August 29, 2023

Choral music for Advent and Christmas

Choral music for Ordinary Time

Discover the right music for your choir with help from the Choral Review Service. Highlighting songs of varying difficulty, instrumentation and style, the Choral Review Service will introduce you to inspiring, seasonal choral works from respected liturgical composers three times per year. Below are just a few examples of the music within the Spring 2023 packet with titles for Advent and Christmas, plus a detailed description and insight on how to use each piece.

Hoy Ha Nacido el Salvador/Today the Savior Is Born to Us
Iván Díaz

Difficulty level: Easy/Medium
Voicing: SAT Choir
Instrumentation: Keyboard, Guitar, Assembly

This bilingual piece, equally effective in both English and Spanish, provides opportunity for use in bilingual Christmas liturgies and is sure to become a Christmastime favorite. Its lullaby-like melody feels like an instant classic. The text masterfully connects the birth of Christ to the salvation of mankind through his death and resurrection.

Hang Bê-lem/In Bethlehem
Hải Linh

Difficulty level: Easy/Medium
Voicing: Three-part Choir
Instrumentation: Keyboard, Guitar, Solo Instrument in C, Assembly

This beloved Vietnamese tune from Chung Lời Tán Tụng/United in Faith and Song is now available with arrangements for three-part choir, keyboard, guitar and a solo instrument in C. Equally effective in Vietnamese and English, the text extends an invitation to worship Jesus at the manger with a catchy melody that highlights the wonder and joy of Christmas.

Mary, the Daystar
Dan Schutte

Difficulty level: Easy/Medium
Voicing: SAB Choir
Instrumentation: Keyboard, Guitar, Flutes I & II, Bassoon, Assembly

Harmonically straightforward and melodically approachable, this new Marian piece for choir and assembly will be a valuable addition to your choir’s repertoire. The text of the verses masterfully uses linked couplets to highlight paired qualities representing Mary’s humanity and Christ’s divinity over its four verses. A memorable refrain reinforces their connection both in heaven and on earth.

Ave Maria
Feargal King

Difficulty level: Medium
Voicing: Soloist, SATB Choir
Instrumentation: Piano, Guitar

Entirely in Latin, this setting by Feargal King is accessible for moderately skilled SATB choirs, with mostly homophonic choral writing. The range of the solo line is approachable by either soprano or mezzo and is not vocally challenging. Sung entirely by the soloist the first time, the choral parts add warmth but do not distract from the soloist the second time through. The keyboard arrangement provides support and should be played with a delicate touch.

Soft the Evening Shadows Fall
Ephrem Feeley

Difficulty level: Easy/Medium
Voicing: SATB Choir, Descant
Instrumentation: Keyboard, Guitar, Violin, Assembly

This piece is a calming, yet harmonically intricate new Christmas offering from skilled composer, Ephrem Feeley. The beautiful text by Timothy Dudley-Smith invites us to reflect on the journey of Christ from the cradle to the cross as we renew our own spiritual journey. Though this piece has the gentle, rocking elements typical of cradle songs, it stretches the boundaries of the traditional carol through its use of innovative yet appealing harmonic progressions.

The Shepherd's Carol
Timothy R. Smith

Difficulty level: Easy/Medium
Voicing: SATB Choir, Descant
Instrumentation: Keyboard, Guitar, Assembly

In this octavo, Smith’s musical setting of Ridge’s text deftly captures the perspective of the shepherds who were visited by the angels heralding the coming of the Christ Child. Each of the five verses has three rhyming lines, the simplicity of which helps to underscore Jesus’s humble arrival at Bethlehem.

The Word Became Flesh
Orin Johnson

Difficulty level: Easy/Medium
Voicing: Three-part Choir
Instrumentation: Piano, Guitar, Flute, Solo Instrument I & II in C or B, Violin I & II, Assembly

Johnson’s “The Word Became Flesh” has an intriguing form, which leads to multiple performance options. After a quiet, almost prayerful intro for piano and guitar, the piece gradually builds: The three vocal lines can be sung in series, as an ostinato, or as a canon. It is suitable for choirs of all ability levels and is one of those welcome, complex-sounding pieces that comes together with little rehearsal time.

Divine Praises
Ross Caniglia

Difficulty level: Easy/Medium
Voicing: SATB Choir
Instrumentation: Keyboard, Guitar, Assembly

Fr. Ross Caniglia’s chant setting of the familiar Divine Praises has a timeless quality to it, enlivened by a modern harmonic sensibility. The Divine Praises are typically prayed at the conclusion of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. However, this chant could also be used at Mass, especially when the readings specifically address the act of worship. Set for SATB choir, it can easily be sung by a congregation, either accompanied or unaccompanied, while being led by a cantor or the entire ensemble.

Advent Introits
James Grzadzinski

Difficulty level: Medium
Voicing: SATB, Descant
Instrumentation: Organ

These introits deliver a refreshing take on the beloved hymn, VENI, VENI EMMANUEL, using the tune as the basis for the refrain, with a newly composed music for the verses—verbatim to the Roman Missal—one for each Sunday of Advent. While intended as a choral anthem, the refrain encourages assembly participation with its familiar melody, and the free, declamatory verses offer a moment of reflection in preparation for the liturgy.

Explore more music from this season's edition


Awake, My Soul, Awake [Octavo]

Daniel Partridge, Harry Hagan, James Quinn

Choral Review Service

These songs can be found in Choral Packet 105 from the Choral Review Service. Offering music for traditional and contemporary choirs, children’s voices and intercultural ensembles, the Choral Review Service is the best way to find something new for your choir and community.

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