would wholeheartedly suggest one work which was already mentioned by James Moyer: Bernstein's Chichester Psalms.  I believe that this work would satisfy the conductor's thinking with one exception: length.  Perhaps you could add to the concert, in order to get the needed time span, Brahms' gorgeous Nanie and/or Faure's Cantique de Jean Racine.  These three suggestions would satisfy all the requirements of the teachers and the conductor; yet, they would not so tax the singing voice as to damage it.  Instead of the experience of singing just one major work, they would experience two or three.  In any event, God's blessings on all that you attempt to accomplish!
on March 13, 2014 7:39am
John, if the guest conductor, or Andrea, was trained/experienced/well versed in good healthy vocal technique for high school voices, would you still feel like the shouldn't do Carmina. I just have so many memories of pieces I performed as a teenager, either under my choral director or at festivals/honors choirs/workshops with other directors, that rehearsing (especially in weekend festivals where we rehearsed 6 hours a day) could have damaged my voice, but the director knew how to rehearse the piece in a way that it did not cause vocal strain on us.
on March 13, 2014 5:17pm
I am a vocal pedagogue (and a fan of Doscher's) which is why this piece concerns me a bit. I have the good fortune to have been working with my choirs on this piece little by little over the school year and I stress healthy technique at all times. They will only be singing for long rehearsals the two weeks leading to the concert and no rehearsal is scheduled to be longer than 2 hours. Because this is my first year at this school and arrangments were made for this festival well before I arrived, I had no voice in the choosing of this piece. The many, varied replies to this thread will enable me to present a set of repertoire with which I am more comfortable for young singers when the opportunity to do a large work next presents itself, though!
on March 10, 2014 9:51am
Gloria by Carcani, a lesser known Baroque work. My copy is published by Roger Dean (it's old). It's a lovely alternative to Vivaldi Gloria. 
on March 12, 2014 7:15pm
Harvey Milk: A Cantata
New piece for SATB and woodwind quintet.  
Here's a video of a performance by Lick Wilmerding High School Chorus.

Harvey Milk: A Cantata by Jack Curtis Dubowsky. For SATB choir and piano. Choral. Text entirely by Harvey Milk, culled from both well-known speeches as well as rare documents.. Contemporary; secular; GALA; civil rights. Sheet music. Composed 2012. 64 pages. Duration 20:00. Published by De Stijl Music (D1.SM-12-0002).

Harvey Milk: A Cantata, is a 2012 choral work by Jack Curtis Dubowsky featuring unpublished texts by Harvey Milk.

on March 12, 2014 7:28pm
Quaker Peace Testimony
This piece has been done by Ken Rawdon and the Mount Eden Chorus (Hayward HS) with the Castro Valley Chamber Orchestra.

Quaker Peace Testimony by Jack Curtis Dubowsky. For chamber orchestra (0022/0221/timpani/strings). Orchestra. Contemporary. Advanced.

Composed 2007. Duration 5:15. Published by De Stijl Music

George Fox and the Quakers wrote this pacifist manifesto to King Charles II in 1660. Harmonically rich, angular, and complex.

on March 13, 2014 5:02pm
So many great replies! Thank you, everyone!!!
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