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SATB: with Orchestra (major secular works)

Thanks to all who responded to my question about Major Secular Works with
Orchestra. Here is the compilation. First, a listing of all the pieces
mentioned (if mentioned more than once, the number in () is how many people
suggested it). Below I have included any comments made about the pieces.

Adams - Harmonium

Allaway - Tallgrass Canticles
Beethoven - Choral Fantasy
Beethoven - 9th Symphony
Berio - Sinfonia
Birtwistle - ...agm...
Bjerring - Song of the Salish Chief
Bliss - Lie Strewn the White Flocks
Brahms - Alto Rhapsody
Brahms - "Fest- und Gedenspruche" (?)
Brahms - Gesange der Partzen
Brahms - Liebeslieder Walzer (Piano 4-hands)
Brahms - Triumphlied
Britten - Spring Symphony
Britten - War Requiem (not quite secular)
Coleridge-Taylor - Song of Hiawatha
Dyson - The Canterbury Pilgrims
Delius - A Mass of Life
Delius - Seadrift
Elgar - Dream of Gerontius
Feldman - "Chorus and Orchestra Piece"
Foss - The Prairie
Hanson - Lament of Beowulf
Hanson - Song of Democracy (2)
Haydn - The Seasons
Hindemith - When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed
Holst - Choral Symphony (2)
Holst - The Cloud Messenger
Kayne - General's Ammunition
Kayne - Momentous
Kayne - Response
Ligeti - Of Clocks and Clouds
Mahler - 8th Symphony
Nielsen - Hymnus Amoris
Orff - Carmina Burana (4)
Rorem - An American Oratorio
Ross - A Shakespearian Fancy
Ross - Of Arts & Elements
Scelsi - Uaxuctum
Schuman (William) - A Free Song
Schumann - Paradise and the Peri
Sculthorpe - Child of Australia
Shostakovich - Baba Yar (Male chorus)
Spevacek - Seasons
Stevens - Ballad of William Sycamore
Theodorakis - Canto General (2)
Thompson - Frostiana
Thompson - Testament of Freedom (male chorus) (2)
Vaughan Williams - Dona Nobis Pacem (2)
Vaughan Williams - Epithalamion
Vaughan Williams - Five Mystical Songs
Vaughan Williams - In Windsor Forest
Vaughan Williams - Sancta Civitas (sacred/secular)
Vaughan Williams - Sea Symphony (3)
Vaughan Williams - Serenade to Music
Vaughan Williams - Toward the Unknown Region (3)
Vaughan Williams - The Tudor Portraits
Walton - Belshaazar's Feast
Xenakis - Medea
Xenakis - Orestiea


both Vaughan Williams' "Sea Symphony" and "Towards The Unknown Region" are
absolutely beautiful pieces that deserve more attention in North America
than they usually receive. Also Walton's "Belshaazar's Feast" is a great
one if you've got an excellent baritone soloist to use. I'll also suggest
Elgar's "Dream of Gerontius", although I've only heard it, and don't know
about the absolute secularity of it, although it seemed to be fairly
secular. JMB
I've sung in and enjoyed

"Seadrift" by Frederick Delius
large orchestra, SATB chorus, and
a baritone solist;
some birds, the ocean, and the mystery of life,
but NOT a churchy text, or "liturgical" in any way.


One piece I strongly recommend is Mikis Theodorakis' Canto General for two
soloists (barytone-bass and a fgemale alto or conter-tenor), choir, several
percussions and a small orchestra (2 piano's, flutes, bouzouki, 2 guitars,
bass...) The words are from Nobel Price winner Pablo Neruda, very intese
poetry with a planetary vision... trees, birds, river, life, death, love and
people's freedom Songs like Voy a vivir (I want to live) are emotionnally

We sang it in 98 and it remains the top event in my chorister's life. The
emotional charge for the choir as for the audience is equivalent to the best
religious pieces, as Bach's passions or Dvorak's Stabat Mater.

Budget is not to be underestimated!

The first piece that comes to mind is Gustav Holst's "The Cloud Messenger."
It's based on poem by the 6th C. Indian poet Khalidasa of
the same name. Absolutely GORGEOUS, you need a good mezzo soloist (for a
brief solo). The piece tells the story of a young husband who, due to some
dishonor, has been exiled by "the great one" to a land far from his wife.
One day, he sees a cloud, and decides to give the cloud a message to convey
to his wife far away. He then describes the route the cloud will take, over
the farmlands, across the meadows and deserts, to the holy city of Alaka in
the Himalaya, near where his wife lives. The final few minutes of the piece
are stunning. Heck, the entire piece is amazing.

The opening orchestral strains perfectly evoke the formation of the cloud,
building to a glorious ff choral entrance: "O thou, who com'st
from heaven's king! Scion of a noble race, who wearest wonderous forms at
will. O glorious cloud, we welcome thee! Where ere thou
goest, lonely wives, who pine in solitude with close-bound hair, will arise
and gaze along the road. Thou bringest home their absent
husbands, who will loosen their tresses and fill their hearts with joy!"
The terrain is varied as is the music that describes it -- a
dry creek bed, the river with the jasmine vines, the birds swooping around
the cloud in preparation for the needed rain, the temple
dancers and musicians in Alaka.

I know of one commercial recording of this -- Richard Hickox, London
Symphony -- but the women all sound like 12-yr-old boys, and with this
sensuous text, I think you need more ... mature ... voices. The group I
sang with northern CA (Masterworks Chorale of San Mateo), before I moved to
Seattle, had the honor of performing the US premier of this work in 1996. I
have an archive recording of it on cassette tape. We had about 160 singers,
a full orchestra (the score calls for extra percussion as well as a pipe
organ with a 32' bass or electronic
equivalent -- I sang in the 1st soprano section, and sat right next to the
speakers for this -- and nearly got blown off the risers!)



/ \_---_/ \ Lana Mountford
{ } Kenmore, WA USA
( O O )
~( v )~ * - * - * - * - * - *

Tallgrass Canticles, by Ben Allaway. Chorus, soprano soloist, chamber
orchestra- strings, mandolin, harmonica (or wind synthesizer) flute,
trumpet, ethnic and other percussion. Theme of the tallgrass prairie before
and after the coming of native americans and european settlers. First three
movements are from the point of view of the hawk, who is a link between
prehistoric times and the present. Published by LMNOP Publications,


Not sure how far to stretch your definition of major, but Howard Hanson had
written several works approx. 15-20 min. in length, including "Lament of
Beowulf" and "Song of Democracy"


> Other than what's already been posted...

> Randall Thompson--The Testament of Freedom

Isn't that male chorus only? If something like that is acceptable, you
could do the Shostakovich 'Baba Yar' symphony.

> Britten--War Requiem

I wouldn't consider this exactly secular, even though it's not a church
piece. If this is within the range of the acceptable, then I would
suggest another V-W piece: Sancta Civitas.

Another V-W suggestion: the Serenade to Music. (Amazingly, at my wife's
parish in Philly they sang this on a Sunday morning!)


An English choral work you may like to look at is "The Canterbury
Pilgrims" - the setting by Sir George Dyson of passages from Chaucer's
Canterbury Tales. It's scored for large choir, soprano, tenor and baritone
soloists and orchestra and was first performed at Winchester in 1931. Dyson
is slowly starting to emerge from the "doldrums" period that seems to follow
a composer's death;

Another piece which is a rarity now but was immensely popular a century
ago is the "Song of Hiawatha" trilogy by the Anglo-American composer Samuel
Coleridge-Taylor using sections of Longfellow's poem. There are three
separate cantatas - "Hiawatha's Wedding Feast", "The Death of Minnehaha" and
"Hiawatha's Farewell". The "Wedding Feast" is still performed (I have a
particular affection for it, as it was the first choral work I conducted, as
a student with a student choir back in 1963!), but the other two are rarely
heard which, in my opinion, is a pity.


In '99 in Carnegie Hall I conducted a 165 member chorus and orchestra in a
four movement piece for string quartet or string orchestra (optional piano)
called the 'Seasons'. It was a favorite of singers and the audience alike.
Each movement is connected with recited poetry for a more dramatic effect.
Each season is represented by a personality...Spring-The
Romantic...Summer-The Dancer... Autumn-The Painter...Winter-The Dreamer. It
is thick in texture but with accessible voice leading. It is published in
SSAATTBBB with Roger Dean. More information may be found on my web site by putting "Seasons' in the keyword search box on the
music page.

Since Carnegie, I have made changes in a couple tempos, rit. etc. Also, I
have a few corrections for the string parts (I had not seen the final
proofs.) :) I would be more than happy to send a complimentary CD and a
complimentary copy of the score and any changes with a mailing address.

How about Carl Orff's Carmina Burana.

It is hard to get more (a) secular, and (b) exciting
than that. It is scored for orchestra and chorus.

Or to be slightly more exact, 3 soloists (who are asked to do some rather
bizarre things!), chorus, chamber chorus (this may have been our
conductor's decision), boychoir or children's chorus, and orchestra with
greatly expanded percussion section. Great piece, though! For anyone
interested in checking out the text, a translation was (and may still be) on
the Dayton Philharmonic website.


Vaughan-Williams "In Windsor Forest."

The Wedding Chorus is fantastic...


Peter Sculthorpe - Child of Australia
Text by Thomas Keneally. Subject is geographically
specific (but then, so is a lot of the American
content on this listserv).

If you're *really* being adventurous,
what about "Sinfonia", by Luciano Berio? (Universal Edition)
or "Of Clocks and Clouds" by Gyorgi Ligeti (Schott?)
or "...agm..." by Harrison Birtwistle (Universal Edition)
or "Uaxuctum" by Giacinto Scelsi (Ricordi? Salabert? I'm not sure)
or the music for the "Orestiea" or "Medea" by Iannis Xenakis. (Boosey &
Home grown, we have "Harmonium" by John Adams (Schirmer?), and I think
Morton Feldman wrote a Chorus and Orchestra piece (maybe even calledthat).
Check with UE London on that.

All these were written, I think, in the 1960s or 1970s. There are quite a
few such marvellous pieces, rarely heard (because they're tough), and I am
sure there are more recent ones as well--big pieces by major composers--that
you could check in to, that need to be heard! Web Sites for all these folks
exist with works lists, and often with rental information.

OR, you could actually commission such a piece. Most or maybe even all of
the above were commissioned for some grand occasion or another. Come on...
be brave!!!

Vaughan WIlliams "Dona Nobis Pacem," a fabulous piece that is essentially
secular despite its title. Mostly Whitman, some Biblical texts. It's about
war and peace.


Geez. . .the possibilities are huge (so to speak). . .

Some of my favorites:

Holst: *Choral Symphony* (Novello)
Vaughan Williams: *Toward the Unknown Region* (Galaxy/ECS)
Hanson: *Song of Democracy* (C. Fischer)
William Schuman: *A Free Song* (G. Schirmer)

I have three pieces to offer, knowing full well you're probably going to be
inundated with music from emerging composers like myself:

*A Shakespearian Fancy* (1982) (on songs & scenes from Shakespeare's *A
Midsummer Night's Dream*) for SATB div., SSATTBB soli (all short except for
T1 [Puck]), 2d2-2d1-0-2/2-2-0-0, hp, cel, perc. (3 players), str. (min.
3-3-2-2-1). It has only been performed once and needs to be heard again (&
better rehearsed!!). c. 25 min.

*Of Arts & Elements* (1999) text by Charles Crawford--SATB div., 3 trpts (3
trb. ad lib), pno, perc (2-3 players), str (min 3-3-2-2-1), written for the
dedication of the new auditorium and performing arts wing of Radnor HS (my
alma mater outside Philadelphia)--text likens 3 performing arts (music,
drama, dance) to the medieval elements of air, fire, and water, with the
stage & building itself representing earth, with a goodly number of musical
styles to match the text content. Again, only one performance thus far. 17

Both works are available from me.

Hope this helps,
Robert Ross, Artistic Director
Voces Novae et Antiquae
Philadelphia, PA


I've seen a lot of interesting but often "more difficult" works posted.
For something interesting, and not thoroughly daunting, I would suggest
a piece that has been more than somewhat ignored:

Lukas Foss: "The Prairie"

I believe the text is poetry of Carl Sandburg. Years ago I had an LP
with Foss conducting Brooklyn Philharmonic and the chorus prepared by
Gregg Smith. This would be a superb work especially for a chorus
located in the midwestern heartlands.

It is an early Foss work, neo-classical in manner, written when he was
in his teens but hardly "juvenilia." (And it is quite unlike some of
his more difficult mature music -- like the remarkable "Time Cycle" for
soloist and orchestra (or chamber ensemble).)


I have composed some pieces for choir and instrumental ensemble. If you go
to the site, you can click on the browze, and click
on my name, scroll down to such pieces as "Momentous" and "Response", or
even "General's Ammunition". The best way to peruse the pieces is to
download the Scorch plug-in.

If you are interested in commissioning a special work for your choirs and
orchestra, I would be delighted to work with you.

Brenda C. Kayne

Don't think anyone's mentioned Holst's Choral Symphony yet
(though his Choral fantasy has received a mention). Scored
for Soprano solo, Chorus & Orchestra, it sets texts by Keats.

There are many English composers who wrote works like this.
One of my favourites is Arthur Bliss' Pastoral, "Lie Strewn
The White Flocks", for Sop solo, chorus & orch.

Adam Burdick
(360) 379-9482
on May 2, 2005 10:00pm
My Unitarian Church choir, a choir of about 60 singers just performed "The Armed Man", by British composer Karl Jenkins. It is one of the most immediately appealing to both audiences and choir alike, that I have ever done. The text is a graphic description of " Man's" relentless march to war, with texts taken from the Requiem, but also from the Moslem faith, some Hindu texts, and Hiroshima. It is incredibly easy, with tons of repetition, and scored for orchestra with a lot of brass and percussion which add enormously to the impact of the piece.Both the choir and the audience found it one of their most moving experiences ever.
on June 21, 2005 10:00pm
Contact info:
(914) 668-4718
on June 21, 2005 10:00pm
A New Oratorio, "Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock" will be available starting this Fall, 2005.
It is a full-lenght work for SATB and Orchestra with soloists.
Influences of Purcell; Swooping, sprightly harmony. The music is quite unique in style but carries the full range of choral expression from huge "Carmina Burana" or "Verdi Requiem" style chords and thunderings to the delicate, nuanced, glistening harmonies of the chorale and the flowing melodies of Brahms.

The music is in numbers, and a suite could be selected of any length.
2 hours, 15 minutes; with one intermission

"The New York Times": "The Rape of the Lock," a work in progress ... offered her adaptation of Pope's text clothed in wonderfully lush, intricate and contrapuntally energetic music. For me, she was the most pleasant surprise of the series. ... If Mr. Adamo succeeds in getting the word out across the country, perhaps more surprises like Ms. Mason will surface." ... John Rockwell

MIDI samples are available for scores - I hope you will enjoy it!
Deb Mason
on April 29, 2008 10:00pm
I need a midi Scelsi - Uaxuctum for my choir. Is it possible to get it anywhere? It's very important. Thank you for your ask.