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A choir ( // ; also known as a quire, chorale or chorus) is a musical ensemble of singers. Choral music, in turn, is the music written specifically for such an ensemble to perform. Choirs may perform music from the classical music repertoire, which spans from the medieval era to the present, or popular music repertoire. Most choirs are led by a conductor, who leads the performances with arm and face gestures.
A musical ensemble, also known as a music group or musical group, is a group of people who perform instrumental or vocal music, with the ensemble typically known by a distinct name. Some music ensembles consist solely of instruments, such as the jazz quartet or the orchestra. Some music ensembles consist solely of singers, such as choirs and doo wop groups. In both popular music and classical music, there are ensembles in which both instrumentalists and singers perform, such as the rock band or the Baroque chamber group for basso continuo and one or more singers. In classical music, trios or quartets either blend the sounds of musical instrument families or group together instruments from the same instrument family, such as string ensembles or wind ensembles. Some ensembles blend the sounds of a variety of instrument families, such as the orchestra, which uses a string section, brass instruments, woodwinds and percussion instruments, or the concert band, which uses brass, woodwinds and percussion.
Classical music is art music produced or rooted in the traditions of Western culture, including both liturgical (religious) and secular music. While a more precise term is also used to refer to the period from 1750 to 1820, this article is about the broad span of time from before the 6th century AD to the present day, which includes the Classical period and various other periods. The central norms of this tradition became codified between 1550 and 1900, which is known as the common-practice period.
Medieval music consists of songs, instrumental pieces, and liturgical music from about 500 A.D. to 1400. Medieval music was an era of Western music, including liturgical music used for the church, and secular music, non-religious music. Medieval music includes solely vocal music, such as Gregorian chant and choral music, solely instrumental music, and music that uses both voices and instruments. Gregorian chant was sung by monks during Catholic Mass. The Mass is a reenactment of Christ's Last Supper, intended to provide a spiritual connection between man and God. Part of this connection was established through music. This era begins with the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century and ends sometime in the early fifteenth century. Establishing the end of the medieval era and the beginning of the Renaissance music era is difficult, since the trends started at different times in different regions. The date range in this article is the one usually adopted by musicologists.
A body of singers who perform together as a group is called a choir or chorus. The former term is very often applied to groups affiliated with a church (whether or not they actually occupy the choir) and the second to groups that perform in theatres or concert halls, but this distinction is far from rigid. Choirs may sing without instrumental accompaniment, with the accompaniment of a piano or pipe organ, with a small ensemble (e.g., harpsichord, cello and double bass for a Baroque piece), or with a full orchestra of 70 to 100 musicians.
A choir, also sometimes called quire, is the area of a church or cathedral that provides seating for the clergy and church choir. It is in the western part of the chancel, between the nave and the sanctuary, which houses the altar and Church tabernacle. In larger medieval churches it contained choir-stalls, seating aligned with the side of the church, so at right-angles to the seating for the congregation in the nave. Smaller medieval churches may not have a choir in the architectural sense at all, and they are often lacking in churches built by all denominations after the Protestant Reformation, though the Gothic Revival revived them as a distinct feature.
The piano is an acoustic, stringed musical instrument invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700, in which the strings are struck by hammers. It is played using a keyboard, which is a row of keys that the performer presses down or strikes with the fingers and thumbs of both hands to cause the hammers to strike the strings.
The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air through the organ pipes selected via a keyboard. Because each pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass. Most organs have multiple ranks of pipes of differing timbre, pitch, and volume that the player can employ singly or in combination through the use of controls called stops.
The term "Choir" has the secondary definition of a subset of an ensemble; thus one speaks of the "woodwind choir" of an orchestra, or different "choirs" of voices or instruments in a polychoral composition. In typical 18th- to 21st-century oratorios and masses, chorus or choir is usually understood to imply more than one singer per part, in contrast to the quartet of soloists also featured in these works.
The Venetian polychoral style was a type of music of the late Renaissance and early Baroque eras which involved spatially separate choirs singing in alternation. It represented a major stylistic shift from the prevailing polyphonic writing of the middle Renaissance, and was one of the major stylistic developments which led directly to the formation of what is now known as the Baroque style. A commonly encountered term for the separated choirs is cori spezzati—literally, separated choirs.
An oratorio is a large musical composition for orchestra, choir, and soloists. Like most operas, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an instrumental ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias. However, opera is musical theatre, while oratorio is strictly a concert piece – though oratorios are sometimes staged as operas, and operas are sometimes presented in concert form. In an oratorio the choir often plays a central role, and there is generally little or no interaction between the characters, and no props or elaborate costumes. A particularly important difference is in the typical subject matter of the text. Opera tends to deal with history and mythology, including age-old devices of romance, deception, and murder, whereas the plot of an oratorio often deals with sacred topics, making it appropriate for performance in the church. Protestant composers took their stories from the Bible, while Catholic composers looked to the lives of saints, as well as to Biblical topics. Oratorios became extremely popular in early 17th-century Italy partly because of the success of opera and the Catholic Church's prohibition of spectacles during Lent. Oratorios became the main choice of music during that period for opera audiences.
The mass, a form of sacred musical composition, is a choral composition that sets the invariable portions of the Eucharistic liturgy to music. Most masses are settings of the liturgy in Latin, the liturgical sacred language of the Catholic Church's Roman liturgy, but there are a significant number written in the languages of non-Catholic countries where vernacular worship has long been the norm. For example, there are many masses written in English for the Church of England. Musical masses take their name from the Catholic liturgy called "the mass" as well.
Choirs are often led by a conductor or choirmaster. Most often choirs consist of four sections intended to sing in four part harmony, but there is no limit to the number of possible parts as long as there is a singer available to sing the part: Thomas Tallis wrote a 40-part motet entitled Spem in alium , for eight choirs of five parts each; Krzysztof Penderecki's Stabat Mater is for three choirs of 16 voices each, a total of 48 parts. Other than four, the most common number of parts are three, five, six, and eight.
Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance, such as an orchestral or choral concert. It has been defined as "the art of directing the simultaneous performance of several players or singers by the use of gesture." The primary duties of the conductor are to interpret the score in a way which reflects the specific indications in that score, set the tempo, ensure correct entries by ensemble members, and "shape" the phrasing where appropriate. Conductors communicate with their musicians primarily through hand gestures, usually with the aid of a baton, and may use other gestures or signals such as eye contact. A conductor usually supplements their direction with verbal instructions to their musicians in rehearsal.
Thomas Tallis was an English composer who occupies a primary place in anthologies of English choral music and is considered one of England's greatest composers. He is honoured for his original voice in English musicianship. No contemporaneous portrait of Tallis survives; the one painted by Gerard Vandergucht (illustration) dates from 150 years after Tallis died, and there is no reason to suppose that it is a likeness. In a rare existing copy of his blackletter signature, the composer spelled his last name "Tallys".
In western music, a motet is a mainly vocal musical composition, of highly diverse form and style, from the late medieval era to the present. The motet was one of the pre-eminent polyphonic forms of Renaissance music. According to Margaret Bent, "a piece of music in several parts with words" is as precise a definition of the motet as will serve from the 13th to the late 16th century and beyond. The late 13th-century theorist Johannes de Grocheo believed that the motet was "not to be celebrated in the presence of common people, because they do not notice its subtlety, nor are they delighted in hearing it, but in the presence of the educated and of those who are seeking out subtleties in the arts".
Choirs can sing with or without instrumental accompaniment. Singing without accompaniment is called a cappella singing (although the American Choral Directors Associationdiscourages this usage in favor of "unaccompanied," since a cappella denotes singing "as in the chapel" and much unaccompanied music today is secular). Accompanying instruments vary widely, from only one instrument (a piano or pipe organ) to a full orchestra of 70 to 100 musicians; for rehearsals a piano or organ accompaniment is often used, even if a different instrumentation is planned for performance, or if the choir is rehearsing unaccompanied music.
A cappella music is specifically group or solo singing without instrumental accompaniment, or a piece intended to be performed in this way. It contrasts with cantata, which is usually accompanied singing. The term "a cappella" was originally intended to differentiate between Renaissance polyphony and Baroque concertato style. In the 19th century a renewed interest in Renaissance polyphony coupled with an ignorance of the fact that vocal parts were often doubled by instrumentalists led to the term coming to mean unaccompanied vocal music. The term is also used, albeit rarely, as a synonym for alla breve.
The American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is a non-profit organization with the stated purpose of promoting excellence in the field of choral music. Its membership comprises approximately 22,000 choral directors representing over a million singers.
An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble typical of classical music, which combines instruments from different families, including bowed string instruments such as the violin, viola, cello, and double bass, brass instruments such as the horn, trumpet, trombone and tuba, woodwinds such as the flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon, and percussion instruments such as the timpani, bass drum, triangle, snare drum, cymbals, and mallet percussion instruments each grouped in sections. Other instruments such as the piano and celesta may sometimes appear in a fifth keyboard section or may stand alone, as may the concert harp and, for performances of some modern compositions, electronic instruments.
Many choirs perform in one or many locations such as a church, opera house, or school hall. In some cases choirs join up to become one "mass" choir that performs for a special concert. In this case they provide a series of songs or musical works to celebrate and provide entertainment to others.
Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance, such as a choral concert, by way of visible gestures with the hands, arms, face and head. The primary duties of the conductor or choirmaster are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats (meter), and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble.
A concert is a live music performance in front of an audience. The performance may be by a single musician, sometimes then called a recital, or by a musical ensemble, such as an orchestra, choir, or band. Concerts are held in a wide variety and size of settings, from private houses and small nightclubs, dedicated concert halls, arenas and parks to large multipurpose buildings, and even sports stadiums. Indoor concerts held in the largest venues are sometimes called arena concerts or amphitheatre concerts. Informal names for a concert include show and gig.
A musician is a person who plays a musical instrument or is musically talented. Anyone who composes, conducts, or performs music is referred to as a musician. A musician who plays a musical instrument is also known as an instrumentalist.
In musical terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece. In classical music, tempo is typically indicated with an instruction at the start of a piece and is usually measured in beats per minute. In modern classical compositions, a "metronome mark" in beats per minute may supplement or replace the normal tempo marking, while in modern genres like electronic dance music, tempo will typically simply be stated in bpm.
The conductor or choral director typically stands on a raised platform and he or she may or may not use a baton; using a baton gives the conductor's gestures greater visibility, but many choral conductors prefer conducting with their hands for greater expressiveness, particularly when working with a smaller ensemble. In the 2010s, most conductors do not play an instrument when conducting, although in earlier periods of classical music history, leading an ensemble while playing an instrument was common. In Baroque music from the 1600s to the 1750s, conductors performing in the 2010s may lead an ensemble while playing a harpsichord or the violin (see Concertmaster). Conducting while playing a piano may also be done with musical theatre pit orchestras. Communication is typically non-verbal during a performance (this is strictly the case in art music, but in jazz big bands or large pop ensembles, there may be occasional spoken instructions). However, in rehearsals, the conductor will often give verbal instructions to the ensemble, since they generally also serve as an artistic director who crafts the ensemble's interpretation of the music.
Conductors act as guides to the choirs they conduct. They choose the works to be performed and study their scores, to which they may make certain adjustments (e.g., regarding tempo, repetitions of sections, assignment of vocal solos and so on), work out their interpretation, and relay their vision to the singers. Choral conductors may also have to conduct instrumental ensembles such as orchestras if the choir is singing a piece for choir and orchestra. They may also attend to organizational matters, such as scheduling rehearsals,planning a concert season, hearing auditions, and promoting their ensemble in the media.
Eastern Orthodox churches, some American Protestant groups, and traditional synagogues do not use instruments. In churches of the Western Rite the accompanying instrument is usually the organ, although in colonial America, the Moravian Church used groups of strings and winds. Many churches which use a contemporary worship format use a small amplified band to accompany the singing, and Roman Catholic Churches may use, at their discretion, additional orchestral accompaniment.
In addition to leading of singing in which the congregation participates, such as hymns and service music, some church choirs sing full liturgies, including propers (introit, gradual, communion antiphons appropriate for the different times of the liturgical year). Chief among these are the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches; far more common however is the performance of anthems or motets at designated times in the service.
Choirs are also categorized by the institutions in which they operate:
Some choirs are categorized by the type of music they perform, such as
In the United States, middle schools and high schools often offer choir as a class or activity for students. Some choirs participate in competitions. One kind of choir popular in high schools is show choir. Middle school and high school is an important time, as it is when students' voices are changing. Although girls experience voice change, it is much more drastic in boys. A lot of literature in music education has been focused on how male voice change works and how to help adolescent male singers.Research done by John Cooksey categorizes male voice change into five stages, and most middle school boys are in the early stages of change. The vocal range of both male and female students may be limited while their voice is changing, and choir teachers must be able to adapt, which can be a challenge to teaching this age range.
Nationally, male students are enrolled in choir at much lower numbers than their female students.The music education field has had a longtime interest in the "missing males" in music programs. Speculation as to why there aren't as many boys in choir, and possible solutions vary widely. One researcher found that boys who enjoy choir in middle school may not always go on to high school choir because it simply doesn't fit into their schedules. Some research speculates that one reason that boys' participation in choir is so low is because the U.S. does not encourage male singers. Often, schools will have a women's choir, which helps the balance issues mixed choirs face by taking on extra female singers. However, without a men's choir also, this could be making the problem worse by not giving boys as many opportunities to sing as girls. Other researchers have noted that having an ensemble or even a workshop dedicated to male singers can help with their confidence and singing abilities.
There are various schools of thought regarding how the various sections should be arranged on stage. It is the conductor's decision on where the different voice types are placed. In symphonic choirs it is common (though by no means universal) to order the choir behind the orchestra from highest to lowest voices from left to right, corresponding to the typical string layout. In a cappella or piano-accompanied situations it is not unusual for the men to be in the back and the women in front; some conductors prefer to place the basses behind the sopranos, arguing that the outer voices need to tune to each other.
More experienced choirs may sing with the voices all mixed. Sometimes singers of the same voice are grouped in pairs or threes. Proponents of this method argue that it makes it easier for each individual singer to hear and tune to the other parts, but it requires more independence from each singer. Opponents argue that this method loses the spatial separation of individual voice lines, an otherwise valuable feature for the audience, and that it eliminates sectional resonance, which lessens the effective volume of the chorus. For music with double (or multiple) choirs, usually the members of each choir are together, sometimes significantly separated, especially in performances of 16th-century music (such as works in the Venetian polychoral style). Some composers actually specify that choirs should be separated, such as in Benjamin Britten's War Requiem . Some composers use separated choirs to create "antiphonal" effects, in which one choir seems to "answer" the other choir in a musical dialogue.
Consideration is also given to the spacing of the singers. Studies have found that not only the actual formation, but the amount of space (both laterally and circumambiently) affects the perception of sound by choristers and auditors.
The origins of choral music are found in traditional music, as singing in big groups is extremely widely spread in traditional cultures (both singing in one part, or in unison, like in Ancient Greece, as well as singing in parts, or in harmony, like in contemporary European choral music).
The oldest unambiguously choral repertory that survives is that of ancient Greece, of which the 2nd century BC Delphic hymns and the 2nd century AD. hymns of Mesomedes are the most complete. The original Greek chorus sang its part in Greek drama, and fragments of works by Euripides ( Orestes ) and Sophocles ( Ajax ) are known from papyri. The Seikilos epitaph (2c BC) is a complete song (although possibly for solo voice). One of the latest examples, Oxyrhynchus hymn (3c) is also of interest as the earliest Christian music.
Of the Roman drama's music a single line of Terence surfaced in the 18c. However, musicologist Thomas J. Mathiesen comments that it is no longer believed to be authentic.
The earliest notated music of western Europe is Gregorian chant, along with a few other types of chant which were later subsumed (or sometimes suppressed) by the Catholic Church. This tradition of unison choir singing lasted from sometime between the times of St. Ambrose (4th century) and Gregory the Great (6th century) up to the present. During the later Middle Ages, a new type of singing involving multiple melodic parts, called organum, became predominant for certain functions, but initially this polyphony was only sung by soloists. Further developments of this technique included clausulae, conductus and the motet (most notably the isorhythmic motet), which, unlike the Renaissance motet, describes a composition with different texts sung simultaneously in different voices. The first evidence of polyphony with more than one singer per part comes in the Old Hall Manuscript (1420, though containing music from the late 14th century), in which there are apparent divisi, one part dividing into two simultaneously sounding notes.
During the Renaissance, sacred choral music was the principal type of formally notated music in Western Europe. Throughout the era, hundreds of masses and motets (as well as various other forms) were composed for a cappella choir, though there is some dispute over the role of instruments during certain periods and in certain areas. Some of the better-known composers of this time include Guillaume Dufay, Josquin des Prez, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, John Dunstable, and William Byrd; the glories of Renaissance polyphony were choral, sung by choirs of great skill and distinction all over Europe. Choral music from this period continues to be popular withmany choirs throughout the world today.
The madrigal, a partsong conceived for amateurs to sing in a chamber setting, originated at this period. Although madrigals were initially dramatic settings of unrequited-love poetry or mythological stories in Italy, they were imported into England and merged with the more dancelike balletto, celebrating carefree songs of the seasons, or eating and drinking. To most English speakers, the word madrigal now refers to the latter, rather than to madrigals proper, which refers to a poetic form of lines consisting of seven and eleven syllables each.
The interaction of sung voices in Renaissance polyphony influenced Western music for centuries. Composers are routinely trained in the "Palestrina style" to this day, especially as codified by the 18c music theorist Johann Joseph Fux. Composers of the early 20th century also wrote in Renaissance-inspired styles. Herbert Howells wrote a Mass in the Dorian mode entirely in strict Renaissance style, and Ralph Vaughan Williams's Mass in G minor is an extension of this style. Anton Webern wrote his dissertation on the Choralis Constantinus of Heinrich Isaac and the contrapuntal techniques of his serial music may be informed by this study.
The Baroque period in music is associated with the development around 1600 of the figured bass and the basso continuo system. The figured bass part was performed by the basso continuo group, which at minimum included a chord-playing instrument (e.g., pipe organ, harpsichord, lute) and a bass instrument (e.g., violone). Baroque vocal music explored dramatic implications in the realm of solo vocal music such as the monodies of the Florentine Camerata and the development of early opera. This innovation was in fact an extension of established practice of accompanying choral music at the organ, either from a skeletal reduced score (from which otherwise lost pieces can sometimes be reconstructed) or from a basso seguente, a part on a single staff containing the lowest sounding part (the bass part).
A new genre was the vocal concertato, combining voices and instruments; its origins may be sought in the polychoral music of the Venetian school. Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643) brought it to perfection with his Vespers and his Eighth Book of Madrigals, which call for great virtuosity on the part of singers and instruments alike. (His Fifth Book includes a basso continuo "for harpsichord or lute".) His pupil Heinrich Schütz (1585–1672) (who had earlier studied with Giovanni Gabrieli) introduced the new style to Germany. Alongside the new music of the seconda pratica , contrapuntal motets in the stile antico or old style continued to be written well into the 19th century. Choirs at this time were usually quite small and that singers could be classified as suited to church or to chamber singing. Monteverdi, himself a singer, is documented as taking part in performances of his Magnificat with one voice per part.
Independent instrumental accompaniment opened up new possibilities for choral music. Verse anthems alternated accompanied solos with choral sections; the best-known composers of this genre were Orlando Gibbons and Henry Purcell. Grands motets (such as those of Lully and Delalande) separated these sections into separate movements. Oratorio, (of which Giacomo Carissimi was a pioneer), extended this concept into concert-length works, usually based on Biblical or moral stories.
A pinnacle of baroque choral music, (particularly oratorio), may be found in George Frideric Handel's works, notably Messiah and Israel in Egypt . While the modern chorus of hundreds had to await the growth of Choral Societies and his centennial commemoration concert, we find Handel already using a variety of performing forces, from the soloists of the Chandos Anthems to larger groups (whose proportions are still quite different from modern orchestra choruses):
Yesterday [Oct. 6] there was a Rehearsal of the Coronation Anthem in Westminster-Abby, set to musick by the famous Mr Hendall: there being 40 voices, and about 160 violins, Trumpets, Hautboys, Kettle-Drums and Bass' proportionable..!— Norwich Gazette, October 14, 1727
Lutheran composers wrote instrumentally accompanied cantatas, often based on chorale tunes. Substantial late 17th-century sacred choral works in the emerging German tradition exist (the cantatas of Dietrich Buxtehude being a prime example), though the Lutheran church cantata did not assume its more codified, recognizable form until the early 18th century. Georg Philipp Telemann (based in Frankfurt) wrote over 1000 cantatas, many of which were engraved and published (e.g. his Harmonische Gottesdienst) and Christoph Graupner (based in Darmstadt) over 1400. The cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) are perhaps the most recognizable (and often-performed) contribution to this repertoire: his obituary mentions five complete cycles of his cantatas, of which three, comprising some 200 works, are known today, in addition to motets. Bach himself rarely used the term cantata. Motet refers to his church music without orchestra accompaniment, but instruments playing colla parte with the voices. His works with accompaniment consists of his Passions, Masses, the Magnificat and the cantatas.
A point of hot controversy today is the so-called "Rifkin hypothesis," which re-examines the famous "Entwurff" Bach's 1730 memo to the Leipzig City Council (A Short but Most Necessary Draft for a Well Appointed Church Music) calling for at least 12 singers. In light of Bach's responsibility to provide music to four churches and be able to perform double choir compositions with a substitute for each voice, Joshua Rifkin concludes that Bach's music was normally written with one voice per part in mind. A few sets of original performing parts include ripieni who reinforce rather than slavishly double the vocal quartet.
Composers of the late 18th century became fascinated with the new possibilities of the symphony and other instrumental music, and generally neglected choral music. Mozart's mostly sacred choral works stand out as some of his greatest (such as the "Great" Mass in C minor and Requiem in D minor, the latter of which is highly regarded). Haydn became more interested in choral music near the end of his life following his visits to England in the 1790s, when he heard various Handel oratorios performed by large forces; he wrote a series of masses beginning in 1797 and his two great oratorios The Creation and The Seasons . Beethoven wrote only two masses, both intended for liturgical use, although his Missa solemnis is probably suitable only for the grandest ceremonies due to its length, difficulty and large-scale scoring. He also pioneered the use of chorus as part of symphonic texture with his Ninth Symphony and Choral Fantasia.
In the 19th century, sacred music escaped from the church and leaped onto the concert stage, with large sacred works unsuitable for church use, such as Berlioz's Te Deum and Requiem, and Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem . Rossini's Stabat mater, Schubert's masses, and Verdi's Requiem also exploited the grandeur offered by instrumental accompaniment. Oratorios also continued to be written, clearly influenced by Handel's models. Berlioz's L'enfance du Christ and Mendelssohn's Elijah and St Paul are in the category. Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms also wrote secular cantatas, the best known of which are Brahms's Schicksalslied and Nänie .
A few composers developed a cappella music, especially Bruckner, whose masses and motets startlingly juxtapose Renaissance counterpoint with chromatic harmony. Mendelssohn and Brahms also wrote significant a cappella motets. The amateur chorus (beginning chiefly as a social outlet) began to receive serious consideration as a compositional venue for the part-songs of Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, and others. These 'singing clubs' were often for women or men separately, and the music was typically in four-part (hence the name "part-song") and either a cappella or with simple instrumentation. At the same time, the Cecilian movement attempted a restoration of the pure Renaissance style in Catholic churches.
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As in other genres of music, choral music underwent a period of experimentation and development during the 20th century. While few well-known composers focused primarily on choral music, most significant composers of the early century produced some fine examples that have entered the repertoire.
The early modernist composers, such as Richard Strauss, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Max Reger contributed to the genre. Ralph Vaughan Williams's Mass in G minor harks back to the Renaissance style while exhibiting the vibrancy of new harmonic languages. Vaughan Williams also arranged English and Scottish folk songs. Arnold Schoenberg's Friede auf Erden is a tonal kaleidoscope, whose tonal centers are constantly shifting (his harmonically innovative Verklärte Nacht for strings dates from the same period). Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych also explored new ways of harmonizing and arranging Ukrainian folk songs, producing masterpieces such as Dudaryk and Shchedryk , the latter of which featured a four-note ostinato theme and became a popular Christmas carol known as Carol of the Bells after it was translated by Peter J. Wilhousky.
The advent of atonality and other non-traditional harmonic systems and techniques in the 20th century also affected choral music. Serial music is represented by choral works by Arnold Schoenberg, including the anthem Dreimal Tausend Jahre, while the composer's signature use of sprechstimme is evident in his setting of Psalm 130 De Profundis. Paul Hindemith's distinctive modal language is represented by both his a cappella Mass and his Six Chansons (to texts by Rilke), while a more contrapuntally dissonant style comes through in his secular requiem, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd. Olivier Messiaen also demonstrates dissonant counterpoint in his Cinq Rechants, which tell the Tristan and Isolde story. Charles Ives' psalm settings exemplify the composer's incomparably radical harmonic language. Tone clusters and aleatory elements play a prominent role in the choral music of Krzysztof Penderecki, who wrote the St. Luke Passio, and György Ligeti, who wrote both a Requiem and a separate Lux Aeterna. Milton Babbitt incorporated integral serialism into works for children's chorus, while Daniel Pinkham wrote for choir and electronic tape. Meredith Monk's Panda Chant and Astronaut Anthem explore overtones in an unconventional text setting. Though difficult and rarely performed by amateurs, pieces that demonstrate such unfamiliar idioms have found their way into the repertories of the finest semi-professional and professional choirs around the world.
More accessible styles of choral music include that by Benjamin Britten, including his War Requiem , Five Flower Songs, and Rejoice in the Lamb . Francis Poulenc's Motets pour le temps de noël, Gloria, and Mass in G are often performed. A primitivist approach is exemplified by Carl Orff's widely performed Carmina Burana . In the United States, Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and Randall Thompson wrote signature American pieces. In Eastern Europe, Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály wrote a small amount of music for choirs. Frank Martin's Mass for double choir combines modality and allusion to Medieval and Renaissance forms with a distinctly modern harmonic language and has become the composer's most performed work.
The so-called holy minimalists are represented by Arvo Pärt, whose Johannespassion and Magnificat have received regular performances; John Tavener (Song for Athene) and Henryk Górecki (Totus Tuus) share this label. American minimalism and post minimalism are represented by Steve Reich's The Desert Music , choral excerpts from Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach and John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer , and David Lang's Pulitzer Prize-winning Little Match Girl Passion.
At the turn of the 21st century, choral music has received a resurgence of interest partly due to a renewed interest in accessible choral idioms.[ citation needed ] Multi-cultural influences are found in Osvaldo Golijov's St. Mark Passion, which melds the Bach-style passion form with Latin American street music, and Chen Yi's Chinese Myths Cantata melds atonal idioms with traditional Chinese melodies played on traditional Chinese instruments. Some composers began to earn their reputation based foremost on their choral output, including the highly popular John Rutter and Eric Whitacre. The large scale dramatic works of Karl Jenkins seem to hearken back to the theatricality of Orff, and the music of James MacMillan continues the tradition of boundary-pushing choral works from the United Kingdom begun by Britten, Walton, and Leighton. Meanwhile, composers such as John Williams, known primarily for film scores, and prominent concert orchestral composers such as Augusta Read Thomas, Sofia Gubaidulina, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Thomas Adès also contribute vital additions to the choral repertoire.
A number of traditions originating outside of classical concert music have enriched the choral repertoire as well as provided new outlets to composers:
A cantata is a vocal composition with an instrumental accompaniment, typically in several movements, often involving a choir.
The Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance has been awarded since 1961. There have been several minor changes to the name of the award over this time:
Josef Gabriel Rheinberger was an organist and composer, born in Liechtenstein and resident for most of his life in Germany.
Dr. Eric Nelson is an American choral conductor, clinician, and composer.
Bella Voce is a Chicago-based chamber chorus specializing in classical a cappella music. It has been called "Chicago's premier professional chamber choir."
Magnum Chorum is a choral ensemble based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Magnum Chorum performs sacred choral music in cathedrals and sanctuaries throughout the Midwest. The 65 voice auditioned choir presents concerts, commissions new sacred works, makes recordings, and provides music for worship. Founded in 1991 in the choral tradition of St. Olaf College, membership was originally limited to St. Olaf graduates, but since 2005, auditions are open to singers devoted to excellence in choral music. Magnum Chorum’s name is intended to convey the importance of the choir in expressing the divine and infinite through voice, music, and text.
Jonathan Willcocks is an English composer and conductor.
Ukrainian folk music includes a number of varieties of traditional, folkloric, folk-inspired popular and folk-inspired classical traditions.
Eric Banks is a Seattle-based composer, choral conductor, and ethnomusicologist.
Ragnar Bohlin is a Swedish conductor born in 1965.
Charles James Kennedy Osborne Scott was an English organist and choral conductor who played an important part in developing the performance of choral and polyphonic music in England, especially of early and modern English music.
A singular desire to bring to Boston's listeners music that isn’t being heard anywhere else has inspired Cantata Singers’ programming for 50 years.
Siegfried Strohbach is a German composer and conductor. He founded and directed choirs and the vocal ensemble Collegium Cantorum and is notable for the composition of choral music. He has retired as a conductor of major theaters of Lower Saxony and as a professor of the Musikhochschule Hannover, but as of 2011 is still active as a composer.
Peter Harvey is an English baritone. Harvey specialises in Baroque music. However, he also sings works by later composers, including contemporary ones.
Steven Sametz is active as both conductor and composer. He has been hailed as "one of the most respected choral composers in America." Since 1979, he has been on the faculty of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he holds the Ronald J. Ulrich Chair in Music and is Director of Choral Activities and is founding director of the Lehigh University Choral Union. Since 1998, he has served as Artistic Director of the professional a cappella ensemble, The Princeton Singers. He is also the founding director of the Lehigh University Summer Choral Composers’ Forum. In 2012, he was named Chair of the American Choral Directors Association Composition Advisory Committee.
Kim André Arnesen is a Norwegian composer. He is mostly known for his choral compositions, both a cappella, accompanied by piano or organ, or large-scale works for chorus and orchestra. His first CD album "Magnificat" was nominated for GRAMMY Awards 2016 in the category Best Surround Sound Album. He has received wide notice with his choral works that has been performed by choirs all over the world. His "Cradle Hymn" was a part of the regional Emmy Prize winning show "Christmas in Norway". Arnesen is an elected member of the Norwegian Society of Composers.
Michael Ostrzyga is a German Composer and Conductor based in Cologne. He is known for his choral music in particular, being commissioned by festivals like the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival and performers like The Chamber Choir of Asia, the Finnish YL Male Voice Choir, the Vienna Chamber Choir, Latvian Youth Choir "Kamēr..." and Chamber Choir Consono, among others. His works are performed by ensembles like the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, New Dublin Voices, the Australian Chamber Choir, Rheinisches Klavierduo, Swedish choirs Kammarkören Pro Musica and Allmänna Sången Neues Rheinisches Kammerorchester, The Choral Project (California) and SFA A Cappella Choir (Texas).
Joël Suhubiette is a contemporary French choral conductor. In particular, he conducts the chamber choir Les Éléments which he founded in Toulouse and with which he received a Victoire de la musique classique in 2006 and the Ensemble Jacques Moderne in Tours.
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