Women’s Repertoire: Challenging the norm

As a director of three women’s choirs at an all-women’s liberal arts college, my primary challenge is to compile repertoire that recognizes the growing racial, ethnic, and sexual diversity within the student body while continuing to give my students a cohesive choral education. My approach has not been to shy away from truly great sacred works from the classical choral canon, but rather to program these works alongside truly great secular music as well as music from non-Western traditions. My personal interests have taken me to the Republic of Georgia and Corsica, but you do not need to travel across the Atlantic to learn how to perform these styles authentically.

I highly recommend the workshops and camps led by Village Harmony (http://www.northernharmony.pair.com). In any camp or workshop you attend by Village Harmony, regardless of location, you will learn folk songs from Georgia, Corsica, South Africa, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and America (Sacred Harp). Georgian and Bulgarian music in particular work beautifully in women’s voices. Most of the music will be taught aurally, and I would recommend teaching this music to your choirs also by ear, as it is culturally accurate, and will give them the most fulfilling musical experience. Not to mention that music taught by ear is accessible to all students, regardless of sight reading abilities.

Below I have listed repertoire performed by my choirs in the past academic year, to give you a sense of breadth of repertoire that is really available to women’s choirs. I hope that these lists inspire you to challenge your students not only musically, but also through exposure to different cultures and ideologies. If you are having trouble finding any of the pieces below, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Chamber Singers: 15-voice advanced ensemble

Bulgarian (arr. Petar Liondev), Kafal sviri (Vox Bulgarica)
Bulgarian (arr. Philip Kutev), Dragana I Slaveya (Vox Bulgarica)
Corsican, Agnus Dei (Village Harmony)
Corsican, U Ventu (Village Harmony)
György Ligeti, Idegen földön (Schott Music)
Guillaume de Machaut, Puis qu’en oubli (transcription from Village Harmony)
John Rutter, Deck the Hall (Carols for Choirs 4)
Lana Walter, This Endris Night (out of print, contact composer)

Chorale: 50-voice beginning ensemble

Leroy Anderson (arr. Gionfriddo), Sleigh Ride (not yet published, contact arranger)
J. S. Bach, Duet from Cantata No. 37 (Boosey & Hawkes)
Allen Bonde, To Walk Beyond Dreams (Schaffner)
Benjamin Britten, Wolcum Yole! (Boosey & Hawkes)
Georgian, Lechkhumuri naduri (Village Harmony)
Michael Haydn, Laudate pueri Dominum (Bahrenreiter)
Zoltán Kodály, Esti dal (Musica Budapest)
Clifton Noble Jr., This Little Light of Mine (http://www.cliftonjnoblejr.com)
Robert Schumann, Nänie (Peters)
Robert Schumann, Triolett (Peters)
Robert Schumann, Spruch (Peters)
Serbian(arr. Nick Page), Niška Banja (Boosey & Hawkes)
South African, Mamoshimane (Village Harmony)
Ukrainian (arr. Stetsenko), The Angels Exclaimed (Mussica Russica)
Gwyneth Walker, How Can I Keep from Singing? (Schirmer)
Mack Wilberg, Shenandoah (Oxford University Press)
Ralph Vaughan Williams, Linden Lea (Boosey & Hawkes)

Glee Club: 40-voice premiere ensemble

Leroy Anderson (arr. Gionfriddo), Sleigh Ride (not yet published, contact arranger)
Allen Bonde, To Walk Beyond Dreams
Georgian, Diadeb (Village Harmony)
Georgian, Qanuri (Village Harmony)
William Hauser arr. Anonymous 4, Invitation (Hal Leonard)
Gustav Holst, Ave Maria (Alfred)
Stephen Hatfield, Las Amarillas (Boosey & Hawkes)
Nathan Jones, What Shines (transcript, new commission)
Felix Mendelssohn, A Midsummer Night’s Dream incidental music (public domain)
Knut Nystedt, Hosanna (Hinshaw)
Robert Schumann, Der Wassermann (Alliance)
Veljo Tormis, Sügismaastikud (Autumn Landscapes) (Boosey & Hawkes)
Mack Wilberg, Shenandoah (Oxford University Press)