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Small, inexperienced University choir repertoire

Dear Listers,

Thanks to ALL of you for your helpful responses. You encouraged me. Here is a compilation for those who requested it!

First the original request:

Dear Listers,

What sacred repetoire works really well with a small, fairly inexperienced, choir (about 20 singers--only six or seven men). I'm filling in this year as director of a university choir that does not have a compelling history. The first semester went well because we combined this choir with the top choir and the university orchestra to perform Handel's "Messiah."

What works can I do (both smaller and larger) that would be successful and give the group a great feeling about themselves. I've been considering a theme of "Hope" and am planning to have them perform in a few area churches besides doing one main concert during the semester.

Also, if you have any ideas for boosting enrollment, I'd be grateful. I've been asked to return next year as well.

Janet Hostetter
Eastern Mennonite University
Harrisonburg, VA 22802

Now for the responses:
All of the Shaw/Parker settings of folk hymns and folk songs work well. I also like Wagner, Salli Terri, Robert DeCormier settings. Certainly they could do some of the simpler Renaissance motets of Victoria (Ave Maria) and Lassus.

Larger pieces such as Vivaldi - Beatus Vir, Magnificat or Mozart Te Deum work well too.

Mike Wade


Sounds as though you are a very sensitive conductor. I would look for some spiritual arrangements- there are so many wonderful settings out there- look for things published by Mark Foster. Also I would find some beautiful arrangements of hymn tunes- choose tunes that mean something to either your college or to your students. Lastly look at some movements from Haydn or Mozart works- they involve very little divisi. Also try putting them in a mixed formation for performance if they can do it they will feel terrifically independent and look and sound very professional.

Phillip Westgate
Dir of Choral Activities
Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, Alabama


I would approach your group in much the same way as I woudl approach a church choir. Variety and quality are the watchwords.

Some suggestions of specific repertoire:

Some of the Haydn Missa Breves (Little Organ Mass, etc.) work well for small groups. I also have used the Buxtehude "Jesu Meine Freude" with this sort of group. I've done it in English and German. (The work was originally SAB, but the Peters edition adds a tenor part.) I also wonder about some of the John Antes choral works (Moravian) [Go, Congregation, Go and O Come and Mourn With Me are exquisite Lenten anthems]. William Billings can also work -- Easter Anthem, David's Lamentation, I Am the Rose of Sharon, etc.

Best wishes,

Bill McConnell
St. Andrews Presbyterian College
Laurinburg, NC


I think your impulse to combine last semester was a good one, and I would
encourage you to do the same, but with a slightly different pairing -- if
you are looking for sacred lit, consider combining with a good church choir
in the area, for something like Faure Requiem, Rutter Requiem, Durufle
Requiem, Vivaldi Gloria, Schubert mass in G, any of the missa brevis of
Mozart or Haydn -- all are accessible, so it is not as if you are telling
your students that they are not good enough, simply not numerous enough this also is a really good thing for the students as well as the church
choir folk: collaboration. Both groups are freshly energized by the
experience, and you could do a home-and-home pair of performances (which
opens up more learning opportunities) -- I have done this both in Erie PA
and here in Durham NC, most recently a year ago, combining a residential HS
choir with my church choir for the Haydn Nelson Mass -- we even had the
orchestra primarily HS students -- no, it was nowhere near perfect, but it
was a blast and a HUGE positive in lots and lots of ways!

BTW, small stand-alone works for your choir: Clausen "Set Me as a Seal", or
"Even When God is Silent" (can't recall composer)

Blessings --

Dave Stuntz
Blacknall Presbyterian church
Durham, NC

I just got done doing Mozart's *Laudate Dominum* (from KV 339) and the
chorus from *Scande Coeli Limina* (KV 34, written when Wolfie was 10-11
years old) with my equally small and inexperienced community college
choir. I'm planning to do the *Ave Verum* and the *Alma Dei Creatoris*
next semester. these are all available from either Barenreiter or
Carus-Verlag. Both works require soprano soli, but the chorus parts are
just righgt for a group of this nature.

Hope this helps,
Robert A.M. Ross

Music Department, Community College of Philadelphia
Michael Haydn's (brother of Joseph) has works that are fairly accessible.
Look at Qui Sedes, Gloriosus Deus, Laetatus Sum, Benedictus Qui Venit


My church choir isn't much bigger than yours, and we have quite successfully presented several Mozart, Schubert and Haydn Masses, some Telemann cantatas, and there is quite a lot to choose from in the anthems of Tallis, Palestrina, Holst, Gibbons...great art but accessible. Vivaldi and Buxtehude have several shorter masses and similar works that may suit.

I actually think you can do quite a bit with a choir that size...good luck to you and Merry Christmas!

Nan Beth Walton

Tallis: If Ye Love Me, O Lord Send Thy Holy Spirit
Tye: Laudate nomen Domini
???: When Rooks Fly Homeward

But these all need competent singers on all parts,
maybe not what you are looking for, but usually
undergrads. love these pieces.

You can look also in my website

Giuseppe Mignemi
Via G. Grasso, 20
95013 Fiumefreddo di Sicilia (CT) - Italy

Eric/Janet Hostetter

on January 4, 2006 10:00pm
I find that many publications from Earthsongs work well att the college level.
Hope and Resolution is one example. The variety is astounding and will help your choir grow. Milt Scott
on January 8, 2006 10:00pm
You may want to try some of the smaller sacred concertos of Dietrich Buxtehude for SAB chorus.

Fred Irwin
Choral Faculty
William Paterson University
Wayne, NJ
on May 24, 2006 10:00pm
I would like to suggest "Four Carols" by Malcolm Hawkins. He is a New Hampshire composer and we did them at Keene State College. The students loved them and they are based on medieval poems. I highly recommend them!