Choral music is one of the oldest and most special forms of art. In a sense, it is almost miraculous that a group of human beings can come together and create melodies and harmonies that tell a unique story purely through sound. Like physics, there are laws to music, rules that dictate how certain notes come together, but even with structure, we will never run out of ways to combine the tones and create something new and beautiful.
If you're like me and find both the acts of being a part of a choral ensemble and listening to one perform to be a never-ending form of enjoyment or simply appreciate the art of song, you're always on the lookout for new music to stumble upon and lose yourself in. Here are 10 choral pieces that cover a variety of different times and themes, but all leave you with that same feeling of wonder and hope that choirs have the ability to invoke.
1. Sicut Cervus, by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
One of the most notable choral composers of all time, Palestrina crafted pieces like no others. Every vocal part receives a focus in this song, but what stands out the most is the consistent unity in the voices.
2. The Ground, by Ola Gjeilo
On the modern side of choral music, Gjeilo came onto the scene in the early 21st century. The Ground combines an age-old text with a fresh perspective in a work that takes you on a journey from start to finish.
3. Abendlied, by Josef Rheinberger
"Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." Made up of only three different lines of dialogue, this song was written to illustrate the passing of time from sunset to twilight to dusk.
4. Sleep, by Eric Whitacre
Arguably the most well-known composer of this decade, Whitacre is famous for challenging standards of choral music with modern takes on classic styles. Sleep is accented with chord combinations like bells and has a power at the top of its storytelling arc that leaves you speechless.
5. Sure On This Shining Night, by Morten Lauridsen
Scroll through the comments on the video of this song, and the words "peace", "healing", and "comfort" consistently occur. A tale of reflection and belonging, this piece is not easily forgotten.
6. The Road Home, by Stephen Paulus
Everything this song is can be described in one of its most memorable lyrics: "There is no such beauty as where you belong." Finding a place to call home is captured perfectly in this piece by the late Paulus.
7. Requiem, by Eliza Gilkyson and Craig Hella Johnson
Requiem was inspired by the 2004 tsunami that took thousands of lives in Indonesia. This song is a prayer asking for support and guidance during a period of grieving, and regardless of beliefs, captures universal feelings in a piece that unites the world despite our differences.
8. How Can I Keep From Singing, by Christopher Aspaas
Using one of the most popular texts in contemporary choral music, Aspaas arranged a beautiful acapella rendition that exemplifies why choral music is a medium like no other.
9. If Music Be The Food Of Love, by David Dickau
Another song about why we as humans sing, the heavenly nature of If Music Be The Food Of Love means it can be listened to over and over again. Towards the end, the accompaniment drops out and leaves nothing but the voices to illustrate the main theme, and will leave you in awe.
10. Only In Sleep, by Ēriks Ešenvalds
Last but certainly not least, the longing of this final piece is captivating and pure, reminding us time and time again what a gift music is to our world.
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” -Victor Hugo