choral music

A Quick Latin Pronunciation Guide for Church Choirs

A Quick Latin Pronunciation Guide for Church Choirs

Does your choir know how to sing in Latin?

There’s something sacred about singing an anthem in Latin, I think; it connects us back to our ancient roots, the development of church music centuries before us, and those that gathered to worship in those times and places.

The best part about singing in Latin? It’s made up of pure vowels. It’s great for singing!

There are two basic pronunciation guides for Latin: Italianate and Germanic.

11 Modern Choral Hymn Settings for Christmas

11 Modern Choral Hymn Settings for Christmas

Fall is in the air (literally, here in Rochester). The nights are cool, the pumpkins and mums are out, and Fall cups are back at Starbucks.

This can mean only one thing: it’s time to start listening to Christmas music. Naturally.

Every year around this time, I spend some time browsing online music catalogs and listening to a variety of Advent and Christmas anthems: seeing what’s new, discovering old favorites, and looking for inspiration (you, too?). Not necessarily because I need to buy something; perhaps more out of curiosity. 

In my recent perusing, I was struck by the number of traditional hymns and carols I found that have been reimagined and creatively set in fresh, modern ways. So, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you. I tried to include a variety of anthems in this list - most are SATB (some with divisi, others without), but there’s one SAB and one 2-part anthem in the mix, as well. Hope you find something you can use with your choir this year!

Whether you’re in the not-quite-done-with-my-Christmas-planning-yet camp or the I-could-use-a-little-seasonal-inspiration, I hope you enjoy listening to and browsing these modern hymn arrangements.

Free Music for Church Choirs

Free Music for Church Choirs

Maybe you’ve been there, or maybe you’re there now - the choir director who’s trying to piece together a music library on a shoestring budget with anthems that are interesting and relevant to your choir and congregation.

As we all know, music is expensive ($2-4 per octavo for most choral pieces) and there isn’t always room in the budget for those kind of expenditures throughout the year, especially if you’re looking to build a music library and purchase more than 1-2 new anthems per year.

The struggle is real.

But, there’s good news. Some music is free! That’s right. Music published before 1923 is in the public domain (in the USA), which means it is free to obtain and use. 

It can be a bit overwhelming to sift through all the music that’s out there, so today, I’m sharing a few of my favorite go-to resources for music in the public domain along with some anthem suggestions that might work for your choir.

Eight Podcasts for Church Musicians

Eight Podcasts for Church Musicians

Do you listen to podcasts? A podcast is a collection of digital audio files usually presented as a series of episodes and made available for streaming and/or downloading via the Internet.

Podcasts are a great way to learn, be inspired, and stay connected. Listen while driving, doing busy work (filing, sorting, numbering music, etc.), or taking a walk. I enjoy listening to podcasts in the afternoon while doing busy work or designing prints for the shop.

Podcasts have become more and more popular in recent years, with new podcasts coming out all the time on a variety of topics. Today, I'm sharing some of my favorites for choir directors and church musicians. Enjoy! 

Total Choir Resources

Led by choral directors Victoria Hopkins and Christine Mulgrew, Total Choir Resources offers tools, tips, and resources for choir leaders. Though geared to community or school choir directors, many of the materials are relevant for church choir directors, as well.

3 Tips for Playing Open Score (For Choral Accompanists Everywhere)

3 Tips for Playing Open Score (For Choral Accompanists Everywhere)

As all choral accompanists know, playing from open score is a fact of life. At one point or another, you'll likely find yourself sitting at the keyboard in front of a choral score with no piano reduction, forced to muddle your way through reading four lines of music at the same time. How can you prepare? What can you do to develop this skill?

If you have the opportunity to practice in advance, there are a few things you can do:

1. Practice systematically.

This is probably the most common piece of advice you'll receive, but careful, systematic practice is a helpful first step toward developing this skill and training your eyes to read four lines of music at once. Begin by playing each part individually - soprano and alto parts with your right hand, tenor and bass parts with your left hand.

Once you've played each part, practice them in all 2-part combinations: SA, ST, SB, AT, AB, TB. Again, try to keep SA parts in your right hand and TB parts in your left.

2015 Reading Session Picks

2015 Reading Session Picks

We had a great time at Lake Junaluska a few weeks ago for Music and Worship Arts Week! One of my favorite things about this conference is all the music we get to hear, read, and sing through, from choir performances to reading sessions to combing the pop-up music store.

Like last year, I thought it might be fun (and helpful!) to share a few of my favorite new finds from this year's reading sessions. Some of these are new titles, others are just new to me, but regardless, if you haven't heard these pieces, you're in for a real treat! SD and I are pretty careful with what we choose to keep and leave behind, and these are our favorites of the stack we brought home with us.

Enjoy!

Best-Kept Secrets of Choral Voicing

Best-Kept Secrets of Choral Voicing

Choral voicing is a technique with long-standing history used by choral directors to seat singers based on characteristics of the voice - color, tone, timbre, placement, and vibrato. Contrary to popular belief, this technique is not just for college and professional choirs. Try it at home with your church choir, community choir, and even children's choirs! It will be well worth your time.

Each voice has a unique series of overtones, which contributes to timbre (source). The ideal choral sound is based on overtone series that complement each other rather than clashing. Having singers with like, complementary voices stand next to each other creates a natural "blend" that does not require singers to compromise their vocal technique. Did I mention it fosters the best intonation? It's a win-win, really.

Here are some of the best-kept secrets of choral voicing:

Tips for Working with Middle School Youth Choirs

Tips for Working with Middle School Youth Choirs

Working with a youth choir can be a fun, inspiring, rewarding, and deeply meaningful experience.

As a director, you balance the responsibilities of building community, integrating service, sharing meaning, inspiring purpose, and fostering musical development.

But how do you approach musical growth and development for young voices? How is it different from working with children's voices or adult voices? What do you do when male voices begin to change?

Here are a few helpful tips for working with 6th-8th grade singers:

How to Create Instrumental Arrangements for Worship

How to Create Instrumental Arrangements for Worship

Have you ever needed an instrumental piece for worship at the last minute? If you've found yourself in this situation, then you know it can be complicated and time consuming to track down a piece that will work. Because, after all, you're not just looking for any piece of music; you're looking for something that fits the theme of the day, is the right length, is in the right key, is manageable enough to put together the morning of, and is easily accessible (i.e. downloadable or something you already own).

As someone who's been in this situation many times, I've come up with a quick and easy solution: creating instrumental arrangements from music I already have (choral octavos, solo piano music, hymn harmonizations, vocal collections, etc.). 

Immortal Love, Forever Full

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Well, it’s been quite a week. 

From productive meetings and back-to-back private students, two great choir rehearsals and my first full day at Fitchburg State, “stomping out fires” and a massive amount of email, it’s been exciting and a little overwhelming at times.  I am amazed at all of the music and teaching opportunities that are in front of me this semester but there are times when I feel incapable.  “How can I keep up with all of this?”  I ask myself.  Perhaps I need to read this post again?

Yesterday, I took a few minutes to review a few pieces before choir rehearsal.  I turned to one of our new pieces (my favorite anthem in the folders right now) – “Immortal Love, Forever Full” (arr. Kreider – listen here).  I was the only one in the Sanctuary and the church was quiet. . . it was so peaceful.  I relished the moment of solitude.  It became a moment of worship for me, playing there in the middle of the afternoon.  I read the words and let the meaning sink in.  A sense of calmness washed over me – just what my soul needed.  “Forever shared, forever whole, a never ebbing sea!”

Immortal love, forever full, 
forever flowing free,

forever shared, forever whole, 
a never ebbing sea!

Our outward lips confess the name
all other names above;

love only knoweth whence it came, 
and comprehendeth love.

We may not climb the heavenly steeps
t
o bring the Lord Christ down;
in vain we search the lowest deeps,
for Him no depths can drown.

But warm, sweet, tender, even yet,
a present help is He; 
and faith still has its Olivet,

and love its Calvary.

The healing of His seamless dress
i
s by our beds of pain;
w
e touch Him in life’s throng and press,
a
nd we are whole again.

The letter fails, the systems fall,
a
nd every symbol wanes;
t
he Spirit over brooding all, 
eternal Love remains.

- John Greenleaf Whittier, 1856