Works for Choir and Wind Orchestra

Timothy Reynish

June 2016

Since my 2012 revision of an article written for WASBE Newsletter, at least four works of significance have been written for singers and wind orchestra.

Composer Work Publisher

Abigana, Brett Symphony 3, The Rose World Projects

Davis, Daniel Courage…to follow the Way details from Alberto Roque :

Theofanidis, Christopher The Here and Now

Weinstein, Michael Gott Hammert details from Charles Peltz

The most recent is "Symphony no. 3 - The Rose" for wind band, chorus, and organ by Brett Abigaña to be premiered on July 9th at 7:00 in Sydney Town Hall, Sydney, Australia; at present (June 26) it is impossible to find any further information about this work, but Brett Abigana is a most experienced composer in this genre, see below, and this should be great occasion.

Alberto Roque is doing a fine job in the Conservatoire at Lisbon in commissioning and recording new music, and one composer who has impressed me is Daniel Davis whose fine work Courage….to follow the Way is available on Youtube, information from Alberto.

The Here and Now by Christopher Theofanidis is a major work, only recently been arranged in a wind orchestra version. Based on texts by Rumi, originally for soloists, chorus and full orchestra, it is published by Bill Holab Music and the duration is 33 minutes. It is available on a fine recording by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, telarc CD-80638, highly recommended; I wholeheartedly concur with Christopher Hoh when he writes that it is dramatic, exciting, idiomatic.

Chrisopher Hoh wrote in August 2007

Christopher Theofanidis's "The Here and Now" is dramatic, exciting, idiomatic. Overall, excellent writing that shows off the chorus and instruments, very well performed. The texts are terrific. Kudos to conductor Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony and Chorus for commissioning it and giving is such a good showing. I agree with the reviewer who compared it to Barber's "The Lovers," but would add that musically it also stands up well against Bernstein's Chichester Psalms despite its secular (profane?) texts. At the same time, Theofanidis's sound is fresh without being gimmicky. Will it become a standard masterwork in the 21st century repertoire? It's certainly a candidate, one that orchestra/chorus programmers and contemporary choral afficionados should explore

Tuesday April 12th Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory

Gott Hammert by Michael Weinstein was premiered recently by NEC Chamber Singers and Wind Ensemble conducted by Charles Peltz. The text is a collection of poetry penned by Jewish German WWI soldiers. . Charles writes: I think it may be a work we have been waiting for, one which fills a place in the too spare repertoire for voices (Choir) and winds.Erica Washburn, Director of Choral Activities at New England Conservatory says It is exultant, heart breaking, poignant and beautiful all at once

A brief comment on Charles Peltz email that the Weinstein may be a work we have been waiting for, one which fills a place in the too spare repertoire for voices (Choir) and winds. I looked back at my article of 2012, and must take issue with him; there are several really significant works which I enjoyed; a brief list would include the works by Michael Ball, Susan Botti, Csaba Deak, Adam Gorb, Philip Wilby, and of course those masterpieces by Bruckner, Honneger and Stravinsky.


It is strange too how the Zeitgeist shapes our feelings towards pieces. There are two pieces which I felt years ago were too sentimental for my taste, which have proved very popular, and which I revisited recently again. In these troubled times I found both packed a powerful message.

Jenkins, Karl THE ARMED MAN, A MASS FOR PEACE transcribed for wind orchestra by Martin Ellerby and published by Boosey and Hawkes

Hidas, Frigyes Requiem published by Stormworks

First appeared in WASBE Newsletter, revised October 2012




Abigana, Brett



Abigana, Brett

Omnes Gentes


Ball, Michael


Novello/Music Sales

Basford, Daniel

Night Journey


Beurden, Bernard van

Song of Skyloom

Beurden, Bernard van

La Messe

Beurden, Bernard van

Boulevard des Misères

Botti, Susan


U Michigan SB/Haithcock

Botti, Susan

Wonderglass (opera)

Bruckner, Anton

Mass in E minor


Deak, Csaba

Momento Mare

Goh Toh Chai

Sang Nila


Gorb, Adam

Thoughts scribbled on a Wall


Gorb, Adam

Eternal Voices


Gregson, Edward

Missa Brevis Pacem

Novello/Music Sales

Haan, Jacob de

Missa Brevis

Haan, Jacob de

Missa Katerina

Hagen, Daron

Bandanna (opera)

Carl Fischer

Hedges, Anthony

A Manchester Mass

Henze, Hans Werner

Muses of Sicily


Honneger, Arthur

King David


Honneger, Arthur

Nicolas de Flue

Howard, Emily


Joio, Justin Dello

Blue Mountain (opera)

Klobucar, Andelko

Papinska Missa

Croatian Army Wind/Tarbuk

Long, Zhou

The Future of Fire


Lucic, Franjo

Missa Jubilaris

Croatian Army Wind/Tarbuk

Marshall, Christopher

U Trau


Navok, Lior

Gleams from the bosom of darkness

Phibbs, Joseph


Stravinsky, Igor

Symphony of Psalms

Boosey & Hawkes

Stravinsky, Igor


Boosey & Hawkes

Turrin, Joseph

The Scarecrow (opera)

Wilby, Philip

A Passion for Our Time


Wilder, Alec

Children for Peace

Information Lawrence University

Choral Works with Wind Orchestra or Wind Ensemble

New series published by Maecenas

Eternal Voices for Narrator, Soloists, Chorus and Wind Ensemble, Adam Gorb words by Ben Kaye

Night Journey A Cantata for Baritone, Chorus and Concert Band, Daniel Basford

A New Songs Measure for Choir and Wind Band, Fergal Carroll

A Passion for Our Times for Narrator, Chorus, Youth Choir, Symphonic Wind Orchestra and Organ (with ad. lib. Dances and Audience / Congregation participation), Philip Wilby

Maecenas is proud to launch a new series of works for chorus and wind ensemble, ideal outings for the amateur or school choir.


Best Music For Chorus And Winds Keith Kinder, published by Manhattan Beach Music 2005, edited Bob Margolis

The importance of websites for disseminating information was forcibly brought home by an enquiry from a member of the Committee planning WASBE in Ireland for 2007 about choral music. Could I send a copy of my article - I could remember vaguely writing something, but had no idea where it was. A week later, deleting old files, I came across the article and updated it a little, since when it has been rendered almost totally obsolete by Keith Kinder's magnificent new book, Best Music for Chorus and Wind. This is highly recommended for wind and choral conductors, and carries a mass of information.


The most recent composer to let me know about a choral work was BrettAbigana, whose Symphony no 1 Omnes Gentes was commissioned by the US Navy Band and its conductor, Brian Walden and premiered on September 29th at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, Mannasas, VA. The work had already been recorded and is available as a download under the title Derivations, for only £8.00.

I was first attracted to Brett's music by a performance of his Petite Ouverture at the WASBE Conference in 2009; I contacted him and have conducted his beautiful Sketches on Paintings no 2. To follow up his music, browse his website on He has two works at present for chorus and wind.

Misere is an ambitious and superbly successful twenty-eight minute choral work of great power, combining three opposing forces to communicate its message: the chorus which is dedicated to the words and some direct quotes from Allegri's setting of Miserere, the narrator which takes us through Whitman's disturbing and bloody environment, ( from his poem The Wound Dresser... a depiction of his time spent as a volunteer in the Military hospitals in Baltimore and Brooklyn during the height of the American Civil War) and the wind ensemble which offers commentary and clarification to each while tying all components together.

It is a powerful indictment of war, but at the end of his programme note, Abigana writes: It must be said that while this piece is somewhat direct in its message, this is in no way a statement of mistrust or lack of support for our troops stationed aboad. Perhaps Lt. Gen Harold Moore said it best "Hate war, but love the American warrior".

I found the piece quite compulsive, the end one of the most moving passages in the repertoire. Anyone wanting to essay a shorter work by this composer with voices would be well advised to look at Omnes Gentes, written on commission from the United States Naval Academy, a nine minute work with chorus, organ and antiphonal trumpets, on a text from Psalm 47, also set by Giovanni Gabrieli. Asked to fill the space of the newly restored Naval Academy Chapel, the inspiration of Gabrieli is clear, the result thrilling. It was this movement which formed the basis for the composer’s Symphony no 1.

A Passion for our Time

One of the most important works for amateur forces from the end of the last century was a commission from Philip Wilby by Geoff Reed and Sefton Music Services, a setting of the Passion story by which combines with the Eucharist service to make A Passion for our Time. The work is equally effective in concert for narrator, choir, band and organ, but can also performed in its original with a celebrant. The world premiere, in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, also involved dancers. And the performers and the audience of over 2,000 moved during the performance from the West to the East End, mirroring the journey in Jerusalem. The idiom is uncompromising and suits the tragedy, but the writing is not difficult, although more experienced solo players are required for a chamber ensemble, rather as in Britten's War Requiem.

Night Journey

One of the most important works of the last decade is Night Journey by the young English composer, Daniel Basford. I wrote for the WASBE Emerging Bands blog:

I suspect that it was because of Basford's superb handling of choir, baritone soloist and large wind orchestra in the incomparable setting of St. Alban's Cathedral that I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this new work, a rare occurrence for me. Not a wink of sleep did I catch, my full attention was engaged from start to finish, and the forty minute span seemed but a moment. Not one movement outstayed its welcome, rare in a wind work, and in fact there were times when I needed to hear a further development, only to be whisked on to the next movement or section.

I like Basford's music; he has a knack of writing really singable lines for every instrument (well, I don't know about the tubas nor the wood blocks but the climax in the finale with three clashed cymbals was awesome), and of course the choral writing was excellent, in the tradition of English choral works.; Finzi and Vaughan Williams come to mind, later on Britten, but he has his own voice and those who know his terrific wind band pieces, Songs and Refrains, will recognise little finger prints. Grainger said once that he could sing every part in his wind works, and I think Danny probably could do this too. Like Grainger he has an acute ear for colour, colour not only of instruments but also of harmonic progressions, and he has a sure sense of architecture.

A New Songs Measure

Fergal Carroll always writes direct music, pleasing performers and audiences. Arthur O'Shaughnessy's poem, The Music Makers provides the text (as it did in Elgar's famous Oratorio), whilst Carroll's patriotic setting not only provides his typical fingerprint score but also a piece that will have your audience and players dancing in the aisle! This is Carroll at his most Irish, great fun and a work set to become a staple of any choir and band concert. A New Songs Measure was commissioned by the Association for Music in International Schools, an organisation dedicated to giving young people opportunities for musical performance. Carroll's superbly approachable choral writing carefully takes into account the universal problem of choirs with more women than men making the work highly suitable for school and community use.

Eternal Voices - A Tribute to service men and women in Afghanistan

On November 20, 2010 a moving new work for Narrator, Soloists, Chorus and Wind Ensemble was premiered in Exeter Cathedral in the UK to critical acclaim. Eternal Voices is Adam Gorb's (composer) and Ben Kaye's (librettist) tribute to the men and women who have been injured or given their lives in the Afghanistan conflict. The piece is described as "an exploration of the shattered lives behind recent headlines" The work is some thirty five minutes long, in five movements, each movement prefaced by a narration, in the world premiere given by the celebrated broadcaster, Sir Trevor Macdonald. The words are drawn from news bulletins about the war and the casualties in Afghanistan, the part played there by the Royal Marines, and they include moving excerpts from the war diary of a serviceman Lieutenant John Thornton who served with 40 Commando was killed by an IED in Helmand province in 2008.

Attracting Bigger Audiences

The occasion for the original article was the main work at the BASBWE/RNCM International Festival Gala Concert on Friday 14th April 2000 at Manchester Cathedral. This was A Manchester Mass by Anthony Hedges. This performance started me thinking about the potential of concerts with choirs as a way to drag the wind band into the mainstream of concert music, attracting audiences and building bridges with our very strong choral traditions.

Anthony Hedges was born in 1931, studied at Oxford and was a pianist and arranger with the Royal Signals Band before taking up posts at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and later at Hull University where he was Senior Lecturer in Music. A Manchester Mass is about forty minutes long originally commissioned by the Manchester Music Service and premiered by them in 1974, scored for chorus, symphony orchestra and brass band. This new version was performed by Chethams School, Mancunian Winds and the Manchester Music Services conducted by Allan Jones is for four-part choir and wind band with a treble or soprano soloist needed for a setting of "The Lord's Prayer". The idiom is in the "English Cathedral tradition", perhaps reminiscent on occasion of Walton and Britten, but very effective. It would make a marvellous ending to a Festival concert in a church or cathedral setting. It received a strong performance, too strong perhaps, since we were from time to time left wishing for relief from the noise levels, and a more lyrical gentle approach to the quieter sections of the piece would have been welcome.

The mass is available from the composer's publishing house:

Westfieldmusic, Malt Shovel Cottage, 76 Walkergate, Beverley,

Humberside, HU17 9ER, tel +44 (0)1482 860580 email

2005 - Gregson At Sixty

A similar work, concise and tightly organised and also very "English" in style, is Edward Gregson's Missa Brevis Pacem. It is published by Novello/Music Sales, but does not appear in their wind band catalogues; information at present can only be traced in their choral catalogue, and the band parts and scores are only on hire. It is scored for a boys choir in three parts, SSA, with one movement for baritone soloist, and a moving Benedictus for treble or soprano, which, if marketed, could get into the Top Fifty of the classical charts. Again, the writing for both choir and band is conservative in idiom and difficulty, and like the Hedges is perhaps American Grade 4/5, and it is equally practical as a performing project.


One of my favourite choral works with wind is the original version of Honneger's King David; originally written for amateur performers, this is a work, which can really be used to attract an audience, since the Old Testament story is told by a narrator, who can obviously be your local radio or television star of the moment. The scoring of 1921 is for 2121:1210:T 2P: cello, bass, piano and organ, choir and soloists, with a boys choir joining in the final movement. While Honneger's own arrangement for full orchestra is more widely known, the original version with wind ensemble gives an oriental astringency totally in keeping with the subject.

For me, one of the highlights of the WASBE Conference in Lucerne in 2001 was an extraordinary work by Honneger, Nicholas der Flue. There was no programme about the piece, information is scarce, but as I recall it is scored for soloists, choirs with wind band and brass band. It is described in my Grove as a Dramatic Legend, written in 1941.

Joseph Phibbs

When the young Joseph Phibbs had a ten minute orchestral piece played at the BBC Proms it met with critical acclaim and the work was a finalist in the British Academy of Composers awards, alongside another by Birtwistle and the winner, Julian Anderson. Six months earlier, a work by the same composer, Rainland, involving over one thousand high school students, singing or playing, with professional soloists, lasting 30 minutes, was totally ignored by the national press. Not even WINDS, the journal of BASBWE, covered it. This is an epic work, reminiscent, as any work for children's voices will be of the writing of Britten and occasionally Walton with some marvelously imaginative word painting. Details at present are available from Phillip

A more recent work still was the commission from the North Cheshire Concert Band and Mark Heron of a work for school choir and amateur band called Jonah by Emily Howard, premiered in December 2004. A through composed piece lasting about 13 minutes, this is a miniature dramatic cantata, with modal writing for the choir, not difficult but always interesting. The writing for the band is a little more challenging, but a good school programme could mount this work very effectively. Contact with the composer is via her or by email to

Music for the professionals

Back in 1982 I spent a wonderful week with the late great John Paynter, searching through the library of Northwestern, and I remember being particularly impressed with a recording of The Muses of Sicily by Hans Werner Henze, for SATB chorus 2222:4220: T P and 2 pianos.

A piece which I might take to my desert island is the superb Mass No 2 in E minor by Bruckner, scored for double choir and a wind and brass ensemble of 0222:4230, while another setting of the Mass is one of the most powerful works from the Stravinsky canon of masterpieces for wind ensemble. His setting is scored for choir with double reeds and brass, 0302:0230, and it inspired a companion piece by Michael Ball, Pageant, an energetic setting of mediaeval texts requiring virtuoso singing from an SATB choir with a baritone soloist. At the risk of attracting emails complaining about the inclusion of strings, for the sake of completeness I must include Stravinsky's monumental Symphony of Psalms. and I thoroughly enjoyed a video of the CBDNA commission of Bandanna, an opera by Daron Hagen, with wind orchestra accompaniment and a small off-stage string group. This has a great deal of really powerful music and is well worth exploring by anyone interested in contemporary opera. There is more information below.

New Works and Discoveries

The music of Bernard van Beurden always fascinates me. He has a creed of breaking away from wind band stereotypes, and he certainly does this in his magnificent work Skyloom. A long time member of WASBE, it is to be hoped that the appearance of La Messe in the Conference in Spain of 1993 is not to prove the only appearance of his music in that august forum. While researching for the discussion in Killarney, I came across Peace for Children by that maverick Alec Wilder. It is a brief cantata of about 12 minutes and includes poems or prayers made up by children on the subject. It is very moving.


The Scarecrow

Perhaps the most exciting wind ensemble international events of the past years has been in the field of opera with one major recording of Bandanna, another of Blue Mountain, and a series of productions of Joseph Turrin'sThe Scarecrow.

I was contacted during the year by Joseph Turrin with details of his opera The Scarecrow. You can hear the whole opera on his website and I think that this is a major addition to the repertoire. The overture itself would make an excellent concert number, and the Witch's first line of the first aria must bid to be one of the most memorable ever. When I was a young witch, the women snarled at me. Of the production at Arizona State, the director Graham Whitehead said it's a bit of a mix of Frankenstein and Pinocchio. On one level, it's a thoughtful piece about the redemptive power of love - on another level, it's an existential examination of the theory that existence precedes essence, which I think makes it a very interesting opera.

Set in Colonial Massachusetts, The Scarecrow is an operatic adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Feathertop: A Moralized Legend The story follows a living scarecrow who was fabricated by his "mother" and animated by the devil to take revenge against a hypocritical, well-to-do neighbor. The scarecrow beguiles the neighbor's innocent niece, but becoming more human than his "mother" had intended, he falls in love.


Daron Hagen describes his opera as an aggressive, manic, emotionally overwrought, progressive piece of American Opera, equal parts opera and music theatre... It is now available in a stunning recording conducted by the composer with UNLV Opera Chorus and Wind Orchestra on Albany records TROY 849-50 also available on ITUNES (search for Hagen - Bandanna)

The CD review magazine Fanfare wrote of this CD

Bandanna is a poignant, dramatic and moving new opera, one that belongs in the repertoire not because it deals with the politically hot topic of illegal immigration, but because it is powerful music theatre.

Hagen describes the opera as an aggressive, manic, emotionally overwrought, progressive piece of American opera, equal parts opera and music theatre.

I have seen a video of the original production and listened to Hagen's brilliant recording a couple of times, and I think that it is a wonderful addition to the repertoire. To purchase the recording by UNLV and soloistgs, conducted by Hagen, go to BANDANA.

Blue Mountain - one act opera recording released

Commissioned by the Norwegian Wind Ensemble, the world premiere of Justin Dello Joio's one act opera, BlueMountain was given on October 8,9,10, 2007, at Kanonhalen in Oslo, Norway, as part of the 2007 Ultima Contemporary Music Festival. The opera was recorded in performance and the CD was released on Bridge Records in August 2008. American composer Justin Dello Joio's one act opera, Blue Mountain, was written to commemorate the 100th year of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg's death. The opera is based on descriptions of Grieg's final days (September 1907), and includes the roles of Grieg, his wife Nina, his physician, and his friend and champion, Percy Grainger. Dello Joio's colorful score weaves in references to a number of Grieg's works, including his Violin Sonata in C minor, one of his Lyric Pieces for Piano, (Evening in the Mountains) a brief snatch of Peer Gynt, and references to his Piano Concerto

Two other major works

It was well worth going to the CBDNA Conference in New York in 2005 just to hear an extraordinary piece called Cosmosis by Susan Botti. With the composer herself as soloist, Botti uses a wide range of choral techniques to spin this tale of a spider who was taken on a space mission to see how she would react to weightlessness. Much of it is really beautiful, a word I can scarcely use about much music, but it is apposite for Lior Navok's Gleams from the Bosom of Darkness. Again this is a composer who lets his imagination run riot. I hope that somebody commissions both of these two extremely talented composers to write again for wind, with or without singers.

CBDNA Conference of 2009

The 2009 Conference at Austin produced a number of memorable performances of new music, none more so than works by two Chinese composers now resident in the United States. Chen Yi's Fanfare was a premiere, as was the version for wind ensemble of The Future of Fire by her husband, Zhou Long. Originally scored for childrens' choir and orchestra, this new version was given by a mixed chamber of under twenty singers.

Researching Zhou Long's music in preparation for this article, I came across his statement:

Thinking about what we could do to share different cultures in our new society, I have been composing music seriously to achieve my goal of improving the understanding between peoples from various backgrounds. My conceptions have often come from ancient Chinese poetry. There are musical traits directly reminiscent of ancient China: sensitive melodies, expressive glissandi in various statements, and, in particular, a peculiarly Chinese undercurrent of tranquility and meditation. The cross-fertilization of color, material, and technique, and on a deeper level, cultural heritage, makes for challenging work. But there is more than this... more than reminiscence.

There is no doubt in my mind that both Chen Yi and her husband Zhou Long are creating an extraordinary synthesis of Western and Eastern musical cultures. And their two works in this programme should lead us all to follow up their music. The Future of Fire was sensational by any standards, a whirlwind of ideas, some clearly traditionally pentatonic, some avant garde; there seemed to be Chinese percussion underlying both sides. This is a work I would love to hear again and again, together with Goh Toh Chai’s Sang Nila which was premiered in Singapore. In my review of the Singapore WASBE Conference I wrote:

For many delegates, Sang Nila was the high point of the conference, in its imaginative use of phonetic sounds by the chorus against spare instrumental lines. I had heard similar sounds in a work by Chen Yi, and later found that Zechariah had been considerably influenced by her music when studying in Kansas This marriage of Occident and Orient provides a wonderfully rich vein of compositional processes. of the equation.

Finally a brief mention of U Trau by the New Zealand composer Christopher Marshall, in which the exotic is provided by a text in an invented language, newspeak, in which all the words end in a vowel, there are never more than two consonants together. Scored for double choir and double band, Marshall’s U Trau is a fascinating work, commissioned by Dick and Georgia Bassett for a festival In Leiden. A recording by the Philharmonic Winds of Singapore is available in Youtube. Marshall is planning to reduce the forces for publication so that it can be performed by single choir and band without losing the force of the original.