One of my favorite parts of going to music conventions (think ACDA, OMEA, and the like) is seeing the choral performances; not only are so many of the performing choirs fabulous, but their directors often have found creative repertoire choices that showcase the choirs’ skill sets in a memorable way. Additionally (though I’m sure you know this already) repertoire selection is one of the most important tasks that we choral directors take on, and I know we’re always looking for that next concert closer, or the perfect fit to the performance theme, or the next piece that will have the audience talking about it long after the performance is over.
Whether you are looking for a creative piece to incorporate in your choir’s repertoire for a conference performance, or just looking for something in a style that is a little more off the beaten path, we have found four pieces that stood out to us amidst the new compositions that we think could bring the house down for your concert.
Gaur Akelarre by Josu Elberdin
Spanish composer Josu Elberdin aims to write pieces that tell a story, and this is no exception. “Gaur Akelarre” tells the story of a coven of witches and warlocks preparing for the night, using energetic rhythms and interesting melodic leaps and harmonic passages. The piece begins in 5/8 time, and the use of both the non-traditional meter and dotted rhythms create a sense of instability in the listener, who cannot predict where the piece will go. The tongue-twisting text, liberal use of chromaticism, and use of dissonance and unexpected harmonic progressions makes this piece a showstopper.
Kaisa-isa Niyan by Nilo Alcala
Based on a popular children’s chant from the Southern Philippines, this fast, rhythmic piece from Los Angeles-based Filipino composer Nilo Alcala is sure to impress your audience. Challenging because of both rhythm and modality, the piece treats the voice in an almost “instrumental” fashion to start, establishing the tone of the piece with a driving ostinato pattern, contrasted by the soaring soprano line that follows. The piece concludes with rhythmic stomping, clapping, and shouting, making the piece even more unique.
Selene’s Boat by Don Macdonald
Using text by poet Allison Girvan, Don Macdonald’s new composition explores the power of the sea-wayfarer goddess “Selene” and her power to harness the moon’s influence over the tide. The atmospheric nature of the piece is established right away by the pitched percussion accompaniment, originally written for hapi or hang (though marimba, vibraphone, or harp would be excellent substitutes while maintaining the fantasy feel of the composition). The blurring of the rhythmic lines and breathy dissonances also create an ethereal, silvery tone, punctuated by the melody in the alto line.
Stone by Jacob Narverud & Ryan Main
I’m excited every time I see a Jacob Narverud piece cross my desk; he has done a great job of composing and arranging in a wide variety of styles and voicings and has done all of them well. Here, he and fellow American composer Ryan Main have set Robert Bode’s haiku in an “aggressive fusion of choral, electronica, and percussion forces which uses the latest digital sampling and non-traditional percussion effects (water gong, a combine disc blade, bowed crotales, stones, and scraped tam-tam).” The text painting is unmistakable here, as the fire and volcanoes are represented through the driving percussion accompaniment, accented rhythmic figures, and well-placed dissonances, and this would make an incredible opener or closer to your choir’s program.
We would love to hear your thoughts on these pieces, especially if you choose to perform them with your choir! For more information about these pieces and other recommendations, visit our website at www.stantons.com, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1.800.42.MUSIC, ext. 1.
About the Authors:
Alissa Ruth began working at Stanton’s in the summer of 2016. She is a former middle and high school choir director and holds a Bachelor of Music in Education degree from Capital University. She is an active choral singer in the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, as well as various choirs in the Columbus area, and she spends her free time running, doing yoga, cooking, and watching Netflix.
Jen Sper has been with Stanton’s since 2006. A former middle school and high school choral director, she holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music. An active choral singer and accompanist throughout the Central Ohio area, she also enjoys good food, running (to counteract the good food…) and the Muppets.