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Your Top Hits? Quality, accessible sacred music

I'm curious what people might consider to be your top 3 or so sacred pieces that would be accessible for a typical church choir.  I'm presenting a workshop on choosing quality and accessible choral and solo repertoire for church singers and am looking for some new ideas.  Any thoughts you have would be more than welcome.  Thanks!
Replies (20): Threaded | Chronological
on October 10, 2012 10:11pm
Are you looking for church anthems (Joseph Martin, Mary McDonald, John Ness Beck, etc) or sacred "classical" literature (Bach, Mozart, Brahms, etc)?
on October 11, 2012 4:20am
Either would be fine.  If they are sacred "classical" then something that would be accessible to primarily amateur, untrained singers.  Church anthems are fine too.  Thank you!
on October 11, 2012 4:31am
Emily - Clay's question is particularly germane, since in the Roman tradition, while anthems are not eschewed, they are not as emphasized as in the (general) Protestant tradition.  A clarification of where you're coming from would be helpful!
on October 11, 2012 12:20pm
Sure.  I will be presenting a workshop on choosing quality and appropriate repertoire for church choirs and soloists.  The people attending will primarily be church choir directors and organists, whether they come from the Protestant or Catholic traditions, I do not know.  I am a choral singer and conductor as well as a voice teacher but have not worked with church choirs, though I have sung in them on occasion over the years.  I am aware of the standard choral repertoire but the realm of church music is less familiar.  I am simply looking for some gems that we could potentially look at together and discuss.  I'd also love to help people to discover some new, well-crafted pieces of music for use at their churches.  I realize this question is quite broad and may make it difficult to answer.  I'm just looking for the pieces that immediately come to mind as being accessible, satisfying to perform and effective for worship.  Thank you for any help you may be able to offer. 
 
on October 17, 2012 6:50am
Hi, Emily.  Though you've already spent a good deal of space clarifying what you're looking for, perhaps one more clarification would be helpful.  Your post above says you're looking for "new, well-crafted pieces" for church choirs, yet your original post says "top 3."  If people chime in with their top 3, they're not likely to be new pieces.  And consider also that if you're presenting at a workshop for church musicians who may have likely gone to other workshops, they may be familiar with many of the "top 3" that are suggested by people on this list.  If you're hoping for anthems that your workshops participants may not be familiar with, then I think that going for the new anthems might be the better way to go.  Exceptions to that might be an obscure "gem" that may be old but hasn't been widely used of late.  
 
Good luck with your search.
on October 18, 2012 4:53am
My apologies - I meant new to me and if they happen to be widely unknown, even better.  Thank you for asking me to clarify.  My presentation is still in process.  It is looking as though I will choose a few pieces to evaluate as a group to support the information that is being presented so that the information can be applied.  It will not be the end of the world if the participants already know the piece, but if they encounter a new piece that they could use, even better!
on October 11, 2012 7:28am
What liturgical seasons?
on October 11, 2012 12:21pm
No specific preference, but we are coming up on Advent, so if that is what is fresh in your mind, great.
I will be presenting a workshop on choosing quality and appropriate repertoire for church choirs and soloists.  The people attending will primarily be church choir directors and organists, whether they come from the Protestant or Catholic traditions, I do not know.  I realize this question is quite broad and may make it difficult to answer.  I'm just looking for the pieces that immediately come to mind as being accessible, satisfying to perform and effective for worship.  Thank you for any help you may be able to offer. 
 
 
on October 12, 2012 2:06pm
Hi, Emily, 
 
Many of our church music colleagues will be interested to know that Musica Russica has a number of sacred titles in English, as part of our Orthodox Music Press series. Some of these are adaptations of works originally composed by Russian composers, while others are new, recent compositions in English. Since the texts come from the ancient Eastern Orthodox tradition, they all work in very well in a variety of contexts -- as anthems, as communion hymns, as seasonal pieces (e.g. Lessons and Carols). For Advent, I call your attention in particular to
 
 
 
 
 
Sergei Rachmaninoff - Virgin Mother of God, Rejoice (the well-known "Bogoroditse Devo/Ave Maria" from Vespers)
 
Vlad Morosan
 
on October 13, 2012 4:43am
Thank you for your thoughts.  What a wonderful treasure trove of material!
on October 13, 2012 9:48am
Certainly 3 of my top 5 would be:
 
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross - arr. Gilbert Martin
My Eternal King - by Jane Marshall
Wondrous Love - arr. Paul Christiansen
 
                             t
Applauded by an audience of 1
on October 13, 2012 1:22pm
My arrangement of Holst's Thaxted tune with All Glory, Laud and Honor has been very popular with choirs:
 
Also popular, Father, We Thank Thee:
 
And, my setting of All Good Gifts:
on October 13, 2012 5:37pm
"Springs In The Desert," Arthur Jennings.
 
"Home On That Rock," good old Kirby Shaw.
 
"Hymn," Stan Dewitt.
 
Perhaps not the musical sine qua non.  But pretty good music that my choirs and i enjoy singing, the congregation values hearing, and that fit with particular liturgical passages.
on October 20, 2012 11:32am
Also consider:  Offertory by John Ness Beck (Beckenhorst).  A stately and very accessible setting of the text from Micah.
on October 20, 2012 1:28pm
Hi Emily,
 
My friend Karissa composes almost entirely within this medium.  She arranges traditional melodies and composes original anthems as well.  Everything she writes is highly accessible for any church choir, and you can always count on her quality and innovation.  If you'd like to contact her, her email is karissa.dennis(a)farmingtonlutheran.org.  She's fabulous to work with, and would be a great connection for any church choir director out there.
 
I composed one anthem that's sold over 6000 copies in under a year.  You can check it out here:  
 
Hope this helps!
 
Andrew
 
on October 23, 2012 5:37am
Hi Emily,
 
Let Everything that Hath Breath - Jeffrey Ames
Alleluia - Ralph Manuel
Thy Will Be Done - Craig Courtney
A Mighty Fortress - arr. Mark Patterson - have done this with Youth choirs but would be excellent for a smaller adult choir.
 
Lois Reese - Director of Music Hilton Presbyterian Church, Newport News, VA
on October 23, 2012 6:01am
Sing to the Lord a New Song by Robert Lau - chosen as the lead anthem for the 2011 ACDA National Convention for Music and Worship Reading Session - great piece - uses both multimeter rythmn and lyrical lines to express the Psalms (148-150).  Moderate range for all vocal parts - can be easily learned in one or two rehearsal - spirited ending w/ a descant for the sopranos - all ages enjoy this piece - I would highly recommend it.  Click on the title to view the music and listen to a sample audio.
 
Bread of Heaven by David Ashley White.  In this Eucharistic anthem, Dr. White has so beautifully chosen a range, a text (by Josiah Conder) and harmonies to weave together a beautiful tapestry appropriate for communion.  As a singer myself, this is one of my favorite anthems.  Again, this can be learned in one or two rehearsals and the anthem has certainly stood the test of time and continues to be at the top of our "best selling" list.
 
Thou, O God, Art Praised in Sion by Malcolm Boyle.  This is by no means intended to be "last" on my list.  This large English cathedral anthem, reconstructed from the composers manuscripts by the late Dr. George Guest of St. John's College, Cambridge, England, is one of the finest in the choral repertoire.  If you have the forces, church and organ that can handle this piece - DO IT!!
on October 24, 2012 11:57pm
Hallo Emily, 
three of my favourite sacred pieces:
Edward Elgar, Ave verum 4 mixed voices with organ
Lorenzo Perosi, Neve non tocca (a motet dedicated to Mary) - 4 mixed voices a cappella
Anton Bruckner, Locus Iste - 4 mixed voices a cappella
Hope you like them, too
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