All Join In: A HyperHistory of American Choral Music

All Join In: A HyperHistory of American Choral Music

An indispensable part of any choral conductor’s professional tools is a good library of recordings. For the conductor, or the choral composer, listening to representative repertoire is as important as score study. Some choral ensembles specialize in the music of a certain composer (who may or may not be the conductor) while other choirs might focus on a special style or period of choral music. Listening to different choirs of the same makeup—for example, a mixed choir of 40 singers from different regions of the U.S. or of various countries—also gives the choral conductor or composer a sense of how different the same size choral instrument might sound. A mixed choir of 40 singers from New York would have a different tone from the same size choir from Minneapolis or of one from Seattle.

The following list may serve as a starting point for a conductor’s or composer’s listening. These recordings contain all or predominantly American repertoire. Many, many choirs make recordings of representative repertoire, which includes works by American composers, but the recordings are either short-run or non-commercial recordings. The CDs listed here are also all commercially available.


Chanticleer: With a Poet’s Eye: New American Choral Music

Cary John Franklin/With a Poet’s Eye; Ned Rorem/Pilgrim Strangers;
Allen Shearer/Ages of Day and Mushrooms; William Hawley/Vita de la
Mia Vita and Io Son la Primavera; David Conte/Ave Maria; Mark Keller
Ave Maria; Steven Sametz /“Oh llama de amor viva!”
[Chanticleer Records 8804]


Chanticleer: Colors of Love

Steven Stucky/Cradle Songs; Bernard Rands/Canti d’Amor; Zhou Long/Words of the Sun; Chen Yi/Tang Poems; Augusta Read Thomas/The Rub of Love and Love Songs; Steven Sametz/in time of.
[Teldec 3984-24570]


Chanticleer: Where the Sun Will Never Go Down

Spirituals and Traditional Gospel Music: arr., Joe Jennings/Old Time Religion, Jesus Come by Here, All Night, Where the Sun Will Never Go Down, Steal Away, Lord I Want to be a Christian, Am I a Soldier of the Cross, Twelve Gates; Roy Ringwald/Deep River; Hall Johnson/I’ve Been ‘Buked.
[Teldec 4509-90878]


Chanticleer: Our American Journey

William Billings/David’s Lamentation; Brent Michael Davids/The Uncovered Wagon; Ann Ronnell/Willow Weep for Me; George Gershwin; Love Walked In.
[Teldec 0927-48556-2]


Concordia Choir: Folk Songs, Spirituals & Hymns

Aaron Copland/Las Agachadas; F. Melius Christiansen/Lamb of God, Lost in the Night, Wake Awake, O Day Full of Grace, Beautiful Savior; Alice Parker/Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal, I Got Shoes, John Saw Duh Numbah; Robert Shaw/Set Down Servant; James Erb/Shenandoah; Norman Luboff/All My Trials. [Concordia Recordings 2052]


Coro Hispano de San Francisco: Ramillete

[Coro Hispano de San Francisco]


Corydon Singers: American Choral Music

Bernstein/Chichester Psalms; Samuel Barber/Agnus Dei; Aaron Copland/In the Beginning and Three Motets. [Hyperion 66219]


Dale Warland Singers: Blue Wheat

19 American songs arranged by Alf Houkom, Gail Kubik, Edwin Fissinger, Carol Barnett, Gilbert Martin, Robert DeCormier, Mark Keller, Norman Luboff, Roger Wagner, Harry Burleigh, Stephen Paulus, Alice Parker.
[ACC 122 via Warland Singers]


Dale Warland Singers: Choral Currents

Mary Ellen Childs/Bright Faces; Stephen Paulus/Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind; Steve Barnett/Three Songs from Hebrew Poetry; Carol Barnett/The Last Invocation; Cary John Franklin/With a Poet’s Eye; Sydney Hodkinson/Expiration; Libby Larsen/The Settling Years.
[Innova / Minn. Composers Forum #110]


Gloriae Dei Cantores: Be Glad America

William Billings/Three Fuguing Tunes; Charles Ives/Psalm 67; Randall Thompson/The Best of Rooms; Leonard Bernstein/Chichester Psalms; Virgil Thomson/Hymns from the Old South; Leo Sowerby/Eternal Light.
[Gloria Dei 008]


Gregg Smith Singers: America Sings

Vol. 1 “The Founding Years”: Music from the Ainsworth and Bay Psalters; Sacred Music from the Revolutionary Period; Music from 18th Century American Tune Books; Music of the American Moravians; Secular Music of the American Revolution. [Vox CDX-5080]


Kansas City Chorale: Fern Hill

Williametta Spencer/At the Round Earth’s Imagined Corners; John Corigliano/L’Invitation au Voyage and Fern Hill; Jean Belmont/The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, The Roadside Fire and Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier; James Mullholland/A Red, Red Rose; Samuel Barber/Reincarnations; arr. Susa – Shenandoah; arr. Parker/Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye; arr. Wilberg/I’m Goin’ Away; Roy Ringwald/Deep River.
[Nimbus Records 5449]


Kansas City Chorale: Nativitas

Conrad Susa/Three Mystical Carols; John Carter/In Time of Softest Snow; Ned Rorem/Shout the Glad Tidings; Jean Belmont/Nativitas; Leo Sowerby/Love Came Down at Christmas; Charles Ives/A Christmas Carol; Arnold Freed/Three Shepherd Carols; Norman Dello Joio/The Holy Infant’s Lullaby; Joel Martinson/ There is no Rose; Henry Cowell/Sweet was the Song.
[Nimbus 5413]


King’s College, Cambridge: American Choral Music from King’s College

Leonard Bernstein/ Chichester Psalms; William Schuman/ Carols of Death; Aaron Copland/In the Beginning; Libby Larsen/How it thrills us; Charles Ives/Psalm 90.
[EMI 54188]


Melodious Accord

Take Me to the Water/spirituals; Sweet Manna: Early American Songs of Praise; Transformations; SING! a hymn sing: Congregational Song Series, #3.


Moses Hogan Singers:

one of the leading African-American choral ensembles in the U.S. with a large body of recordings.


Robert Shaw (Chorale): Stephen Foster Songbook

[BMG 09026-61253-2]


Robert Shaw (Festival Singers): American Hymns and Spirituals
[Telarc 80325]
Click for a complete listing of Robert Shaw’s recordings.


The Spirit Chorale of Los Angeles: directed by Byron Smith and dedicated to the historic and contemporary black gospel traditions


Witness: a four volume survey of Black American Music by The Ensemble Singers and Chorus of VocalEssence and Moore by Four Vocal Jazz Ensemble. [Collins 14492 etc.]



Brigham Young University Singers: Eric Whitacre: The Complete
A Cappella Works
[Arsis – 147]

The Choral Arts Society of Washington men and The Oratorio Society of Washington National Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin, conductor [RCA Victor Red Seal 09026-68450-2].

I Call Upon You, God: sacred music and spiritual arrangements of Leon Roberts [GIA Publications CD-342]

Kansas City Chorale: Words and Music: Music of James Mulholland.

Magnum Chorum: Wonder Tidings: Christmas Music of Stephen Paulus
Three Nativity Carols, Hallelu!, Jesu Carols, Canticum Novum
[Magnum Chorum MCC-4]

Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia: Vincent Persichetti Choral Works
Winter Cantata, Mass, Love
[New World Records 80316-2]

Of Rage and Remembrance by John Corigliano
Grammy Award Winner, Best Classical Album of 1996.

The Spirituals of William L. Dawson: a recording of Dawson’s classic works by the St. Olaf Choir and Marvis Martin [St. Olaf Records E-2159]

San Francisco Chamber Singers: Freed From Words, a new CD of choral music by resident composer Mark Winges, has just been released on Innova.



Wade in the Water: a series of 4 CDs covering the spectrum of African-American choral and congregational singing, produced by Bernice Johnson Reagon and the Smithsonian Institution.

Recordings from the Glee Clubs of Historically Black Colleges: Spelman College, Morehouse College, Fisk University, Tuskegee University.

A huge trove of choral recordings can be discovered in the archives of companies which record major guild conventions such as those of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) or the honor choirs from Music Educators (MENC) conventions. To learn more about obtaining recordings, visit the websites of these organizations. There are also a small number of companies who specialize in selling only choral recordings, both commercial, guild, international, and small-run: Collegium Records USA and Primarily A Cappella. Refer also to the breakout page on representative American choral ensembles. Many have recordings which they sell via their websites.


From All Join In: A HyperHistory of American Choral Music
By Marian Dolan
© 2003 NewMusicBox

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.