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July 3, 2014

Choral Music for the Season | July 2014

Choral Music for the Season

Two choir pieces to engage your choir

Something happens toward the end of the Easter season. Attendance in the choir becomes more sporadic. The commitment level has a tendency to drop off, forcing the choir director to choose music that works no matter how many choristers happen to make it that Sunday. One great way to keep the attendance strong until the end of the choir season is to program engaging music. Keeping the interest of the choir with a challenge has certainly proven effective in my experience. However, we also need to be realistic. A beautiful, sunny spring weekend can result in a tenor section with only three members. I can stress the importance of each singer to the overall sound—and the assembly’s worship—again and again, but programming music that is rewarding and just challenging enough makes them want and need to be there

Here are two wonderful choir pieces that will engross your choir and keep them coming back for more.

Angela Westhoff-Johnson

Angela Westhoff-Johnson
Managing Music Editor for OCP
and music director at St. Mary's Cathedral in Portland, Oregon


his beautiful choral selection has become somewhat of a classic. It is truly unique and a must in every choir’s repertoire. It is scored for a cappella SATB choir and, when necessary, the organ may quietly double the parts to give support. Although most choral pieces aren’t in verse/refrain form, “Restless Is the Heart” does give the assembly the opportunity to join in on the refrain. The verses of this piece must be sung with movement, freedom, and expression. Try challenging your choir to memorize the piece. If the eyes of the choir are out of the music, the necessary movement and expression will happen under passionate direction. I particularly love the triplet figures in the verses, effective and rousing when sung precisely. A wide range of dynamics and tempo changes gives this piece variety and appeal. The text, based on Psalm 90, is powerful and full of emotion when fully understood by the choir. Try using this text as part of the choir prayer beginning a rehearsal. “Restless Is the Heart” also works well at funeral liturgies, at times when the Scriptures present themes of longing for God, and when meditating after Communion.

Difficulty Level: Easy/Medium | Voicing: SATB

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O Taste and See - Anthony Doherty

A choir can never have too many settings of Psalm 34 in its repertoire, and I encourage you to add this one to yours. This homophonic setting, about one minute long, is well crafted yet straightforward and easy to pull together fairly quickly. The contour of the phrases is natural and intuitive; simply said, this piece sings itself and sounds more difficult than it actually is. The high point of this setting occurs as the choir ascends and crescendos to the text “Blessed, blessed are they” (notice that the masculine pronoun that occurs in many other choral settings is absent here). The anthem draws to a close in a quiet, contemplative way, which shows trust in the Lord. Scored for SATB a cappella choir, this beautiful piece is a valuable addition to your choir’s repertoire.

Difficulty Level: Medium | Voicing: No Assembly Edition, SATB, a cappella

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