Choral Themes

Choral Themes

Since becoming more involved in the organizational side of choral music, I’ve noticed all the different ways choirs present music, often with works grouped together into themes that range from obvious to suggestive. With so much marketing now taking place through social media and online listings, having a theme that encapsulates the character and content of a performance in a few words can be a big advantage.

I’m impressed with the creativity of some choirs in selecting themes. C4: The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective‘s recent concert in New York, titled A Loss for Words, offered an evening of new choral music on alternative texts—repertoire that used a broad variety of vocal techniques, fragments of words, and made-up words–anything but real words that we might recognize. The repertoire selected was extremely broad and uniquely grouped.

The Esoterics, based in Seattle, is covering an interesting range of themes for its concerts this year. The ensemble’s September concerts celebrate a composer’s birthday–an endless source of concert themes. CAGE: John Cage Centennial features all of John Cage’s a cappella choral works in addition to Cage’s entire Songbook in a marathon performance weekend. The ensemble’s June/July concert, titled ANTAMA: Honoring the healing power of togetherness, has the theme of community and features works by lesbian and gay composers in preparation for the group’s participation in the tenth GALA Choruses conference in Denver this July.

Minnesota-based VocalEssence has British music as a theme for its upcoming concert, Brits & Brass, with Copper Street Brass Quintet, featuring U.S. premieres of The Night’s Untruth by Tarik O’Regan (co-commissioned by VocalEssence) and The Far Theatricals of Day by Jonathan Dove, as well as works by Judith Bingham, Britten, Parry, and Rutter.

The Brits across the pond are celebrating the Queens’ Diamond Jubilee in 2012 (a four-day holiday weekend June 2-5), a theme reflected in the programs of choirs throughout Britain this year. Repertoire seems to be mostly classical, with some new commissioned works featured, such as Ronald Corp’s This Sceptr’d Isle, to be performed by Highgate Choral Society, one of Britain’s longest established non-professional choirs.

Adding to the material available for performance for the Jubilee is a new collection of sacred music composed in the last ten years: A Choir Book for the Queen: A collection of contemporary sacred music in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee. Under the artistic direction of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, 45 anthems have been selected, twelve of which are new commissions for this project. During 2012, BBC Radio 3’s Choral Evensong is featuring anthems from the collection, live broadcast available online in the U.S. at (adjust for time difference–U.K. is +4 hours until 3/25/2012 and then +5 hours).

What concert themes attract your attention?

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.

One thought on “Choral Themes

  1. Scott

    A choir that a good friend of mine conducts did a concert a few years ago called “A Trivial Pursuit,” in which there were a total of 18 choral pieces, 3 of which related to each of the 6 original “Trivial Pursuit” categories, from the board game. The conductor borrowed a big spinning prize wheel from a local bingo hall, and got a friend to dress in a sparkly gown and play the “Vanna” role. Random programs in the audience had a “spin the wheel” ticket inside them.

    So audience members came up, spun the wheel, and the choir sang a selection from that category. It was a great deal of fun, and the audience had a great time, and it was a phenomenal way to find some interesting repertoire (choral music about sports!) and have fun with it. Such a memorable program, and I love that kind of creativity in the concert hall.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Conversation and respectful debate is vital to the NewMusicBox community. However, please remember to keep comments constructive and on-topic. Avoid personal attacks and defamatory language. We reserve the right to remove any comment that the community reports as abusive or that the staff determines is inappropriate.