Impressive choral songs that you might not know…but you should!
Looking for a choral arrangement that will bring excitement and variety to your next performance? Brandon Boyd’s “Sign Me Up” uses quotes from a familiar spiritual and adds a zip of energy with encouraged audience participation. And it’s easy to see why Stacey V. Gibbs’ arrangements are so popular as he brings liveliness to the spiritual “Hold On!” with harmonies that are fun to sing and perform.
If you are searching for uplifting choral music, then conductor Jeffery Benson’s new Choral Series, Voices Without Borders, is for you. These are a series of choral songs for humanity that are unique, meaningful and intended to uplift the performer and listening audience. “If You’re in the Dark” is a memorable a capella for SATB choirs.
Church pianists know the value of the sacred classics and the enduring quality of Fred Bock’s arrangements. “Holy Ground” is a collection of hymns and praise songs for piano that are must-haves for your choral library of music. And the elegant, hauntingly beautiful melody of Faure’s Pavane arranged by Allan Robert Petker is perfect for worship choirs of varying skill levels. This sacred choral anthem is a solid, steady and straightforward choice for settings of worship.
Whether you are looking for newer music or the classics, spiritual or sacred, suitable for piano and choir or a Cappella, we have something for you on our list of impressive must-have choral music.
Sign Me Up with “Roll, Jordan, Roll”
“Roll, Jordan, Roll”, also “Roll, Jordan”, is a spiritual created by enslaved African Americans at 19th century camp meetings. It is derived from an earlier song written by English Methodist preacher Charles Wesley in the 18th century. While the song was originally used as a means to convert Black slaves to Christianity, it instead became a popular song of oppression and sorrow and then as a coded message for escape.
“Roll, Jordan, Roll,” was collected and written by abolitionist Lucy McKim in 1862 after she was moved by performances of it on the South Carolina Sea Islands. It was then included five years later in Slave Songs of the United States, compiled by McKim along with William Francis Allen and Charles Pickard Ware. The song was further popularized by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, an African-American a cappella ensemble, and over fifty publications had reproduced or referenced the song by 1920. Since then, it has remained a staple in Gospel music and has been issued in countless arrangements.
A familiar spiritual with fierce piano accompaniment along with percussion and bass that will bring excitement and variety to your next performance.
Brandon A. Boyd’s concert gospel choral adaptation quotes this familiar spiritual and features a fierce piano accompaniment along with percussion and bass that will bring excitement and variety to your next performance. With words and music by Kevin J. Yancy and Jerome Metcalfe, “Sign Me Up” also includes an optional accompaniment for full orchestra. The accompaniment establishes a lively 12/8 groove in the first twelve measures before the choir joins in with similar energy. The song features fun and memorable descending lines in both the accompaniment and lyrics. In the second half, the song adds a spirited clapping part among singers, which can even foster audience participation if they choose to clap along. “Sign Me Up” ends triumphantly with fermatas on the lyrics, “born again!” Together, these elements serve a work that bridges styles and context to create a variety of educational opportunities along with a high-performance value. This piece is great for high schools, colleges, and other community ensembles, and singers will enjoy learning and performing this work.
Dr. Brandon A. Boyd is the Assistant Director of Choral Activities and Assistant Professor of Choral Music Education at the University of Missouri, where he conducts the MU Glee Club and Concert Chorale. As an active composer and arranger, his music is sung regularly by ensembles throughout the United States and abroad. In 2017, he was invited by the Santa Fe Desert Chorale to serve as Composer-in-Residence and Community Engagement Leader for their program Giving Voice to the Voiceless. As a proponent of choral singing to build community, his research interests include organizing choirs for the homeless, identifying the social and physical effects of choral singing on senior citizens, and creating authentic field experiences for music therapy and choral music education students. He holds two degrees from Florida State University (Ph.D. in choral music education and M.M. in choral conducting) and earned a B.S. in music education (emphasis in piano) from Tennessee State University.
“Hold On” comes out of the African American spiritual tradition. A spiritual is a type of religious folksong that is most closely associated with the enslavement of African people in the American South. Most spirituals are considered to be “traditional,” meaning that the composer is not known. Rather, the song was passed from one generation to the next through oral tradition. While most spirituals refer to the topic of religious faith, some others include coded meanings that would help enslaved people who were escaping to freedom in the North.
“Hold On!” is a lively spiritual worthy of a concert hall performance.
Stacey Gibbs wants to “bring life” to this spiritual for use in the concert hall. This arrangement confirms why his arrangements are so popular: the rhythms and harmonies are fun to sing and he builds things up to a rousing finish. This arrangement for women’s voices reminds us to “keep your hand on the plow as you climb higher and higher…just hold on.” Gibbs’s “Hold On!” is an excellent choice for high schools, colleges, and other community ensembles. It has been performed by choruses including the Colorado State University-Pueblo Chamber Choir, the Highland Park Presbyterian Church Chorale, and Harmonium Women’s Choir at the University of California Irvine.
“Hold On!” performance by the Highland Park Presbyterian Church Chorale led by Greg Hobbs, May 2021
If You’re in the Dark
This unique and meaningful music is designed to be an encouraging and uplifting piece that is perfect for a college concert choir.
“If You’re in the Dark” is part of a new choral series, Voices Without Borders, from conductor Jeffery Benson.
If You’re in the Dark
From conductor Jeffery Benson comes a new Choral Series, Voices Without Borders. These are choral songs for humanity that delve a little deeper into meaningful subjects. This unique and encouraging number is the third song of the series, with music by Will Schneider and text by Kendrick Tri Huynh and members of the San Jose State University Choraliers. The piece approaches those who are in need of a lift, with haikus set mostly in minor homophonic writing.
Harmonies summon up a captivating mood that matches the weighty yet optimistic lyrics.
A piano accompaniment is provided to aid in rehearsals, but the song is performed a capella for SATB. The piece starts out quietly and gradually builds in texture and volume with brief phrases of tenor and alto lines trading off one another. The B section picks up in tempo and alternates between brief modulations of neighboring minor keys before resolving back home to F minor. The song features interesting harmonies that evoke a compelling mood that matches the weighty yet optimistic theme brought forth by the lyrics. The piece ends by slowing back down to the original tempo and repeating the first couple measures from the beginning, but this time concludes with the uplifting message of “if you’re in the dark, just take one more step.” “If You’re in the Dark” is a great and novel concert repertoire for the college choir.
Jeffrey Benson is currently Director of Choral Activities at San José State University. Dr. Benson recently made his international conducting debut with the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the SJSU Choraliers in Limerick, Ireland, and he made his Carnegie Hall conducting debut in 2015 with the SJSU Choirs and the New York Festival Orchestra. Choirs under his direction have performed on multiple state and regional conferences of ACDA, NAfME and Chorus America, and have toured throughout the United States and Europe. Dr. Benson is an active member of the National Association for Music Education, the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), and the National Collegiate Choral Organization, where he currently serves as California National Board Representative. Benson received his Masters degree and his Doctorate in Choral Conducting/Music Education from The Florida State University and his Bachelors degree in Music Education from New York University.
“If You’re in the Dark” (SATB, A Cappella) is composed by Will Schneider and authored by Kendrick Tri Huynh.
Holy Ground – Piano Solo
Classic Arrangement of Power and Praise for Solo Piano by Fred Bock.
Arranged by Fred Bock, this collection of choral music for solo piano covers 10 sacred classics that everyone should have in their musical library.
Holy Ground – Classic Arrangement of Power and Praise
This collection of 10 sacred classics, hymns and praise songs arranged by Fred Bock for piano, is a fitting testimony to our God. Church pianists will value this addition to their musical libraries for years to come. Titles include:
Halle, Halle, Halle
“Halle, Halle, Halle” is a traditional Caribbean folksong that has found its way into choral repertoire. This arrangement evokes a bright and happy mood with suspended chords used frequently throughout the piece.
He Is Exalted
Fred Bock’s take on Twila Paris’s “He is Exalted” adds a touch of exuberance and rhythmic drive to this praise and worship song.
Holy, Holy, Holy
“Holy, Holy, Holy” is one of over 300 hymns John Bacchus Dykes composed in the 19th century.
“Holy Ground” is the best-known song of inspirational songwriter and composer Geron Davis. He wrote it in fifteen minutes when he was just 19 years old for the first service of a new church auditorium in Savannah, Tennessee.
Twila Paris makes a return in this collection with “How Beautiful,” a song from her 1990 album Cry for the Desert.
How Majestic Is Your Name
Bocks’s arrangement of Michael W. Smith’s “How Majestic Is Your Name” conveys the energy and memorability of this uplifting contemporary praise song.
Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
“Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee,” also known as “The Hymn of Joy” is a poem written by Henry van Dyke in 1907. This solo piano arrangement will sound familiar as the hymn is set to this famous “Ode to Joy” melody of the final movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
Praise the Name of Jesus
When pastor Roy Hicks Jr. Needed strength for his church’s declining condition in Eugene, Oregon, he turned to the messages of David in Psalm 18, inspiring him to write the hymn “Praise the Name of Jesus.”
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” is a Christian hymn based on Joachim Neander’s German-language hymn “Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren”, published in 1680. The common name given to this melody is “Lobe den Herren”.
Thou Art Worthy
In her teens, Pauline was a pianist for Stockton, California, area churches. In 1975, she was ordained by L.I.F.E. Bible College in Los Angeles. On an evangelism tour, her son told a congregation to offer their favorite scripture and – without telling her in advance – said his mother would write music for it before the service was over. “Thou Art Worthy” was the result.
Lamb of God, What Wondrous Love
Composed in 1887, Gabriel Faure’s elegant “Pavane in F-sharp minor, Op. 50” was originally a piano piece, based on a traditional court dance of the same name. However, it become better known in Faure’s version for orchestra. After he opted to dedicate the work to countess Elisabeth Greffulhe, Faure felt compelled at her suggestion to add an invisible chorus to accompany the orchestra in order to invoke a grander atmosphere. Pavane began its life as a 16th century court dance that is thought to most likely have originated in Spain or Italy, and Faure’s graceful take on the genre became one of the composer’s most popular works. Its familiar melody grabs the listener’s attention in just the first few seconds, conjuring up wistful and melancholy emotions as the notes unravel from start to finish.
A simple and straightforward accompaniment suitable for settings of worship.
Allan Robert Petker’s arrangement is a truly creative use of the well-known and hauntingly beautiful melody of Faure’s Pavane. It meshes with beautiful lyrics written by Petker and Rev. Russell A. Kane to create a meaningful anthem appropriate for communion, Lent, or any time. Effective use of contrasting textures and vocal lines gives an interesting variety, while the optional a cappella section provides an unforgettable moment. After a brief ritardando, the accompaniment returns to support the choir as the music gradually builds to a demonstrative and full climax. With simple and straightforward accompaniment, this sacred choral anthem moves a steady pace fit for settings of worship. The expressive and memorable melody can be comfortably sung by choirs of varying skill levels. Available: SATB, SAB.
Allan Robert Petker is a published composer and arranger with over 250 published works with numerous publishing houses. Allan holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree from California State University at Northridge in music, specializing in viola (BA), voice and choral conducting (MA). Allan has been involved in the choral music publishing industry for many years. In 1977 he became the Director of Publications for Fred Bock Publishing Group which includes such distinguished catalogs as Gentry Publications, National Music, the H.T. FitzSimons Company and Hinshaw Music. He is currently the Vice President of Publications. As a conductor, Allan frequently serves as a guest clinician or conductor for publishers, choral societies, church festivals, state honor choirs and colleges. His chorales have toured Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia and Argentina and are preparing for a trip to South Africa.
The GPC Sanctuary Choir performance of “Lamb of God, What Wondrous Love” during their Good Friday service in 2011.
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