Twelve Of The Best: Songs For High Voices

The first set of songs I ever did compose for choir were for high voices (My Bed Is A Boat – five settings of Robert Louis Stevenson poems) and since then this has continued to be a regular source of inspiration, commissions and performances. There are so many more than twelve quality songs for high voices in my catalogue of choral pieces, that this has been the hardest of all these “Twelve Of The Best” lists to select, and there may be another in the near future, but for now, I have picked out the most popular in terms of performances, feedback and audience reactions and numbers.

As ever, there is more information and links to scores and full recordings underneath this video catalogue.

The Swing – for SA choir. An up and down evocation of the glorious swing poem by Robert Louis Stevenson with swooping melodic lines and rhythms.

The Moon – SSAA choir with some divisi. Another setting by Robert Louis Stevenson, this time ethereal and spooky. It’s been performed quite a few times, the most evocative being in a hazy blue light in Dunedin – magical!

Rain – SSA choir. This song started out as a single line song for primary school classes – we used to add rainy, drippy accompaniment patterns using classroom percussion and composed by the children. Later I did this arrangement for choir – removing the percussion, but still with the dripping.

Golden Rain Baby – SSAA choir with melody instrument and soprano solo. This lullaby uses repeating rhythmic patterns and flowing melodic ideas, and was inspired by a Javanese piece for gamelan : Bubaran Hudan Mas or Bubaran Golden Rain. I composed it in Brisbane where is seldom rains, but when it does the sun is often shining as well.

Omnes de Saba – SSAA choir. A lively, fanfarey Epiphany anthem with Medieval tendencies. Bouncing alleluias for the whole choir are contrasted with more melodic passages for reduced textures.

Hodie Christus Natus Est – SSAA choir with SSAA semi-chorus. This is the original scoring for this Christmas choral fanfare, which is now popular in all its versions. The repeating chorus patterns were originally intended for and performed by the entire population of a girls’ high school in New Zealand, while the trickier bursts in between were taken by the school choir.

Pierced Hemisphere – SSAA choir with percussion and melody instrument (preferably flugel horn, but any would be excellent as in this recording where we used cornet). This was a commission from The Hepworth Wakefield, and was inspired by Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture of the same name. The song is initially fragmentary as the melodic and rhythmic ideas are chipped away at, but gradually they come together in a flowing melody with imitative accompaniment gestures and more cohesive rhythmic patterns.

Who Killed Cock Robin? – SSAA choir. Much of the tragic tale of the nursery rhyme is covered in this setting. Each verse starts with a questioning phrase, and the answer is provided to the accompaniment of interlocking, rhythmic mini-melodies. The choruses are more uniform in rhythm and texture.

Laughing Song – SSA choir. A setting of William Blake’s poem which explores the use of interlocking unison rhythmic patterns opening out into brief splashes of harmony.

Alison’s K6 Telephone Box – SSAA choir. Composed in response to a request (by Alison) for a song about our village’s red telephone box (now an Info Box). The song is in a musical hall/barbershop style and celebrates the boxes themselves and all the new uses to which they have been put.

Ooh Ladyfinger – SSAA choir. This love song in praise of the virtues of a particular type of banana is in a bluesy style and is one of several song I composed when I was going through a banana-inspired phase of my composing career! It is also available for TTBB choir and a trickier, more dramatic version for SATB choir.


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