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Looking for Choral Works based on late 19th-century American poets/authors

Hello all, and thank you in advance for your assistance.
For several years, I have wanted to do a program that involved another discipline on our campus. I am very excited about this "theme" and am looking for settings of texts of late 19th-century American poets/authors. A short list from one of my English department colleagues includes Thoreau, Longfellow, Poe, Wordsworth, Whitman, and Dickinson.
I would be pleased to hear of works that other members have performed based on this theme.
Monte Garrett
Monte Garrett, DMA
Director of Choral Activities
Howard Payne University
1000 Fisk St.
Brownwood, TX 76801
325.649.8503 - office
325.649.8945 - fax
Replies (31): Threaded | Chronological
on July 13, 2011 4:00pm
Dear Monte:
I've performed my "Paul Revere's Ride" (Longfellow) a number of times very successfully. Very popular with audiences. And it's been professionally recorded. Here's the sound link:
Let me know if you'd like to see a score.
John Biggs
on July 13, 2011 5:12pm
Monte:  I have 5 settings of 19th Century American poets:

      To a Locomotive in Winter, for unaccompanied SATB choir, 2001 (Duration: 6 min.)
A setting of the poem by Walt Whitman (1819 - 1892). A Project Encore selection.

     Song of the Mountains, for SSAATB choir with piano, 2004 (Duration: 6 min.)
A setting of text adapted from prose by American naturalist John Muir (1838 - 1914).

      The Tree, for unaccompanied SATB choir, 2003 (Duration: 3 min.)
A setting of the poem by American transcendental poet Jones Very (1813 - 1880).
Finalist for the 2011 Seghizzi International Choral Festival Composition Award.
      A Country Boy in Winter,for unaccompanied TTBB men's chorus, 2001 (Duration: 3:20)
A setting of the poem by American poet Sarah Orne Jewett (1849 - 1909).

      A Rainy Day, for unaccompanied SSAA women's chorus, 2001 (Duration: 4:15)
A setting of the poem by American poet John Brainard (1796 - 1828).
You may listen to recordings, read complete texts and view performance history on my website (  I would be happy to send you a perusal pdf score of any piece that interests you.  
on July 13, 2011 6:29pm
I have composed Amherst Requiem for soprano, chorus, children's chorus, and
orchestra.  The soprano sings poems of Emily Dickinson, while the choruses
sing the Latin missa pro defunctis.  Premiered at Stanford in Nov, 2008.
Two sections, Pie Jesu and I shall keep singing!,
have been published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing and William Thorpe.
Scores and recorded excerpts are on the websites of these publishers.
Emily's Day is a sequence of six Emily Dickinson settings for treble chorus SA and piano.
Three of them have been published by Hal Leonard.  Bits of scores and recordings:
Let me know if you care to receive scores and recordings.  Gotta get a website!
Brian Holmes
on July 14, 2011 3:46am
If the forces are there, might I suggest the Walt Whitman Requiem by Daron Hagen.  Vocally very beautiful, orchestration is full and solid, despite being penned for a smaller ensemble. This could easily be a main work for a concert. (I must disclose knowing the composer for quite some time)
A short piece, should you be able to find it is Robert Starrer's setting of Pain has an Element of Blank and If your forces are strong, even with a few super voices, there is the Bernstein setting of Israfael of Poe from Songfest (which I once did with choral forces).
Dr. Mark Jon Gottschalk
on July 14, 2011 5:16am
Hi Monte -- what timing.  Just this week I finished a new setting of the "Longfellow's Carol" text that has been set elsewhere in the Oxford "100 Carols" book.  It's SATB a cappella, about 4 minutes long.  While it's a Christmas text, it's also a commentary on war and peace, quite timely.  Chicago a cappella will be premiering it here in December.  I would be happy to share a PDF eval copy and MP3 playout if you like.  Just send me your e-mail address and we'll go from there.
all best,
Jonathan Miller
Chicago a cappella
home e-mail:  singwow(a)
mobile:  630-240-3073
on July 14, 2011 6:24am
I can recommend a wonderful setting by Canadian composer James Rolfe of Whitman's "Come, Lovely and Soothing Death", which we premiered and recorded in 2001.  It's written for SSAATTBB, so needs a fairly solid ensemble, but well worth the effort of learning.  Although I haven't been in touch with him in awhile, the email address I have for him is jrolfe(a)
Len Ratzlaff
University of Alberta Madrigal Singers
on July 14, 2011 6:31am
A very good resource for you might be Musical Settings of American Poetry compiled by Michael Hovland (ISBN 0-313-22938-4). It includes solo and choral settings.
on July 14, 2011 6:40am
Hi Monte:  I did not see anything about for what voicing.  I have a piece for SSAA by Sara Teasdale called "The Kiss"  It was sung at the TMEA 2008 convention. 
You can listen to it at:,  just click on listen
Thanks, and good luck
on July 14, 2011 6:47am
May I send / direct you to some compositions of mine:
Sea Pieces - three Emily Dickinson settings for SSA, commissioned and first performed by Canty, female voices of Cappella Nova of Scotland (
Songs of Love and Longing - five Emily Dickinson settings for SATB, written for Rudsambee of Scotland (  You can view (and purchase) the music and listen to MIDI files at   I have recordings of several of these pieces
I'd also recommend Emma Lou Diemer's settings of Dickinson, some of which are published by Treble Clef Music Press
Best wishes
Sheena Phillips
Choral Director and Composer
on July 14, 2011 6:48am
Dear Monte:
Emily's Songs (SATB, 4 minutes) is a setting of three Emily Dickinson poems. Please feel free to download a perusal score from this link.
Like all my choral scores Emily's Songs is self-published and choir sets are available for a licence fee from stamped master files.
There is also a recording of the premiere performance by Magen Solomon and the San Francisco Choral Artists downloadable from this link.
Please let me know if you would like to perform this work.
Christopher Marshall
on July 14, 2011 7:06am
I have written three pieces that meet your criteria. The works are The Garden of Dreams (SAATBB a cappella) based on a poem by Madison J. Cawein (1865-1914), Tears (SSAATTBB a cappella) based on a poem by Walt Whitman, and The Day Is Done (soprano solo, SSAATTBB and piano) based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. You may hear recordings of them on my profile page on this site, or by visiting the AUDIO SAMPLES page of my website. If interested, I would be happy to send you scores in pdf format for your review. Sounds to be an awesome event.
Best regards,
on July 14, 2011 7:11am
Monte - It seems that most American composers do settings of Dickinson at some point in their career.  Most are solo songs, but several are choral works: Ulysses Kay, Daniel Pinkham, and Libby Larsen all have pieces.  The award-winning contemporary composer Martha Sullivan ( has several jazzy Dickinson settings for a cappella chorus. The big Longfellow setting historically is Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's set of four Hiawatha cantatas, which were some of the most popular choral works in England early in the twentieth century.  Setting Whitman was a specialty of English composers trying to let their hair down up a  bit.  Medium-length works include Delius's "Sea Drift," Vaughan Williams's "Towards the Unknown Region," plus the three central movements of his "Dona Nobis Pacem," and Holst's neglected choral masterpiece, the "Ode to Death".  Excerpts from Hindemith's "Requiem" are also possible.  Another really effective Whitman piece is Jeffrey Van's setting of Whitman's war poems, "A Procession Winding Around Me".  You need a top-drawer classical guitarist to accompany, though, and the work is - deliberately - harrowing before it consoles.  The only Poe setting that comes to mind is Eric Ewazen's ( early setting of "The Bells," which unfortunately calls for a Les-Noces-like ensemble of two pianos and four percussionists (I think).  He may have a version for reduced forces, though. - Nathaniel Lew
on July 14, 2011 7:22am
I've written a Thoreau setting for SATB and cello, Walden Recessional, which was premiered at Walden Pond.  Full info, including performance MP3 and sample PDF, available at
I also have a setting of text by the Abolitionist essayist and editor Nathaniel Rogers for SATB, Then Shall Be Heard Music Here. It's a 19th-century text that addresses a lot of contemporary concerns.  Full info on this piece available at:
All best!
Jonathan Santore
on July 14, 2011 8:27am
     I have recently set Sidney Lanier's "Into the Woods My Master Went" for SATB chorus.  Be glad to send you a comp PDF file.
Bill Sherrill
on July 14, 2011 12:09pm
My piece, The Moth and the Fish Eggs, is a setting of an excerpt from Whitman's Song of Myself. You can hear a realization of it at
I am happy to send you a perusal copy if you are interested.
best wishes,
Anna Dembska
on July 14, 2011 2:47pm
Hi Monte,
Interesting project!  May I suggest my three settings of Whitman:
The Last Invocation (SSAATTBB; c. 4:30; short Whitman text of the same title; premiered in 1988 by the Westminster Abbey Choir)
Lilacs  (SATB divisi; c. 5:30; text from When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed; premiered in 2009 by the Springfield IL Choral Society)
The Mystic Trumpeter (SSAATTBB, trumpet; c. 12:00; text from Whitman's poem of the same title; premiered in 1997 by the Dale Warland Singers)
An audio sample of The Last Invocation is available on my website: <>  I would be happy to send you perusal scores; you can contact me at carol(a)
Good luck with your search,
Carol Barnett
on July 15, 2011
Please consider programming my setting of Longfellow's Nature - SATB & piano - 2008 - ECS Publishing #7432. Kindly follow this link to see a PDF of the score and hear a performance by the Philovox Ensemble, Robert Schuneman, conductor.
Thank you for your consideration.
Stanley M. Hoffman, Ph.D., composer
on July 14, 2011 7:13pm
Alwasy worth a look at In the text field put Dickenson, for instance, and see what comes up. Yo ucan search Dickenson and SATB (or whatever) to narrow it down.  Shakepeare will yield hundreds or maybe thousands of results, Thoreau probably not so many! (:-)
on July 15, 2011 12:16am
I second Carol Barnett's "The Last Invocation" -- !  A riveting otherwordly piece that I had the pleasure of singing while Carol was Composer-in-Residence for the Dale Warland Singers.  Really worth checking out!  If you have 3 minutes, you can listen to it here:
on July 15, 2011 6:30am
Ned Rorem's "An American Oratorio" is a 40-minute work of 12 movements for tenor soloist, chorus, and orchestra with texts by eight 19th-century American authors: Emma Lazarus, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Mark Twain, Sidney Lanier, Herman Melville, Stephen Crane, and Walt Whitman.  It was commissioned by the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, who premiered it in 1985.  It is available on a rental basis through Boosey & Hawkes.
on July 15, 2011 8:11am
You have many good suggestions here.  May I also add this one.  Valley of Silence for SATB chorus and small orchestra is based on the poem "Song of the Mystic" by Abram J. Ryan (1838-1886).  A few pages of the score and a recording of the premiere performance of this 18 min. piece are at this link too.  Good luck on your search.
Janet Lanier
on July 15, 2011 9:17am
Hello Monte,
If you go to you will find scores under 'Americana' and 'Settings - Lindsay' that may suit your purpose.
They are free to print down and use, although I retain the copyright.  If you decide to use any or all there is just one proviso, that you inform me where and when the pieces will be performed.  I will email you a formal approval for use to cover you in case that should be necessary in your country, as it is here in France. 
on July 15, 2011 2:13pm
I believe no one has mentioned the large choral work by Rachmaninoff "The Bells", a setting of a Russian translation of Edgar Allan Poe's poem of the same title.  The composer supposedly considered this to be his best work.
Richard Bloesch
on July 15, 2011 4:09pm
We just recorded a newly written arrangment of Walt Whitman's 'Come Said My Soul' for TTBB by Scott Kovacs.   It's in a very low register, but is an absolutely beautiful piece.  I found myself singing it under my breath for weeks afterward.
This piece is not yet published, but if you'd like a copy send me your contact info & I will forward it to Scott.

Christopher J McCafferty
Artistic Director, Illumni Men's Chorale
on July 16, 2011 4:14am
Dear Monte:
I have a setting of Snow-flakes by Longfellow for SATB and piano that is 3'30" long.
It was premiered on May 23rd, 2010 in Lenox, Ma. by Albany Pro Musica.  I'll be happy to send you an MP3 and pdf of the score if you'd like.
Steve Murray
on July 16, 2011 12:05pm
I have a few diverse pieces for diverse forces that may be of interest:
*Of Nature and Humility* (Double SATB or SATB + solo quartet; S solo [in addition to the quartet], a capp) Juxtaposes Psalm 131 in Hebrew and English against a sonnet by Henry David Thoreau
*The Time Draws Near* (SSAA, fl, hp or kbd; opt. hb) on a text by Tennyson
*Crossing the Bar* (SATB div., org) also on a text of Tennyson
*Blue Hills* (SATB div., piano) on a text by Charles Goodrich Whiting
I have engraved scores and recordings for the 1st two items. Please let me know if any of these look like they'd be of interest.
Robert A.m. Ross
on July 17, 2011 11:30am
The Thoreau portion of *Of Nature and Humility* is available as a separate work simply entitled *Nature* for SATB (some div.) and a short T solo, a capp.
Robert A.M. Ross
on July 18, 2011 9:33am
Hello again Monte,
Sorry.  The link I gave above requires a log-in.  I missed that, so apologies.  Below are links that should take you to the arrangements/settings.
Good luck!
on July 18, 2011 9:58am
Hi, Monte;
I have a setting of Longfellow's "I Breathed A Song Into The Air". It's SATB & piano, about 3:45. If you're interested, please contact me at kelvin7(a)
Kelvin McNeal
on July 18, 2011 10:51am
Monte -- Perhaps you would be interested in my setting of Longfellow's Snow-Flakes for SATB chorus and celesta (or piano).  Previous link is the recording with Vox Moderne on the ERM CD "Made in the Americas, Vol. 1."  This link provides more info.  Good luck, chris
Christopher J. Hoh
on July 19, 2011 10:14am
Remember that ACDA has had a collaborative effort with the Library of Congress to bring to light choral music from the post-Civil War years through (I believe) the very early part of the 20th century. There you will find choral music not only featuring the poets you are searching for, but also the composers who were their contemporaries. Go to the ACDA web page and poke around; you'll find it. John Silantien has presented sessions at most of the divisionals about this repertoire. All selections are in pdf format and are relatively readable...and free.  Good luck!
Galen Darrough
University of Northern Colorado
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