Michael Silhavy takes this question for us! Michael is GIA’s Senior Project editor and has worked in diocesan, cathedral, university, and parish settings.
What’s the best series for music for small choirs?
Currently, the GIA/WLP catalog has well over 20 different series; nearly all those series have music for small choirs. It’s a big task to identify repertoire for a small choir!
Let’s start by identifying what a small choir is. I’d define it as 10 or less. Within that 10, you might be lucky enough to have the traditional SATB forces represented. Within all of our series, you are likely to find some (at times confusing) voice designations.
Mixed voices almost always means a part for the treble voices and a part for the bass clef voices. Or, sopranos and altos on the first part with tenors and basses on the second part. The composer or arranger is striving for a sound with high voices and low voices more than an octave apart. Many of these pieces are identified as SB or even SAB.
Pieces scored for equal voices are intended for any combination of sopranos and altos or tenors and basses. Here, the intent is to feature close harmonies of similar voices. The intended effect is to hear only the treble (or bass) voices. Using traditional identification, this music is for SA, or SS, or AA, or TT, or TB, or BB voices. The most flexible voicing is found in those pieces suitable for equal or mixed voices. Sopranos and tenors may sing the top part while altos and basses may sing the bottom part. The music is composed in such a way that the harmonies are effective no matter which voice is on a part. Any combination is possible.
We should also be careful that music for small choir does not necessarily mean easy music. Many small choirs, even an ensemble from the larger choir, sing more challenging repertoire. Little by little, all of our pieces are beginning to appear on the website for viewing. Easy, medium and difficult tend to be subjective terms; more than trusting these designations in our catalogs, take a look at the piece online to determine its suitability for your use.
But the series that best represents music for the small choir is our Simple Gifts series. The voicing never exceeds SAB and a generous amount of music is scored for 2 or 3 part equal or mixed voices. The “simple” music in this series is never simplistic. A choir that requires more time to learn music will find the Simple Gifts series suitable to their skill level. A fine choir will be able to learn pieces in this series with minimal preparation. My choir has 6 sopranos, 7 altos, 4 men (and a couple of French hens and turtledoves thrown in); it’s the series I turn toward the most.
**WLP’sAll God’s Children series offers pieces with a similar style and voicing to those in the GIA Simple Gifts series. **