10 of My Favorite Choral Arrangements, by Roger Emerson

10 of My Favorite Choral Arrangements

With over 500 titles in print and 15 million copies in circulation, Roger Emerson is one of the world's most widely performed choral composers. We asked Mr. Emerson to pick out 10 of his personal favorites from his extensive and varied catalog, and he duly obliged. Read below and browse best-selling Roger Emerson sheet music at Sheet Music Direct; your home for choral sheet music.

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Shoshone Love Song

Roger Emerson

SATB | SSA | TBB | 3-Part Mixed | 2-Part | Choir Audio

I live in Northern California, just 40 miles from the Oregon border. Native American history and folklore is well known in these parts and I have a true reverence for their traditions. I was browsing our local 400 sq. foot library and stumbled on a tattered book of "Indian Songs" as it was titled. I flipped open the book and immediately turned to "Shoshone Love Song" (The Heart's Friend) and was captivated by its truth and simplicity. I went home and within the hour had composed the piece which literally just flowed out of me. I am grateful beyond measure for this piece and the beauty that that it represents. P.S. If you would like to substitute "they" for "he" or "she"…be my guest.

Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel

Traditional Spiritual (arr. Roger Emerson)

SATB | 3-Part Mixed | 2-Part

My first publication in 1977 was a contemporary setting of "Sinner Man" and it was an immediate hit, selling over 75,000 copies its first year. I remember telling myself…"That will never happen again!" Well…lightning struck a 2nd time in 1992 with the setting of "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel". It is similar in construction to "Sinner Man" with its slow, ballad-like introduction over rich, jazz chords and then goes into a driving beat which always seems to appeal to the Tenor/Basses in the ensemble. The triadic harmony is always exciting and the call and response sections are a great way to build competition between sections. My favorite part however is the quartal harmony of the ending. I dig it when kids hear how cool they sound when it is sung.

Stopping By Woods

Roger Emerson

SATB | SAB | 2-Part | Choir Audio

When this wonderful Robert Frost poem became public domain, I immediately wanted to do a choral setting of it. Interestingly enough, I sat down at the piano to create a "ballad-like" setting but my fingers refused to go to the obvious. Instead, I felt like a horse and rider gallop would be more fitting and hence, my unusual setting. The piano part took some time to construct but I am so pleased with the poly-tonality and the "dream-like" quality that it brings to the piece. The descant at the end adds to the feeling of "miles to go before I sleep". Much like "Shoshone Love Song" the songs essence came to me very quickly and will forever be one of my favorite pieces.

Let Me Be the One

Roger Emerson & Jack Zaino

SATB | SAB | SSA | 2-Part | Instrumental Pak | Choir Audio

Growing up in Los Angeles I had a rock band and was writing songs and recording demos trying to get a recording contract. Alas, that did not happen but I still like to write "pop" songs! Like many others, I dig the work of "Pink Zebra"…a composer who writes choral pieces with a pop groove and harmonic sensibility. This song, along with co-writer Jack Zaino, is just such a piece. Fun to sing with a good hook…what could be better? It's also a part of Hal Leonard's "Voices In Harmony" series which features a QR code and links to SEL (Social Emotional Learning) activities and videos by both Jack and myself. Check it out.

The Red River Valley

Traditional American Cowboy Song (arr. Roger Emerson)

SAB | TBB | 2-Part

I am always trying to fill a need with my writing and this piece was the first in what I call REAL SAB voicing. The idea is that often a baritone will enter high school never having sung before…why not give them the melody for the entire piece with a totally new harmonic setting. That's what I did and I am very pleased with it. I set it in a minor mode, not major as the lyric is dark and speaks of parting, so for me the major cowboy setting never worked. If you like it, check out my "Nine Hundred Miles" and "Good News" which also feature a baritone melody throughout and really help to build confidence.

You Raise Me Up

Josh Groban (arr. Roger Emerson)

SATB | SAB | SSA | TBB | 2-Part | Choir Audio

When I first heard Josh Groban's recording of this which was produced by David Foster, I was blown away but when asked to arrange it, I felt that it needed a 2nd verse which I proceeded to write…how presumptuous! I soon learned that the lyricist, Brendan Graham, had a 2nd verse which had been left out of this version. He contacted me with the additional verse and we struck up a friendship as a result. He has visited our home here in Northern California (he lives in Ireland) and I have since arranged many of his songs. This arrangement just sings…the counter-melodies and the direct key change are favorites of mine and as I always say…"pick good songs and try not to wreck them!" Many a truth is said in jest. :)

Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)

Don McLean (arr. Roger Emerson)


This Don McLean pop classic seems to resonate with everyone but particularly today's youth. My setting is a far stretch from his but it captures the haunting and heartfelt pleading of the lyric with jazz chords and transparent textures. My opening homage to "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" still makes me smile when I hear it. This arrangement is available as a single but more recently is contained within "A Cappella Standards" Collection. If I were to pick 8 of my favorite ballads, they are contained within.

Joyful, Joyful (from Sister Act 2)

Mervyn Warren (arr. Roger Emerson)

SATB | SSA | 3-Part Mixed | 2-Part | Instrumental Pak | Choir Audio

I LOVE the Sister Act movie franchise and Mervyn Warren of Take 6 fame, so when I was asked to arrange this piece for choir, I jumped at the chance. I did my best to stay as close to the original as possible and was so pleased when Mervyn (who had to approve the arrangement) circled one of my "expanded" chords and said…"cool!" This arrangement also has a rhythm section with horns (2 trumpets, tenor sax and trombone) instrumental pak that is very challenging and of course, played by pros on the recording. I'll never forget working with a jazz ensemble at North Pole, Alaska and these high schoolers nailed it! I guess practicing is what you do during those long winters.

Blue Skies

Irving Berlin (arr. Roger Emerson)

3-Part Mixed | 2-Part | Choir Audio

I grew up listening to jazz and also sang and played guitar in Kirby Shaw's first vocal jazz group at College of the Siskiyous in Northern California. So when I started arranging this Irving Berlin classic…a walking bass line and cool chords became the default. One of the neatest things for me is that I am a stylistic chameleon and enjoy all types of music. Hence, choir directors trust that even if "jazz" is out of their wheelhouse, I will make it singable enough for the average choir and hopefully make them sound good. "Blue Skies" is one of those as it has been performed by both vocal jazz and concert choirs for several decades with hundreds of thousands of singers having a good time. It brings a smile to my face.

Angels We Have Heard On High

Traditional French Carol (arr. Roger Emerson)

SATBB A Cappella | Choir Audio

Pentatonix and the arrangements of Ben Bram, Rob Dietz and others have captivated the world and ME! Even though I have arranged many a cappella ballads, the contemporary a cappella movement, often with vocal percussion and interwoven melodies was a real challenge. I had to spend quite a bit of time particularly with the lyrics of the background parts to make this work but I am SO pleased with the outcome. It's fresh and fun and should be a blast to sing. Either way, it is now one of my top 10 favorites!

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