10 of the Best New Choir Arrangements

Fall Choir Programs

This blog comes courtesy of Hal Leonard's Concert & Classical Choral Editor, Scott Foss, who discusses how the pandemic has changed storytelling, and how choral music is an important part of that.

The difference between choral music and all other forms of "ensemble" music making are the lyrics. Before we ever choose a song for publication, we read the text. "Is it important?" "Is it appropriate?" "Will the students singing this relate to the text?" "Does it reflect our times?" "Do the lyrics match the music?". Before we ever study the music, the melody, the harmony, or the level of difficulty, the words are the number one deciding factor.

The pandemic and the events during the pandemic have informed every bit of lyric writing and choral singing. It is important to remember that music does not live on the paper it is printed on. It is an aural art and it lives in the air when it is brought to life by the performing musicians. It lives in the air along with the particles that transmit COVID-19 and consequently, singing in choirs has been one of the last music making activities to resume since March of 2020.

Along with the simple joy of gathering and singing together, what we sing about when we finally are able to gather and sing has changed. The need for connection, for healing, and for hope have become critical in our shared singing.

And oh, by the way, a re-examining of racial equality in America was very much a part of our time in quarantine.

And while we couldn't be together and interacting with our friends and finding success in our school work, mental health has become a major concern for people of all ages.

So choral music, the lyrics and the emotions, has embraced these challenges and concerns and singing in a choir is bringing healing, dialogue and hope to those who sing it and those who hear it.

Following are titles that have been written and published during the pandemic with all of these titles already finding large and enthusiastic audiences.



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Call Across

Brian Newhouse and Kyle Pederson

SATB | Instrumental Pak

This is one of two winners of the 2021 ACDA Genesis Project (along with "Holding Our Breath"). The Genesis Project is a "composer/poet response to the pandemic." "Call Across" reaches across cultures, ages, languages and geography and clearly states that "the human animal is made for connection." This fact of our humanity has been painfully clarified as COVID-19 shut down huge swaths of human activity, and silenced choral singers everywhere whose very art is made only in community. "Call Across" gives voice to this elemental human need and leaves the audience with an empowering invitation to connection and unity. "There is no beauty without your voice."




Responsibility

Mark Sirett

SATB | SSA | Choir Audio

This is part of a five song suite titled "May You Heal," and in this beautiful piece, composer Mark Sirett uses the words of Jewish leader and scholar, Hillel the Elder, and captures the tension between the need for healthy self-care and the importance of caring for others. Mark combines the ancient Hebrew text with modern English to create an elegant setting.




Hold Out Your Light

Traditional Spiritual (arr. Stacey V. Gibbs)

TTBB a cappella

As we were confined in our homes, many of us wondered how we could be agents of hope. Here, the composer encourages one to be a good humanitarian, a soldier for peace, and an example of hope for others, even as we are quarantined.

AUDIO COMING SOON


Colorful

Philip Silvey

SSA

As we gather back and begin singing again, our singers bring their experiences during this time of semi-isolation with them. For many, this has been a trying and lonely experience. One of the important and shining educational methods being employed to help our students is Social Emotional Learning (SEL). In order to help conductors employ this important method in their teaching, Hal Leonard has begun a new series titled Voices In Harmony that includes teaching resources, and videos from the composers (other titles in this new series include: "Never Give Up", "Over the Sea to Skye", and "Let Me Be the One".

A QR code is included with the music which will take teachers and students to the teaching resources and the composer videos. These resources are complimentary and included with the purchase of the music.




Give Us Hope

Jim Papoulis

SATB | SSA | Unison

This year, 2022, marks the 20th anniversary of this iconic song of hope from Jim. He has created a special video lifting up this work which you can view on our YouTube channel. And he is giving the royalties to his Foundation for Small Voices which supports music programs in low income areas. The power of hope has never been more important and this music underscores this power.




Say Her Name

Alysia Lee

SATB a cappella | SSA a cappella

When I heard Alysia teach this song remotely to those attending the 2021 Chorus America Virtual Conference, I knew it had to be available to everyone. While quarantined, many young people experienced depression and loneliness, which has put a huge stress on our mental health providers. It is more important than ever to communicate with your young singers to make sure they are being clear about their feelings as they rejoin communities.

Alycia writes: "I wrote this piece to bring this powerful music to the concert stage with a call to action. The #SayHerName movement resists police brutality against Black women." Kimberlé Crenshaw, a central leader of the movement shares, "If you say the name, you're prompted to learn the story, and if you know the story, then you have a broader sense of all the ways Black bodies are made vulnerable to police violence."




You Are Enough

Aron Accurso

TTBB | SATB (Third Movement Only)

One in five U.S. adults experience mental illness, and we all have negative thoughts that creep into our consciousness from time to time, sometimes those thoughts overwhelm us like a storm.

It is our hope that "You Are Enough" will make conversations about mental health occur more easily, help people feel less alone, know that they are loved and supported, and know that they are enough no matter what they are struggling with.

This has been selected for multiple all-state choir festivals and is part of the National Concerts repertoire.




The Times, They Are A-Changin'

Bob Dylan (arr. Adam Podd)

SATB

Protest music was an important part of the 1960s music scene. With the need to get out and connect with issues and those who want to see change in the world, some of the great protest songs from this earlier era are as relevant and important as ever.

With themes of social justice, we hope that this reharmonization and the contrasting musical style to the original version of the song will bring a new attention and poignancy to these well-known lyrics.




A Safe Place to Land

Sara Bareilles

SATB | SSA | Choir Audio

Sara Bareilles and John Legend recorded this elegant song and Mac Huff has elevated it to new heights with this powerful arrangement. The importance of a safe place for immigrants to settle is amplified by the crisis in Ukraine and recently with those fleeing Iran. It was originally in response to the immigration crisis at the U.S. border. The a cappella opening sets the stage for this powerful choral ballad.






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