I know, I know. It is bad enough that stores start carrying back-to-school items in July or that a certain TV channel shows Christmas movies for over a week in the summer. But here on ChoralNet, too? Listen, we choral directors have to plan! For some, rehearsing holiday music can begin as early as September, and, whether or not many of us want to believe it, that is not too far away. So this week I am sharing a handful of Christmas and Winter-themed pieces that are highly accessible to your choirs.
The first is a rousing SATB piece by Christopher J. Hoh, “Come Now and Celebrate”. If you are in a situation where religious texts in December are frowned upon, this is an excellent choice for you, as it marks the festivities of the season but no holiday in particular. Hoh writes largely diatonic melodies and harmonies in the voices, allowing the piano accompaniment to handle any kind of surprise chord progressions below. Ranges for all voices are very modest, and the piece include sections for unison, two-part, and full four-part singing. This piece might serve as a great opener for a concert. Published by HohMade Music, “Come Now and Celebrate” may be found here.
“This Winter’s Night” by Brian Tate is for SAB choir and contains a number of teaching concepts. The piece travels between 3|4 and 6|8 meters as well as between F minor and A-flat major, so there are many opportunities to explore these relationships with your singers. The text also provides ways to work on vowel and diphthong formation and syllabic stress. Beyond all of this, the piece is simple (there is a lot of canonic repetition) and yet hauntingly beautiful. “This Winter’s Night” is published by Hal Leonard and can be found here.
The next piece is “A Spotless Rose” by Bryan L. Greer. Set for SATB and piano (or small orchestra, the parts of which are sold separately), this lovely modern setting of a classic text would be perfect for a modest-size church choir. As in many church anthems, there are sections for unison treble voices, unison bass voices, some two-part sections, and some four-part (with a tiny bit of divisi at the very end). The piece is completely diatonic but features many exciting dissonances and interesting intervallic movement. Perhaps you love the text but cannot pull off the famous Herbert Howells setting (don’t we all wish we could?); Greer’s setting is exceptional in its own right and an excellent program choice. It is published by Hinshaw and available here.
Last on this week’s list is Vijay Singh’s gorgeous “A Glimpse of Snow and Evergreen” for SATB choir. The many meter changes here indicate an emphasis on the text—a simple but elegant word painting of exactly what the title states. Singh writes many dissonances that are voiced in such a way that make them quite easy to sing, allowing instead for work on phrase shaping, dynamics, careful intonation, and musical expression. The ranges are accessible for most singers, with a couple of exception notes in the bass part. I have performed this piece with both high school singers and adults, and it was well-loved both times. “A Glimpse of Snow and Evergreen” is published by National Music Publishers and can be found here.
What are some of your favorite accessible pieces for Christmas or Winter? Please consider sharing in the comments, and, as always, feel free to e-mail me ideas for pieces you would like to see featured in “Music Within Reach” at .
Brandon Moss is a choir director, teacher, and composer/arranger living and working in Central Ohio. He teaches at Central Crossing High School, directs the Chalice Choir at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, and serves in leadership roles with the Ohio Choral Directors Association and the Ohio Music Education Association. He is currently working on the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Conducting at The Ohio State University.