Pick Six By:
Repertoire & Resources Chair for Community Choirs
University of Northwestern-St. Paul/Two Rivers Chorale
Arranged by Will Todd
Boosey and Hawkes M060124457
SATB and Piano
Best known for his choral works, particularly his 2003 jazz mass setting “Mass in Blue,” Will Todd is a British performer and composer whose music spans a variety of styles and genres. This iconic arrangement Amazing Grace was written for Andrew Earis and the choir of St. Martin in the Fields, London. It includes inventive harmonies, beautiful choral writing, space for piano improvisation, or even the addition of an obbligato instrument if desired. He includes a verse rarely heard in the U.S. or in other settings. In a sea of arrangements of Amazing Grace, this one beautifully stands apart.
Now I Walk in Beauty
Navajo Prayer ed. Gregg Smith (1931-2016)
G. Schimer, Inc. 50322060
SATB a cappella, percussion and flute optional
I first learned this ravishingly beautiful piece while working and recording with New York performance artist Meredith Monk, a devotee of the late American choral icon Gregg Smith. For Minnesotans’ reference, Gregg was “the Dale Warland of the East Coast” and another of the choral “redwoods” who have left us all too soon. Sung with just voices alone, or combined with Native American percussion or flute, this piece works well as a processional, a warm up, a group round, or concert piece and reminds us that “beauty is before me, above and below me.”
Gioachino Rossini ed. Kenneth Jennings (1925-2015)
Hinshaw HMC509 (in Italian and singable English transliteration)
also Carus Verlag 40.281/20 (only in Italian)
SATB and Piano
The great Italian composer Gioachino Rossini was most famous for his operas, but he also left a large body of sacred, vocal, piano, and chamber music. This amazing piece is named after the evening pre-dinner strolls so popular among Italians and speaks of the joys of nature, love, life, and singing. This edition by the late Kenneth Jennings, the late and great conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, also includes an English singing transliteration. The Italian is well worth the effort. The accompaniment is virtuosic, requiring an outstanding pianist. This is a worthy challenge for any good choir, delightful for audiences!
A Mighty Fortress
SATB and Organ
Dan Forrest is one of the most exciting young composers of his generation. Dan’s music has sold nearly two million copies, and is already firmly established in the repertoire of choirs in the U.S. and abroad. For those looking to commemorate the 500th anniversary (2017) of the Protestant Reformation “…this setting opens and closes with the blows of Luther’s hammer ringing through history; the piece itself works its way through Luther’s original Renaissance setting, Bach’s famous harmonization, and more modern treatment which nevertheless draws from Luther’s original melody and rhythms. Suitable for worship or concert settings, while never becoming unnecessarily difficult.” This piece is scored for organ and SATB choir with optional congregation involvement. Optional available accompaniments available for piano (compatible with any of the other options), or brass and percussion, or full orchestra and is also available for SSAA or TTBB choirs.
Richard Smallwood arr. Doreen Rao
Boosey and Hawkes 48020979
SATB (also available now in SSA)
No stranger to gospel music aficionados, Richard Smallwood is a Washington D.C.-based composer and performer, leader of the Richard Smallwood Singers. Grammy nominated multiple times, he won a Grammy and a Dove Award as producer on the Quincy Jones gospel project Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration. Total Praise was written in 1996, but this arrangement is a part of the Choral Music Experience series, published in 2010. The piece made its national “debut” in September 2015 at a White House performance for Pope Francis. It has been sung by choirs from around the world, including Jewish choirs. This piece is accessible to any good choir who can sing the style that lies “beyond the notes.” Here it appears in its purely choral version, but can easily be augmented and used together with a good soloist who knows the gospel style.
Ballade to the Moon
GIA Publications G-89071
SATB and Piano (also available in TTBB)
“…Come sing with me! The twinkling sky casts forth its tune: O must I leave thy charms so soon? I weep with joy beneath the moon.”
This is a relatively new piece by a young, emerging composer who clearly has an incredible gift and a distinctive compositional ‘voice.’ This piece features incredibly beautiful sculpted lines, evocative harmonies and rich word painting. This is truly “singer’s music” – music begging to be sung by any good choir and a worthy collaborative pianist. I look forward to hearing more from this composer’s pen.