College and University Repertoire

Submitted by Peggy Dettwiler


Repertoire for College/University teaching:
Choosing the right literature for choral ensembles is the single most important and challenging task of a choral conductor! Well-selected music can help a choir of any age, size, or level of experience achieve an artistic performance that is thrilling to both the singers and the listeners. There are so many details to consider: the number of voices in each section, vocal ranges, musical experience, programming for the audience, historical and stylistic factors, pedagogical considerations, sacred versus secular, language, meter and mode. Our task is ongoing, yet always fulfilling because we are dealing with an art form that expresses human emotion. Choral performance can help us get in touch with our feelings and think with our hearts rather than only our heads.

“Top Ten” SATB Repertoire List:

  1.  “Jesus sprach zu dem Blinden” (Jesus said to the blind man) by Melchior Vulpius (a cappella, Concordia 98-1027)
    Moving depiction of the healing of the blind man. Choral voices represent the narrator, Jesus, and the blind man. Setting provides opportunities to change tone color for mood.
  2.  “Haste thee, nymph” by George Frideric Handel (piano, Walton W 7007)
    Handel shows his sense of humor in this laughing song. Great for teaching breath connection and flexibility.
  3.  “Regina coeli,” K. 276 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (piano, G. Schirmer)
    Exuberant 6-minute motet that features a solo quartet. Rental parts are available for small orchestra.
  4.  “Mitten wir im Leben sind” by Felix Mendelssohn (SSAATTBB a cappella, Carus-Verlag Stuttgart CV 40.164; also public domain library)
    Chorale motet setting of a text by Martin Luther. Tenors and basses intone the verses of Luther’s somber chorale, punctuated by impassioned outcries form the full choir.
  5.  “See the chariot at hand” by Ralph Vaughan Williams (piano, Oxford 84.060)
    Neo-romantic setting of a beautiful love poem by Ben Jonson. Thrilling climactic moments.
  6.  “When David heard” by Norman Dinerstein (a cappella, Boosey & Hawkes 6014)
    Powerful 8-part motet from II Samuel on the death of King David’s son, Absalom. Much tone painting depicting grief. Difficult.
  7.  “The Lamb” by John Tavener (a cappella, Chester)
    Fascinating setting of the profound poem by William Blake. Tavener’s melodic phrases incorporate 20th-century techniques of retrograde and inversion in ways that capture the tenderness of the text.
  8.  “Ruth” by Paul Ayres (a cappella, G. Schirmer Ed. 4352)
    Lush setting of three texts from the Old Testament to celebrate the marriage of Ruth Pepper and Paul Ayres. No eye will remain dry!
  9.  “Soon ah will be done” arr. by Diane Loomer (Music 70-600)
    Beautiful legato setting of the well-known spiritual. Great climaxes.
  10.  “Veniki” (Brooms) by Fiodor Rubtsov (Musica Russica)
    The text, which is meaningless, is a Russian tongue-twister. Exciting patter-song that is lots of fun to sing and hear.

For more titles in various voices, check this link!

Recommended Resources:


Choral Music Methods and Materials, by Barbara Brinson, Schirmer Books.
The required text for my choral methods class. Practical and easy to read. Barbara has been there!

Choral Masterworks: A Listeners Guide, by Michael Steinberg, Oxford.
Fifty illuminating essays on the classic choral masterworks that includes biographical information, musical analysis, entertaining stories, and historical notes on early performances.

Choral Repertoire, by Dennis Schrock, Oxford University Press.
Definitive and comprehensive one-volume presentation of the canon of the Western choral tradition.

Conducting Choral Music, by Robert Garretson, 8th edition, Prentice Hall.
Great as a conducting text and as a resource in the field. So much information about every choral topic – conducting techniques, vocal health, the changing voice, programming, auditions, etc., etc. Expansive repertoire lists at the end.

Face to Face with an Orchestra, by Moses/Demaree/Ohmes, Prestige Publishers.
Very helpful reference for choral conductors who want more information about working with an orchestra for choral/orchestral performances. Specific major works are discussed in detail.

Negro Spirituals from Bible to Folksong, by Christa Dixon, Fortress Press.
The background and stories of specific spirituals are shown in their Biblical origin. Very helpful in understanding the relationship of bondage to the Christian orientation of slaves.

A Norton Historical Anthology of Choral Music, edited by Ray Robinson, W.W. Norton & Co.
Great resource for standard choral literature from chant to 20th-century works, arranged by style, period, and genre. Includes the complete scores and program notes about the pieces and the composers.

The Robert Shaw Reader, by Robert Blocker, Yale University Press
Collection of letters and notes about music that are an invigorating mix of music history and analysis, philosophy, inspiration, and practical advice. A must-have for any American choral educator!

A Survey of Choral Music, by Homer Ulrich, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers.
A history of choral music organized in each chapter by genre: mass, cantata, oratorio, etc. Helpful information for introducing various genres to choral ensembles.

Translations and Annotations of Choral Repertoire, Vol. 1: Sacred Latin Texts,by Ron Jeffers, earthsongs.
Wonderful resource on traditional Latin texts. Includes  historical beginnings, early musical examples, and word by word translations.

Translations and Annotations of Choral Repertoire, Vol. 2: German Texts, by Gordon Paine and Ron Jeffers, earthsongs.
Wonderful resource for German texts set by composers from the Renaissance to the Contemporary, plus hymns, carols, and canons.

Wisdom, Wit, and Will, by Joan Catoni Conlon, GIA Publications.
Celebration and affirmation of women’s profound impact on the choral arts.

Internet Sites:

ChoralNet Web Site

Choral Public Domain Library

Musica International – (The Virtual Choral Library)
Largest choral repertoire index with some scores and sound files:

National Collegiate Choral Organization

9th World Choral Symposium coming in August, 2011:
International Federation of Choral Music

How to make an Mp3 using Garageband
How to make an Mp3 using Audacity

Tired of writing repeated recommendations? Here is a site where students can upload their credential information all in one place!

Music Rental Sites:
Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Choral Music Catalogue –

NAS Choral Music Rental Library (New Amsterdam Singers) –

American Musicological Society –

Society for Music Theory –

Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians –