Fresh Choral Music Online by Peter Bird of Los Angeles
[Peter Bird]     [contact]     [Opus 22. We sing of the lands]

COMPOSITIONS Biography History of Choral Music Choral-Music Puzzlers Recommended Links


My Compositions :
(Newest on top. All works are free, with full details in the Terms of Use page.)

24. Frost in the Fall (3 songs)

23. Väinämöisen lauluja (Songs of Väinämöinen)

22. We sing of the lands

21. Night song

20. Concord (a cantata of 5 numbers for SATB chorus, soloists, organ, harpsichord, & piano). Score available to choral directors, on request.

19. Four prairie songs of Sandburg

18. Northwest windsong

17. Toro nagashi (Lantern-floating)

16. Continental Divide (a cantata of 8 numbers for SATB chorus, S & Bar solos, & 9 instruments). Further information and samples available on request.

15. Mars (a cantata of 4 numbers)

14. Mountain stars

13. Mountain streams

12. The Lake Isle of Innisfree

11. Simeon’s hymn (Nunc dimittis)

10. Mary’s hymn (Magnificat)

9. An anthem of Earth

8. A little flock from Iceland
(a cantata of 4 numbers)

7. Donne’s Hymn

6. John Muir suite (a cantata of 4 numbers)

5. To The House

4. Pushkin’s “Reverie”

3. Into the Twilight

2. Cædmon’s Hymn

1. Gloria in excelsis Deo

[beech trees, Denmark]

Nyudsprungne bøgetræer i Grib Skov på Nordsjælland

New beech leaves, Grib Forest in the northern part of Sealand, Denmark

Malene Thyssen, 11 March 2005

WikiMedia Commons


Biography: Born 1951 in Massachusetts. Choral singer since 1964, under direction of Constance Andrews, Yuko Hayashi, Henry Weigel, Carol Keiser, Susan Rosenstein, Colleen Cronin, David Simmons, Terry Danne, Julia Tai, Jenni Brandon, and Phil Theodorou. B.A. from Harvard 1972; Ph.D. from MIT 1976. Geophysicist since 1972; professor at UCLA since 1976; emeritus since 2011. Choral composer since 2005.


A History of Choral Music:

Download: JPG     PDF     AdobeIllustrator

Below is a one-page chart summarizing the history of western choral music since 1000 AD:

A History of Choral Music

This chart gives emphasis to my favorite choral composers, including Tallis, Clemens, Palestrina, Lassus, Byrd, Bortnyansky, Rheinberger, and Lauridsen. However, if you download the Adobe Illustrator version, you will be able to edit it to reflect your own views.

It shows how 6 centuries of accelerating development (1000-1600) was interrupted by three crises. The first crisis was the success of the Reformation, which resulted in a tendency to fundamentalism in the new churches, budget-tightening in the Roman church, and the diversion of princely support to politically safe and newly fashionable Baroque orchestras. (The Thirty Years War, begun in 1618, was the final blow.) The second crisis was the interruption in the training of new composers during the upheavals of the American and French revolutions and the Napoleonic wars. The third crisis was a sociological one, at the opening of the 20th century, when many composers were inspired to reject all the old ways and become “Modernist.” At the same time, the Russian revolution nearly destroyed their national tradition.

Now, we have unprecedented access to the masterworks of the past. The combination of ancient frameworks (e.g., tonality & counterpoint) with modernist- and jazz-inspired freedom in harmony and form has given rise to a new era in choral music. What shall we call this new period? (Not “Postmodern,”certainly; that term already has different connotations.) In my chart above, I have suggested the name "Vernal" for the current period in choral music; after a long winter of Modernism we are rediscovering the eternal values of tonality, melody, harmony, and structure that help to create an emotionally or spiritually coherent message. (Yet, today's choral composers are not merely reactionary; we are open to expanded harmonies, diverse texts, and multiple cultural traditions.)


Choral-Music Puzzlers:

1) Memorable choral chords.
Can you identify the work in which each chord occurs, and its composer?
Obviously, the original underlying texts have been removed. However, the original keys and voicings have been retained.
(Hint: All 5 chords are by living composers, and 4 of them are Americans.
I apologize for this bias; I just picked these puzzles from among the works I know best.)

[chords in score]

Solutions:   chord A   chord B   chord C   chord D   chord E  

2) There are many pairs of choral composers who share(d) the same surname. If we allow for variant spellings, there are 11 cases in my historical chart above. (Any family group of more than 2 composers still counts as one case.) The more comprehensive composer list at the Choral Public Domain Library includes 90 more cases, for a total of 101! How many can you think of, without looking? {solution}

3) The two composite images below represent one of my all-time favorite choral compositions, a model of effortless grace and charm.
The large composite image represents the title and (metaphorical) subject of the work.
The small composite image represents its composer:

[title & subject]     [composer]

If you can solve this, your prize is that you can go to the Choral Public Domain Library and download a free score, and add this work to your group's library!


Recommended Links:

Choral Public Domain Library (over 17,500 free downloadable choral scores from over 2,300 composers, mostly typeset; some offer MIDI previews)

International Music Score Library Project (free downloadable instrumental & choral scores for over 74,000 works from over 7,500 composers; most are scans; some offer MP3 previews)

ChoralNet (news, views, & links about choral singing)

The Concert Singers (the chorus that I sing with, on the west side of Los Angeles)

Philemon Theodorou (our conductor)

Jenni Brandon (our previous conductor; now a full-time composer!)

Stephanie Hutchinson (our accompanist; also a composer!)

Or, perhaps you were not looking for choral music, but instead want to find my geological web page?