Working with Small Choirs: Part 2 -- Other Resources

by Linda Kempke

Think liturgical music for your choir. Arrangements of the psalms abound. Sing an appropriate psalm in addition to the appointed psalmody for the day. Opportunities for attendant music are the gathering, offering, and distribution of communion.

Psalm Settings for the Church Year from Augsburg Fortress contains various styles and arrangements from many different composers. There are different types of voicings available for the texts. Another excellent resource is Psallite – Sacred Song for Liturgy and Life – The Collegeville Composers Group. The cantor/choir books contain antiphons, descants, and simple part music, organized according to the three year Roman Catholic lectionary but the psalms are indexed and also organized by antiphon texts. There is a separate accompaniment book for each year. Sing some Gregorian chant psalmody, accompanied by handbells punctuating phrases with tone clusters. Choirs can learn to sing and play bells at the same time.

Thomas Keesecker has set some of the texts suggested as Offering Canticles (Appendix E) from the book Keeping Time, the Church’s Years. Settings are for unison and two-part choirs. Contact him at

When looking for worship music for small choirs begin with what you have. Look in your music library. Many SATB anthems work well singing only two of the lines. The most obvious is singing the soprano and alto line together, or the soprano and tenor lines. If you have instrumentalists available have them play the parts not being sung. Some pretty interesting and lovely arrangements can result from this method. Have a flute or recorder player? Have an instrument play the tenor line an octave higher than written as a descant. Obviously some anthems will work better than others. An instant anthem idea is to choose one of Bach’s Schübler Chorales and have the choir sing the chorale melody in unison with the organ accompaniment. Lovely music and arrangements can be the result.

Collections are a great resource if a majority of the pieces are suitable for your situation. Some selected collections that I have used with choirs are as follows:

Sing It Simply. 25 Congregational Hymn Accompaniments for Piano, Optional Guitar, Bass and Handbells by Thomas Keesecker. This collection is intended for unison singing, some with descants. Many hymns are in a lower key, with re-harmonizations that are different from most standard hymnals. All parts are reproducible.

Alleluia to Jesus – The Choral Music of Carl F. Schalk. Reproducible music of various voicings with a CD included. Contains both hymns and anthem music.

A set of collections called A Choir Book for Easter; A Choir Book for Lent, etc., edited by Paul R. Ladd, Jr. This is a series with individual books for the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and General use. Contains unison, two and three equal voices; two, three, and four mixed voices, accompanied and a cappella settings. There are often two or more different settings of the same piece.

The New Gloria Deo: Music for Small Choirs, Volume One by Aaron David Miller.

The New Gloria Deo, Volume Two by Thomas Keesecker.

Augsburg Choirbook for Women. Unison, 2-part, 3-part, and 4-part treble voices.

Five Hymns by Heinz Werner Zimmermann.

Treasures in Heaven. Music for Two-Part Mixed Choirs by K. Lee Scott.

Assembly Required, Set 1: Service Music for Choir and Assembly. Choir/Cantor and Assembly.

Assembly Required, Set 2: Service Music for the Easter Vigil.

The Augsburg Easy Choir Book, Volume 1: Music for the Church Year. Unison and two-part mixed. Augsburg Fortress.

The Augsburg Easy Choir Book, Volume 2: Music for the Church Year. Unison and two-part mixed. Augsburg Fortress.

A choir director working with a small choir functions in the role of a cantor of the Church, leading the people’s song.

“The cantor uses whatever musical resources are available, using them in a manner appropriate to the talents of those serving and the needs of the people who are served.” -from “The Role of the Cantor” poster - Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (ALCM)

Posted on Jun 3, 2013 7:07:13 AM
Filed Under: Choral Techniques and Repertoire, Filed Under: review-prelude,

Linda Kempke

Written by Linda Kempke

Linda Kempke is a retired Associate in Ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and currently Region 1 President of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians. She is the cantor at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Brooklyn, OH. Linda holds degrees from the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music, Berea, OH and Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, OH.