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SSA challenging repertoire

Dear Friends,
I'm looking for some 'challenging pieces' for my youth choir Rondinella: upbeat, tempo changes, rythmical, effects,...
Can be a capella or with piano.
Any way: scores to work on, scores with a 'story'.
Can someone help me?
Rudy Van der Cruyssen
Rondinella Knokke-Heist
on February 29, 2012 7:19am
Dear Rudy,
I did an arrangement of the Scottish song 'The Dens of Yarrow' for a choir in New Zealand some time ago. The song is very sad - it tells the story of a young girl who's love is killed in battle. After searching for him for a long time, she gives up hope and commits suicide!! In spite of this tragic story ending the song is very melancholy yet quite lovely.
It's scored for SSA and Piano. If you are interested let me know and I will send you a copy.
Best wishes
Stuart McIntosh
on February 29, 2012 9:13am
You might be interested in my two-minute piece, SA but with divisi, "How they brought the good news by sea," on a delightful poem of Norma Farber, composed Canberra 1982.
The work has been sung dozens of times over the years, chiefly in concerts directed by my close colleague Klaus Lyngbye, music director of historic Søllerød Kirke near Copenhagen,
by his several girls choirs  (though I imagined it for boys).  It's a trope on the nativity story, filling in the lost account of how the creatures of the sea managed to 
see the nativity, even though craning their necks, etc. Rather humorous. 
Also, I have written two  works for SSAA, a Magnificat in F (6:30 - difficult); and a setting of Henry Vaughan's (1622-1695) "Peace" (4:30 allegro, very difficult) in a style similar to
"white gospel" hymnody of the late 19th C.  Neither has been performed. Let me know of any interest, and I will send you PDFs from the Sibelius scores. 
on February 29, 2012 10:07am
Have you checked Musica, the worldwide database of the choral repertoire?
On its website , you will especially find a feature called "Favorite piece of the month". The archives of this feature go down to 1998, and you will find there for sure a piece fitting your needs that was, during a full month, "THE" piece that any conductor should take with him to a lonesome island. Musica is varying each month the genre, the choir setting, etc... in order to have pieces adapted for all kinds of choirs.
For you, I am thinking, for instance, on "On suuri sun rantas autius" , the favorite piece of November 2003
All presentations are with buttons for text, translation, pronunciation, audio file or even video for the most recent ones.
Good visit,
Jean Sturm
on February 29, 2012 2:57pm
Dear Mr. Van der Cruyssen:
Here's a recent publication from Brichtmark Music, for two-part equal voices, accompanied:  we think
it may fill your request:
'Tis Ivan, on a visit, by Jeffrey Bishop
A sequence of palindromes, tongue-twisters, a word square,  anagrams, which travels through
musical styles from Ars Nova to the present, and back again.  Stage action is suggested, and
letter-cards are part of the action.
Will be glad to send a complimentary copy for you to consider.
Brichtmark Music, Inc./S.Brailove
on March 1, 2012 3:08am
Hi Rudy,
I suggest you to give a look at my "Wah-bah-dah-bah-doo-bee!". You can look it here with Coro Calicantus, the children's choir where I am composer-in-residence.
1) During the World Symposium in Copenhagen
2) During a concert in Switzerland   better audio and video quality
The piece is published by Ferrimontana.
It has a story: I wrote it for a very good friend that died during the composition process. I've written a note for the composers explaining what happens during the piece.
It is a very challenging piece. And very funny, even though it has a very sad story in it.
The other piece is "Great Spirit", a setting of two poems by Native Americans, a very moving text. And very TRUE, nowadays.
It's published by Alliance Music Inc. for North America and Ferrimontana for the rest of the world.
Well, enjoy and have a nice day!
music composer
on March 1, 2012 4:46am
Hi Rudy!
Look at Gwyneth Walker's works - especially, "I Thank You God," "Crossing the Bar," or "Tree of Peace."  All fabulous to sing and just fantastic works all around!
on March 1, 2012 5:28am
I highly recommend Stephen Hatfield for a wide range of challenging and exciting pieces.  One with a narrative that I have used is Barb'ry Ellen.  La Lluvia is also great fun. Both published by Boosey & Hawkes.
Check out Marg Hall's exciting arrangement of the Scottish ballad Rare Willy Drowned in Yarrow published by Canasg Music.
I would also be delighted to send you perusal PDFs of a couple of pieces of mine:
- The Earth Is Turning (SSAA a cappella) slow chant building to up-tempo dance
- Seascape (SSAA piano) final movement of a four-part suite entitled The Ocean - wind, waves, rocks, gulls, etc!
Sheena Phillips
on March 1, 2012 5:36am
Gwynneth Walker's Six Songs for Women's Voices are fantastic.  Very challenging.  Love is a Rain of Diamonds, Women Should Be Pedestals, I Will Be Earth are a few of the titles.  Women Should be Pedestals poem might be a bit "mature" for high school/youth.  You can find them on " You Tube".  They really are beautiful.  Her other piece for women that is spectacular is called "Crossing the Bar".
Catherine Nesbit
Scarborough Singers
on March 1, 2012 6:30am
Rudy: I have a fun piece called  Lolly Too Dum Day that tells a story has solos with choir. Send me e-mail and i will send a copy.
Jerome Malek
on March 1, 2012 7:10am
Canasg Music can offer:
Full fathom five - a setting by Philip Wood of words from Shakespeare's The Tempest. SSA. 2m00s.
Sweet sleep - 'Sweet smiles, in the night, hover over my delight...' A mother wishes sweet dreams for her happy child even though she herself, we find out at the end, is weeping. Words by William Blake from 'A Cradle Song', music by Sheena Phillips. Alto voices form a rocking underlay in 5/4, singing different fragments of the verses, while the soprano line arches above, alternately working with and pulling against the underlying rhythm. SSAAA. 3m 00s.
A set of fifteen Ukrainian Christmas/New Year carols - traditional (words translated into English), arranged by Vladimir Morozov. SSA. 40m 00s if you sing the whole set end to end. This is a sequence of traditional carols such as might have been sung by a party of singers going from house to house. Some focus on the Christmas story; others are wholly secular — flattering, flirtatious or wheedling to extract the best of hospitality from their host. The last number is the original of the well-known Carol of the Bells, but with the authentic words it has nothing to do with bells and indeed is a New Year rather than a Christmas song.
Rare Willy drowned in Yarrow - Marg Hall's setting for the Hadley Court Singers of an old Scots ballad. SSA. 2m 00s. Willy has been murdered by his lover's brothers, or perhaps he simply stayed too long with her and could not get safely through the rising river on his way home.

What shall we do with a drunken sailor - A lively arrangement of a toe-tapping sea shanty, by Douglas Cook. SSA. 1m 30s.
Follow the links for more information, including links to free downloadable PDF perusal copies of the music.
We sell music in PDF format for you to print yourself, with a licence to print as many copies as you need, as often as you need, for the use of a single group of singers. We charge modest prices which depend on the size of the group. You can find all the details on our web site.
on March 1, 2012 7:37am
You might like to consider my "Coyote" for SSA, a setting of a somewhat mysterious and magical Pima Indian text. Upbeat, changing rhythms, some extended vocal sounds. You can listen to it at and if you like it, please contact me for a perusal pdf.
Best wishes,
Anna Dembska
on March 1, 2012 8:10am
Have you looked at the Holst Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda?  He wrote several groups of these.  "To Agni" (God of Fire) [no2 in group 2] sounds exactly like the kind of piece your're looking for--quick, lots of metrical shifts---REALLY exciting.  With piano.  Published by ECS is believe.   
on March 1, 2012 8:30am
Dear Rudy,
Take a look at "Still I Rise" by Rosephanye Powell (Gentry Publications JG2346).  It is scored for SSAA with soloist, accompanied by piano (other instruments can be added as well if desired).  It is an uptempo gospel style piece that is not difficult note-wise, but requires singers that can be effective in singing syncopation.  I'm using it as the closer on a program later this month with my (SSAA) Chamber Choir and the girls are enjoying it.
NOTE:  This is not a setting of the poem by Maya Angelou.  Dr. Powell wrote both the music and text.
Thanks for your request.  This is a good way for us to discover new literature.
Richard Householder
on March 2, 2012 4:48am
Joshua fit the Battle, Santa Barbara Music Publishing -
on March 3, 2012 8:46am
Here's a few more:
on March 3, 2012 1:50pm
Three Hungarian Folk Songs - Matyas Seiber
Francis Poulenc - Petites Voix
Alleluia - Diemer
for a start.  Also any of the many Bartok and Kodaly folksongs.
on March 3, 2012 3:41pm
I have an SSA piece out with Shawnee Press called the WOOD DOVE that has a story of a woman scorned.  Each part takes the melody at one time or another.
Best of luck,
Cathy DeLanoy
on March 3, 2012 8:58pm
Hello, Rudy:
You can check out my SSA/piano "Gordon Magnificat" on YouTube, with Dr. Nancy Menk conducting the Saint Mary's College Women's Choir, at the following link:
Let me know if this interests you -- and best of luck with your Rondinella programming!
Melinda Bargreen
on March 3, 2012 10:17pm
Dear Rudy,
Elektra Women's Choir (from Vancouver, Canada) has an online resource of all the rep (more than 400 compositions and arrangements) we've done over our first 25 years here:
Some of the pieces have 30-second sound files.  Hopefully you will find something new there fhat interests you!
Specifically to your question, I would suggest:
Orban - Mass No. 6 - the whole thing is brilliant but the Gloria is particularly upbeat and rhythmically invigorating 
MacIntyre - Ave Maria - a cappella - amazing piece - the story is told on our website:
Betinis - From Behind the Caravan - 13 minutes, five movements, of which nos. 1, 3, and 5 are up tempo
All the best,
Morna Edmundson, Artistic Director, Elektra
on March 4, 2012 6:38am
Mulligatawny Macbeth or Three Hags' Haggis by John Govedas
Wing Away by Joan Szymko
Der Brautigam by Brahms
Hotaru Koi by Ro Ogura
Sigh No More, Ladies by Clifton Noble Jr.
Song of Perfect Propriety by Carol Barnett
on March 4, 2012 10:09am
Dear Rudy,
I'd like to suggest two "challenging pieces" for you to consider for your youth choir, both by the well-regarded American composer, Richard Toensing,
Lux ex Nocte (Light Out of the Night), sets three sacred Latin hymns and uses both the music and the text to express the emotional contrast and conflict between light and darkness. The score calls for two SSA choirs, marimba, and vibraphone.
Magnificat, for four-part women’s choir and harp, is a unique blend of the Christian East and West traditions.
Magnificat, Part 1,
Magnificat, Part 2,

While both works are quite challenging, they are extremely beautiful and rewarding to perform. Please let me know if you have additional questions and would like to purchase scores.
Janet Braccio
Bella Voce Communications
on March 5, 2012 5:28am
Check out Jackson Berkey's catalog. If you aren't familiar with him, he is principal keyboardist of Manheim Steamroller. His works are amazing.
You will NOT be disappointed!
Phil Micheal
on March 5, 2012 5:52am
The most challenging SSA piece I know is Francis Pott's "Nunc Natus Est Altissimus" (Novello, 1988), written for the boys of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, but first performed complete by Oxford Girls' Choir, directed by the composer.  An utterly spell-binding work, but not for the faint-hearted...
Richard Vendome
on March 11, 2012 9:38am
John Carter has a wonderful arrangement of "Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?" for SSA with most of the characteristics you asked for. It is older and may be out of print but I know from experience that if the rights have reverted to him, he is very generous in allowing permission to copy.
on March 12, 2012 10:42am
"Hold On' (Spiritual) by Clifton Noble is fantastic !  It fits your description.   I have never known a group or an audience not to love it - and it has complex structure that flows - making it challenging, but not weary-ing.  (Dr. Norma Raybon of Spellman College fame introduced me to it.  Generally, she will only do pieces "that are stellar".  ;)
Also, "Balm in Gilead" from Thoughts and Remembrances by Jackson Berkley [SGD Press] , though more pensive, is one of the most inspired and beautiful arrangements I've ever heard.
on March 13, 2012 8:36pm
Go Where I Send Thee  -  arr. Caldwell/Ivory
Hosanna in Excelsis - David Conte (ssaa a capella)
Mundanzas _-Oscar Escalada
Echoing Green - William Mathias
Life Has Loveliness to Sell (piano, horn accomp.) - James Mullholland
A Far Island/A Gentle Visitation - Ned Rorem (lovely, hope it is still in print)
Os Justi - Eleanor Daley
Six Songs of Early Canada - arr. Donald Patriquin (folk "stories")
on March 14, 2012 8:19am
Challenging;  however, worthy of the effort:
Amy Beach: The Chambered Nautilus (Oliver Wendell Holmes) stunning piano or orchestral accompaniment
Donald Patriquin: Magnificat (a capella)
Rebecca Clarke: Chorus from "Hellas" (Shelley) (a capella)
on March 15, 2012 5:28am
No Worst There Is None Pitched Past Pitch of Grief(JMHopkins) ssaaaa by Harold Brown.
Listen & download PDF at :
on March 15, 2012 8:03am
   There are a lot of tremendous SSA pieces and many of them have been listed in the previous replies. Here are a few more suggestions...
Sanctus - Ron Jeffers (a cappella) one of the best pieces I have ever performed (wide vocal range, intense harmonies, and intricate rhythms)
Hosanna - David Conte (a cappella)
In Praise of Music - David Conte (piece in 3 sections and difficult piano part)
Elijah Rock - Clifton Noble, Jr. (fun setting of this tune juxtaposed with another spiritual and includes a section involving rap which audiences loved)
Hodie Christus Natus Est - Richard Nance (double choir a cappella)
Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down - Paul Caldwell and Sean Ivory (can be done with sign language)
Hope these help.
Mark Stamper
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