Classic Anthems Every Church Choir Should Sing

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Some anthems are just classics.

They’re timeless - not bound by a particular era, not tied to a particular movement or trend in choral literature or church history, not limited to a particular style or context. Some anthems are able to transcend those things and fit equally well in a worship service today as they did 30 years ago.

So, I started taking notes.

The anthems on this list are drawn from my own choir experiences in Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregational churches. These are titles that have shown up in multiple church music libraries through the years - the ones that bring you back to all the times and places you’ve sung them before.

If you’ve been directing or singing in church choirs for a while, you know what I’m talking about.

You probably won’t find much that’s new or unfamiliar to you on this list; in fact, you probably know several of these titles already. But perhaps you’ll be reminded of one or two new things you can bring back to your choir this year.

Without further ado, here’s my list of 23 classic anthems. How many of these are in your church music library?

23 Classic Anthems for Church Choirs

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Alleluia (Randall Thompson)
SATB Choir, a cappella

A true choral classic. Randall Thompson wrote “Alleluia” in 1940 for the opening exercises at Tanglewood, the summer home of the BSO, held in Lenox, MA.

Ave Verum (W. A. Mozart)
SATB Choir with Organ + opt. String Quartet

A classic anthem, very appropriate for a communion Sunday.

Before the Marvel of This Night (Carl Schalk)
SATB Choir with Organ

An elegant, quiet Christmas lullaby-like carol, this anthem had a simple verse-chorus structure and beautiful text.

Brother James’ Air (Gordon Jacob)
SATB Choir, a cappella + opt. Strings

A simple setting of Psalm 23, set in strophic form. Also available for SSA and Unison choirs.

Come to the Water (Lynda Hasseler)
SATB Choir with Piano

A beautiful, powerful setting of John Foley’s song, based on Isaiah 55:1. Try singing it down a half-step in the key of A-flat major.

Draw Us In the Spirit’s Tether (Harold W. Friedell)
SATB Choir with Organ

Long, lyrical phrases and powerful text may this a very appropriate choice for communion, though it may also be used in general worship. Also available in SAB voicing.

Every Valley (John Ness Beck)
SATB Choir with Piano

A favorite for Advent, the text is drawn straight from Isaiah 40:4-5. Also available in SAB voicing.

For the Beauty of the Earth (John Rutter)
SATB Choir with Piano + opt. Orchestration

A delicate, dance-like accompaniment sets the tone for this well-known setting of the traditional hymn. Also available in 2-part (SA) and TTBB voicing. Orchestration available separately.

Gloria (Vivaldi/arr. Patrick M. Liebergen)
SAB Choir with Keyboard

From DIXIT by Antonio Vivaldi, this arrangement offers a great opportunity to teach your choir a classic from the repertoire and introduce singing in Latin (both versions of the text are printed in the score). Very accessible part-writing makes it great for smaller adult choirs, or even a youth choir.

God Is Our Refuge (Allen Pote)
SATB Choir with Piano and opt. C or B-flat Trumpets

A strong, powerful setting of Psalm 46, with rhythmic text-setting and accessible, singable melody.

God So Loved the World (John Stainer)
SATB Choir, a cappella

A timeless setting of John 3:16, very appropriate for Holy Week. Also available for SSA and SAB choirs.

Grace (Mark Hayes)
SATB Choir with Piano + opt. Orchestration

A creative pairing of John Newton’s text with O WALY WALY. Beautiful harmonies and rich piano accompaniment. Also available for TTBB and SSAA choirs. Full orchestration available separately.

Hallelujah Chorus (George F. Handel/arr. Hal Hopson)
SATB Choir with Organ

An Easter classic! Sing the original (in D major) from The Messiah, or try this “practical” version arranged by Hal Hopson, featuring a lower key (C major) and a slightly simplified organ part.

Here I Am, Lord (Craig Courtney)
SATB Choir with Piano + opt. Flute

A thoughtful arrangement of this well-known hymn, with a nice piano part and accessible choral-writing throughout.

I Will Sing With the Spirit (John Rutter)
SATB Choir with Organ + opt. Orchestration

With text based on 1 Corinthians 14:15, this light, lyrical anthem features a delicate soprano solo, lightly-syncopated accompaniment, interesting harmonic twists, and long, floating lines. Also available for SA with Piano. Orchestration available separately.

Lamb of God (F. Melius Christiansen)
SATB Choir, a cappella

Part of the St. Olaf Choral Series, this simple setting of a German chorale works particularly well during Lent and Holy Week.

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming (Praetorius)
SATB Choir, a cappella

The quintessential arrangement of this beloved Christmas hymn.

The Lord Bless You and Keep You (P.C. Lutkin)
SATB Choir + opt. Organ

This anthem is beautiful as a blessing, anthem, or benediction response. The sevenfold Amen at the end works well as a standalone piece of service music.

The Lord Bless You and Keep You (John Rutter)
SATB Choir with Organ

A delicate setting of Numbers 6:24, followed by a lovely sevenfold Amen (useful as a standalone piece of service music).

The Lord Is My Light (Craig Courtney)
SATB Choir with Piano

An accessible setting of Psalm 27, with driving accompaniment in the first and last sections and a contrasting lyrical section in between to offset a change in text.

The Lord Is My Shepherd (Allen Pote)
SATB Choir with Piano

A lyrical, expressive, and memorable setting of Psalm 23. Beautiful piano accompaniment and simple, singable lines throughout. Also available in a variety of voicings: 2-part, SAT, or SAB.

Offertory (John Ness Beck)
SATB Choir with Piano + opt. String Quartet

Based on Micah 6:6-8, this timeless anthem features a lyrical melody accompanied by the other voice parts and a short tenor or baritone solo in the middle section. It’s particularly appropriate during Lent. Also available for SSA and TTBB choirs.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (Gordon Young)
SATB Choir with Organ

A timeless and stirring setting of this hymn, perfect for Lent or Holy Week. With original text and tune, Gordon Young builds throughout the arrangement, leading to the final verse and a bold, strong ending.

Do you have a favorite (classic) anthem not listed here? Share below in the comments!