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Choral Composers

So much of what many of us would think of as choral music is traditional, centuries-old works, things our parent and grandparents grew up with, but that’s really not the be-all and end-all of choral works. There are many talented, genius composers of the last century and a bit, who have created some beautiful, stellar works that are being sung by choirs around the world today. Why not check out some of these brilliant men and women’s work? If you’ve never tried modern choral work, you’re in for a lovely surprise. Why not treat yourself to that surprise today?

Displaying 1 - 50 of 126 items.


Dominick Argento

Dominick Argento is considered to be America's preeminent composer of lyric opera. At the Peabody Conservatory, where he earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees, his teachers included Nicholas Nabokov, Henry Cowell and Hugo Weisgall. Argento received his Ph.D. from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Alan Hovhaness and Howard Hanson. Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellowships allowed him to study in Italy with Luigi Dallapiccola and to complete his first opera, Colonel Jonathan the Saint. Following his Fulbright, Argento became music director of Hilltop Opera in Baltimore, and taught theory and composition at the Eastman School. In 1958, he joined the faculty of the Department of Music at the University of Minnesota, where he taught until 1997. He now holds the rank of Professor Emeritus.

Although Argento's instrumental works have received consistent praise, the great majority of his music is vocal, whether in operatic, choral or solo context. This emphasis on the human voice is a facet of the powerful dramatic impulse that drives nearly all of his music, both instrumental and vocal. Music critic Heidi Waleson has described Argento's work as "richly melodic ... [his] pieces are built with wit and passion, and always with the dramatic shape and color that make them theater. They speak to the heart."


Johann Sebastian Bach

Born into a musical family, Bach received his earliest instruction from his father. After his father's death in 1695, Bach moved to Ohrdruf, where he lived and studied organ with his older brother Johann Christoph. He also received an education at schools in Eisenach, Ohrdruf, and Luneburg. Bach's first permanent positions were as organist in Arnstadt (1703-1707) and Muhlhausen (1707-1708). During these years, he performed, composed taught, and developed an interest in organ building. From 1708-1717 he was employed by Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar, first as court organist, and after 1714, as concertmaster. During this period, he composed many of his best organ compositions; in his capacity as concertmaster, he was also expected to produce a cantata each month. In Weimar, Bach's style was influenced by his study of numerous Italian compositions (especially Vivaldi concertos).


Sir Edward Bairstow

Edward Bairstow was born in Huddersfield in 1874. After a period teaching at Windsor, in 1893 he became an apprentice to Frederick Bridge at Westminster Abbey, where he stayed for six years as pupil and assistant. He also held an appointment as Organist and Choirmaster at All Saints', Norfolk Square, London until 1899, when he went to Lancashire to take up the post of Organist at Wigan Parish Church. In 1906 he moved to Leeds Parish Church and was appointed Organist of York Minster in 1913, a post he held until his death in 1946.

In York he maintained the choral services at a high level and greatly widened the repertoire. He took the Doctorate of Music examinations at the University of Durham in 1902 and became Professor of Music there in 1929. This did not necessitate a move from York to Durham, for he was only required to give one lecture each year in order to fulfil his commitment. He was knighted in 1932, and received the Degree of Hon. D.Litt. from Leeds University in 1936./


Samuel Barber

Samuel Barber's music, masterfully crafted and built on romantic structures and sensibilities, is at once lyrical, rhythmically complex, and harmonically rich. Born 9 March 1910 in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Barber wrote his first piece at age 7 and attempted his first opera at age 10. At the age of 14 he entered the Curtis Institute, where he studied voice, piano, and composition. Later, he studied conducting with Fritz Reiner.

At Curtis, Barber met Gian Carlo Menotti with whom he would form a lifelong personal and professional relationship. Menotti supplied libretti for Barber's operas Vanessa (for which Barber won the Pulitzer) and A Hand of Bridge. Barber's music was championed by a remarkable range of renowned artists, musicians, and conductors including Vladimir Horowitz, John Browning, Martha Graham, Arturo Toscanini, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Jennie Tourel, and Eleanor Steber. His Antony and Cleopatra was commissioned to open the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in 1966.


Lajos Bardos

Lajos Bardos was a composer, conductor, and professor of music at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music. Together with Zoltan Kodaly, he laid the foundations of 20th-century Hungarian choral music. From 1928 to 1967 he was a professor at the Academy, where he reformed the syllabus, emphasizing the training of choral conductors, the teaching of church music history, and instruction in music theory and prosody. In 1931 he co-founded the publishing company Magyar Korus, and served as editor of the musical periodical of that name from then until 1950, when it was banned. From 1934 he organized the "singing youth" movement, encouraging young people across Hungary to join choral groups and learn the basics of music.

Through his work as a conductor Bardos raised the standards of Hungarian choral singing to an international level within decades. He directed several choirs and encouraged the development of choral activity in remote areas of the country. His repertory was pioneering: he included choral music from before Palestrina, especially those of Josquin, and promoted new music (he introduced, for example, Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms into Hungary). His own compositions also draw on Renaissance polyphony and Hungarian folk music, following in the tradition of Bartok and Kodaly.


Paul Barker

Paul Barker's compositions include orchestral works, choral works, vocal music, chamber music, percussion music, operas, music theatre, dance theatre and theatre productions. Sixteen chamber operas - many of them recorded and televised - have been performed at major international festivals in the UK and Mexico. El Gallo, an opera without text for six actors and two string quartets (commissioned by Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes in 2009) will receive its 100th performance in 2011; it is also being recorded and filmed. Orchestral works include a Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, commissioned by the London Mozart Players and premiered by Tasmin Little. An early orchestral work was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize. His clarinet quintet, In Memoriam, was commissioned by the Brodsky Quartet and Joan Lluna in 2004 and has to date received many international performances in Spain, Holland, Serbia, Ireland, London etc, and received outstanding reviews. In common with much of his recent music, the element of performance, sometimes theatrical, plays a prominent role. He has received many commissions for dance scores notably at the Edinburgh Festival and worked on over 50 theatrical productions internationally.


Ysaye Barnwell

Ysaye M. Barnwell was born in New York City and has lived in Washington, D.C., for over 40 years. Her life experiences have taken her down three major paths. She began in music at the age of 2, studying violin for 15 years with her father and majoring in music in high school. She sang in a choir while in junior high school and then in college. In 1976, she founded the Jubilee Singers at All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C. It was, there in 1979, that Bernice Johnson Reagon witnessed her as a singer and a Sign Language interpreter and invited her to audition for Sweet Honey In The Rock.

Barnwell is also a Speech Pathologist with the Bachelors, Masters (SUNY, Geneseo 1963-68) and Ph.D. (University of Pittsburgh 1975) degrees and was a professor in the College of Dentistry for over a decade. In 1981 she completed post-doctoral work and earned the Master of Science in Public Health.


Bela Bartok

Bela Viktor Janos Bartok was a Hungarian composer, pianist and collector of Eastern European and Middle Eastern folk music. Bartok is considered one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. He was one of the founders of the field of ethnomusicology, the study and ethnography of folk music.

Bela Bartok began lessons with his mother, who brought up the family after his father's death in 1888. In 1894 they settled in Bratislava, where he attended the Gymnasium (Dohnanyi was an elder schoolfellow), studied the piano with Laszlo Erkel and Anton Hyrtl, and composed sonatas and quartets. In 1898 he was accepted by the Vienna Conservatory, but following Dohnanyi he went to the Budapest Academy (1899-1903), where he studied the piano with Franz Liszt's pupil Istvan Thoman and composition with Janos Koessler. There he deepened his acquaintance with Wagner, though it was the music of Strauss, which he met at the Budapest premiere of Also sprach Zarathustra in 1902, that had most influence. He wrote a symphonic poem, Kossuth (1903), using Strauss's methods with Hungarian elements in F. Liszt's manner.


Andy Beck

Andy Beck received a Bachelors degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and a Masters degree in Music Education from Northwest Missouri State University. Following his nine year appointment as Vocal Music Director at Johnson City High School in New York State, Andy joined the editorial team of Alfred Publishing Company where he currently serves as Managing Editor, School Choral and Classroom Publications.

A successful composer and arranger, he has authored several top-selling chorals and children's musicals for Alfred, as well as co-written the highly regarded method book, Sing at First Sight, Foundations in Choral Sight-Singing. Andy is in demand as a guest conductor, choreographer, and clinician for music educators and students throughout the country.

A fine tenor voice, he enjoys performing in and directing musical theater, singing with the North Carolina Master Chorale Chamber Choir, and has been an Alfred studio singer since 1992.


Sir Richard Rodney Bennett

English composer and pianist. He studied at the RAM (1953-7) and with Boulez in Paris (1957-9), though his public career as a composer had begun before this. At 16 he was writing 12-note music, and the period with Boulez encouraged him towards Darmstadt techniques. But in the 1960s he recovered more conventional aspects to develop a style of Bergian expressionism (e.g. in his opera The Mines of Sulphur, 1965); his opera Victory was given at Covent Garden in 1970. His subsequent output is large, including many concertos, settings of English poetry, chamber music, and, notably, big Romantic film scores. A musician of great versatility, he has worked as a jazz pianist (several of his scores of the 1960s are in a sophisticated jazz style) and has played and arranged American popular music.


Erik Bergman

Erik (Valdemar) Bergman was an eminent Finnish composer, conductor, music critic, and pedagogue. At Helsinki University in 1931-1933, he studied musicology with the composer and ethnomusicologist Ilmari Krohn - the founder of the discipline in Finland - and literature with the critic and folklorist Yrjo Hirn; concurrently (1931-1938) he was a student at the Helsinki Conservatory - composition with the composer-pianist Erik Furuhjelm and with Bengt Carlson, who had studied under Vincent d'Indy in Paris, and piano with Ilmari Hannikainen, one of the major Finnish pianists. This was followed by further compostion studies with Heinz Tiessen at the Berlin Hochschule fur Musik (1937-1939), and the twelve-tone technique with Wladimir Vogel in Ascona, Switzerland (1942-1943).

Returning to Helsinki, Erik Bergman was conductor of the Catholic Church Choir (1943-1950), the Akademiska Sangf6reningen at the University (1950-1969), and the Sallskapet Muntra Musikanter (1951-1978). As a music critic, he wrote for the Nya Pressen (1945-1947) and Hufvudstadsbladet (1947-1976). From 1963 to 1976 he was professor of composition at the Sibelius Academy. In 1961 he received the International Sibelius Prize of the Wihuri Foundation. In 1982 he was made a Finnish Academician. In 1994 he was awarded the Nordic Council Music Prize for his opera Det sjungande tradet (The Singing Tree), which received its premiere in Helsinki on September 3, 1995.

Erik Bergman married first in 1942 Sylvelin Långholm (marriage dissolved 1955), second in 1956 Aulikki Rautawaara (marriage dissolved 1958), third in 1961 Solveig von Schoultz (died 1996), fourth Christina Indrenius-Zalewski.


Irving Berlin

Meet the man who wrote "God Bless America". His name was Irving Berlin, one of the greatest American songwriters of his time. His life began in a foreign country, as one of eight children of Leah and Moses Baline. He grew up and greatly impacted society from the many famous songs and plays he wrote, while most of them are still very popular today. We are talking about the man who started out in a poor town in Russia, then came to the United States and made it big.

Irving Berlin was born under the name Israel Isidore Baline on May 11, 1888 in Mogilyov, Russia. He came to America with his family at age five to escape the pogroms in Russia. The family settled in New York City, where Israel and his brothers sold cheap newspapers on the street to support their family after the death of his father. Not long after, he became a singing waiter, which started him off in the singing business. Israel began composing songs. He couldn't read music, but taught himself to play piano enough so he could write his own music.


Leonard Bernstein

The prodgiously gifted American conductor, composer, pianist, and teacher, Leonard (actually, Louis) Bernstein, took piano lessons as a boy and attended the Garrison and Boston Latin Schools. At Harvard University, he studied with Walter Piston, Edward Burlingame-Hill, and A. Tillman Merritt, among others. Before graduating in 1939, he made an unofficial conducting debut with his own incidental music to The Birds, and directed and performed in Marc Blitstein's The Cradle Will Rock. Then at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, he studied piano with Isabella Vengerova, conducting with Fritz Reiner, and orchestration with Randall Thompson. In 1940, he studied at the Boston Symphony Orchestra's newly created summer institute, Tanglewood, with the orchestra's conductor, Serge Koussevitzky. Bernstein later became Serge Koussevitzky's conducting assistant.


Abbie Betinis

Reviewed as "most audacious... edgy and thrilling," the music of Abbie Betinis (b. 1980) has been heard in some of the finest concert halls in the United States, and is enjoying growing acclaim abroad. Betinis has been commissioned by more than 40 music organizations including the American Suzuki Foundation, Cantus, Dale Warland Singers, and The Schubert Club. She holds degrees from St. Olaf College, the University of Minnesota, and has done post-graduate work at the European American Musical Alliance in Paris, France, where she studied harmony and counterpoint in the tradition of Nadia Boulanger. A McKnight Artist Fellow, Betinis has also received grants and awards from the American Composers Forum, ASCAP, the Jerome Foundation, and the Minnesota Music Educators Association. She has been Composer-in-Residence for The Schubert Club in Saint Paul since 2005, and has also held residencies with The Singers-Minnesota Choral Artists and The Rose Ensemble. A three-time cancer survivor, Abbie lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.


William Billings

William Billings, is considered by many to be the foremost representative of early American choral music. Billings was born in Boston on October 7, 1746. Largely self-trained in music, he was a tanner by trade and a friend of such figures of the American Revolution as Samuel Adams and Paul Revere. Billings's New England Psalm-Singer (1770), engraved by Revere, was the first collection of music entirely by an American.

Billings often wrote the lyrics for his own compositions. Like the notes, the words are occasionally awkward but always forceful and vivid. He wrote long prefaces to his works in which he explained (often in an endearingly eccentric prose style) the rudiments of music and how his work should be performed. His writings reflect his extensive experience as a singing master, and often include advice that would wisely be heeded by choral singers today.


Hildegard von Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen began having visions as a child, but it wasn't until she was in her forties that her revelations in Christianity made her turn to composing. She founded convents and wrote plays, liturgies and hymns in praise of saints. Incredibly prolific, she was also considered a healer and early theologian and she was venerated in the church. Her compositions continue to be performed and recorded today.


Johannes Brahms

German pianist and composer Johannes Brahms is ranked among the masters of the Romantic era. Although he showed talent at the piano at an early age, he spent much of his young life performing rather than composing. Brahms's career was given a boost by composer Robert Schumann (1810-56) and his pianist wife Clara (1819-96); his close relationship with Clara, especially after she was widowed, has been the source of much speculation ever since. The pair exchanged passionate letters and went on holiday together, but Brahms opted to leave her behind to pursue his career and a life of bachelorhood. By the end of the 1860s he'd settled in Vienna, where he lived until his death from cancer in 1897. Musically he maintained the Romantic tradition of Ludwig van Beethoven, in opposition to the rise of composers such as Richard Wagner and Brahms's friend, Franz Liszt. His most famous composition is the lullaby, "Lied Wiegenlied" ("Cradle Song"), popularly known as simply "Brahms' Lullaby." His compositions include German Requiem (1866), Violin Concerto in D (1878) and Piano Concertos in B Flat (1878-81).


Benjamin Britten

The renowned English composer, who was also a gifted conductor and pianist, Benjamin (Edward) Britten, studied with Frank Bridge as a boy and in 1930 entered the RCM. In 1934 he heard Wozzeck and planned to study with Alban Berg, but opposition at home stopped him. The next year he began working for the GPO Film Unit, where one of his collaborators was Auden: together they worked on concert works as well, Auden's social criticism being matched by a sharply satirical and virtuoso musical style (orchestral song cycle Our Hunting Fathers 1936). Igor Stravinsky and Gustav Mahler were important influences, but Britten's effortless technique gave his early music a high personal definition, notably shown in orchestral works (Bridge Variations for strings, 1937; Piano Concerto, 1938; Violin Concerto, 1939) and songs (Les illuminations, setting Rimbaud for high voice and strings, 1939).


Anton Bruckner

Anton Bruckner was born in Ansfelden to a schoolmaster and organist father with whom he first studied music. He worked for a few years as a teacher's assistant, fiddling at village dances at night to supplement his income. He studied at the Augustinian monastery in St. Florian, becoming an organist there in 1851. He continued his studies to the age of 40, under Simon Sechter and Otto Kitzler, the latter introducing him to the music of Richard Wagner, which Bruckner studied extensively from 1863 onwards. He had alrady in 1861 made acquaintance with Liszt who was religious like Bruckner and who first and foremost was a harmonic innovator, initiating the new german school together with Wagner. Soon after Bruckner had ended his studies under Sechter and Kitzler, he wrote his first mature work, the Mass in D Minor. He was a very devout Roman Catholic.


Gavin Bryars

Richard Gavin Bryars is an English composer and double bassist. He has been active in (or has produced works in) many varied styles of music, including jazz, free improvisation, minimalism experimental music, avant-garde, neoclassicism, and ambient.

Born in Goole, East Riding of Yorkshire, England, Bryars initially studied philosophy at Sheffield University before studying music for three years.

The first musical work for which is he remembered was his role as bassist in the trio Joseph Holbrooke, alongside guitarist Derek Bailey and drummer Tony Oxley. The trio began by playing relatively traditional jazz before moving into free improvisation. However, Bryars became dissatified with this when he saw a young bassist (later revealed to be Johnny Dyani) play in a manner which seemed to him to be artificial, and he became interested in composition instead.


Alan Bullard

Alan Bullard's music is widely performed in Great Britain and many other countries, broadcast on television and radio, and appears on a number of CDs. The variety of commissions that he has undertaken - including music for a number of professional soloists and ensembles, many amateur choral societies and children's choirs, a semi-professional chamber orchestra, wind band and recorder festivals, a professional chamber choir, a festival for massed school choirs and instrumentalists, the anniversary celebrations of a church and a school, music for examination syllabuses and educational albums, and for a television programme about the Suffolk landscape - are some indication of the wide appeal of the music of this versatile composer to many different types of musicians and audiences.


Alfred Burt

Alfred Burt (born April 22, 1920) was an American jazz musician who composed fifteen now famous Christmas carols between 1942 and 1954. Burt studied music at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and served as an officer in the United States Army during World War II. After the war, he traveled to California, developing a career as trumpeter and arranger, and eventually joined the Alvino Rey Orchestra. His most famous carol, "Caroling Caroling", is often heard during the Christmas season, and many others have been recorded by dozens of artists. John Williams wrote two medleys of his works for the Boston Pops Orchestra. Burt wrote his carols for "publication" on the back of his Christmas cards each year. They are among the few modern carols to address serious spiritual themes. A heavy smoker, he died of lung cancer in 1954 at the age of 33. In 2003 Burt's niece, the composer Abbie Betinis, revived the traditional of sending Christmas cards with an original carol each holiday season.


Antoine Busnoys

French composer. Nothing certain is known about his origins or early training. By 1461 he was resident in Tours as a chaplain at the cathedral. In 1465 he was in charge of the choristers first at the collegiate church of St Martin in Tours (where his senior colleagues included Johannes Ockeghem ), then at St Hilaire-le-Grand in Poitiers. By 1467 he had moved into the service of the Burgundian court, and he became an official member of the chapel staff in 1470 . This position involved extensive travel in northern France and the Low Countries, both in peacetime and during military campaigns. The last payments to him occur in 1483 , after which his biography is again obscure.

Busnois is famous above all for his many polyphonic chansons, sophisticated works that reflect not only the Burgundian milieu but also the French royal court circle in which he moved during his years at Tours. Some of their poetic texts are almost certainly his own work. Fewer sacred works by him survive, but they are of high quality and often ingenious construction. One motet, Anthoni usque limina, is composed round a tenor line that invokes the tolling of a bell; another, the non-religious In hydraulis ( c. 1467 ), pays tribute to Ockeghem in both words and music. Busnois was among the first in a long line of composers to write a mass based on L'Homme arme, a melody thought to have had symbolic meaning to the Burgundian dukes.


Javier Busto

Busto graduated as a medical doctor from Valladolid University. In 1995 he created and founded the women's choir Kanta Cantemus Korua.(2) Known internationally as a composer of music and as a choral conductor, he has presented his compositions at the Fourth World Symposium on Choral Music in Sydney, Australia in 1996, and was guest conductor of the Tokyo Cantat in 2000. His choirs have won first place awards in France, Italy, Austria, and Germany. Busto has served on the jury of composition and choral competitions in Spain, France, Italy and Japan.


William Byrd

William Byrd (1540? - July 4, 1623) was the most celebrated of early English composers. His entire life was marked by contradictions; as a true Renaissance man, he did not fit easily into categories. He lived well into the seventeenth century without writing songs in the new Baroque fashion, but his superbly constructed keyboard works marked the beginning of the Baroque organ and harpsichord style. Although he was nominally an Anglican court composer for much of his life, he spent his last years composing for the Roman liturgy, and died in relative obscurity. In the anti-Catholic frenzy following the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, some of his music was banned in England under penalty of imprisonment; some of it-such as the Short Service-has been sung in English cathedrals uninterrupted for the past four centuries.


Andrew Carter

Andrew Carter was born at Wigston Magna, Leicestershire, in 1939. He studied music at Leeds University before settling in York, where he joined the York Minster Choir as a bass. In 1965 he founded the Chapter House Choir at York Minster Cathedral, a mixed voice ensemble, which continued under his direction for seventeen years and achieved national renown. He wrote much of his early published arrangements for this choir.

Andrew was Director of Music at the Bar Convent Grammar School, where he achieved his first successes as a choir trainer. (The Bar Convent School closed in 1985 becoming All Saints Roman Catholic School, just down the road, but the original building is still in use as conference rooms etc.)

Andrew spent a year in New Zealand in 1984, conducting and adjudicating, and when he returned he returned to England he focused on composition. Since that time he has had a long association with the Oxford University Press and largely through this medium he has established an international reputation as a writer of choral music, both miniatures and larger scale works for chorus and orchestra. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the Antipodes as a choral director.


Bob Chilcott

Bob Chilcott has been involved in choral music for most of his life. He was a chorister and choral scholar at King's College, Cambridge, and for twelve years was a member of the vocal group The King's Singers. Since 1997 he has worked as a full-time composer and has written a wide variety of choral music, including a significant amount of music for young choirs. He has over one hundred pieces published by Oxford University Press, and a number of his choral works have been published in German, Swedish, Norwegian, and Slovenian.

As well as being Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Singers, he has conducted many other leading choirs in their field, including the World Youth Choir, the RIAS Kammerchor, Orphei Drangar from Sweden, Jauna Musika from Lithuania, the Taipei Chamber Singers, and the Tower New Zealand Youth Choir. He has worked in 23 countries on six continents, and at festivals from Festival 500 in Newfoundland to Tallinn, where in 2004, as the first foreign musician to be invited, he conducted a choir of 7000 young singers at the Estonian Song Festival in one of his most popular pieces, "Can you hear me?".


Rene Clausen

Rene Clausen's has served as conductor of The Concordia Choir of Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota since 1986. Additionally, he is the artistic director of the award-winning Concordia Christmas Concerts, which are frequently featured by PBS stations throughout the nation.

Rene Clausen is a well-known composer. His compositional style is varied and eclectic, ranging from works appropriate for high school and church choirs to more technically-demanding compositions for college and professional choirs. Interested in composing for various media, Clausen's compositional interests include works for the stage, solo voice, film and video composition, choral/orchestral compositions and arrangements, as well as works for orchestra and wind ensemble. He regularly composes on a commission basis, and is a frequent guest conductor and composer-in-residence on a national basis.


Aaron Copland

Copland born in Brooklyn, New York. Of Russian Jewish descent, he spent his childhood living above his parents' Brooklyn shop. Although his parents never encouraged or directly exposed him to music, at age fifteen he had already taken an interest in the subject and aspired to be a composer. His music education included time with Leopold Wolfsohn and Rubin Goldmark, also one of George Gershwin's teachers, and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris from 1921.

Upon his return from his studies in Paris, he decided that he wanted to write works that were 'American in character' and thus he chose jazz as the American idiom. His first significant work was the necromantic ballet Grohg which contributed thematic material to his later Dance Symphony. Other major works of his first (austere) period include the Short Symphony (1933), Music for Theater (1925) and Piano Variations (1939). This jazz inspired period was brief, however as his style evolved toward the goal of writing more accessible works.


William Dawson

African American composer, performer, and music educator William Levi Dawson (1899-1990) used the rich vitality of his musical heritage as a basis for all types of music, including arrangements of folk songs and original compositions.

William Levi Dawson was born on September 26, 1899, in Anniston, Ala. At the age of 13 he entered Tuskegee Institute and graduated in 1921 with first honors. He received the bachelor of music degree from the Horner Institute of Fine Arts in Kansas City, Mo., in 1925. He studied composition under Felix Borowski at the Chicago Musical College and under Adolph Weidig at the American Conservatory of Music. In 1927 he received the master of music degree from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago.


Josquin Desprez

Josquin Des Prez was one of the most influential and widely regarded composers in the history of Western music, so famous that he is known merely by his first name. Josquin was apparently born in the Duchy of Burgundy, in modern Belgium. He spent a large portion of his middle years in various Italian cities as a highly sought master of music, and then retired to Conde (in Northeast France) late in his life. Josquin's extended sojourns in Italy allowed him not only to spread the Northern polyphonic style there, but to pick up some of the Southern vitality noticeable in many of his secular works. However, his extended works are always marked by a subtlety and serenity characteristic of the Franco-Flemish school.


Hugo Distler

Born in Nuremberg, Hugo Distler is known mostly for his sacred choral music. He attended Leipzig Conservatory first as a conducting student with piano as his secondary subject, but changing later, on the advice of his teacher, to composition and organ. He became organist at St. Jacobi in Lubeck in 1931. In 1933 he married Waltraut Thienhaus. That same year he joined the NSDAP: reluctantly, but his continued employment depended on his doing so. Distler also taught at the School for Church Music in Spandau, and became a professor of church music in Berlin in 1940.

Becoming increasingly depressed from the death of friends, aerial attacks, job pressures, and the constant threat of conscription into the German army, he committed suicide in Berlin at the age of 34. He chose to end his life by his own hand (with fumes from his own gas oven) rather than be conscripted into the Wehrmacht.

His work is polyphonic and frequently melismatic, often based on the pentatonic scale. Because of these characteristics, his work was stigmatized by some Nazis as "degenerate art." Distler enjoyed his first success in 1935 at the official Kassel Music Days (Kasseler Musiktage).


Guillaume Dufay

Guillaume Dufay was a Franco-Flemish composer and music theorist of the early Renaissance. As the central figure in the Burgundian School, he was the most famous and influential composer in Europe in the mid-15th century, and can be considered as the founding member of the Netherlands school which dominated European music for the next 150 years.

From the evidence of his will, Guillaume Dufay was probably born in Beersel, in the vicinity of Brussels. He was the illegitimate child of an unknown priest and a woman named Marie Du Fayt. Marie moved with her son to Cambrai early in his life, staying with a relative who was a canon of the cathedral there. Soon Dufay's musical gifts were noticed by the cathedral authorities, who evidently gave him a thorough training in music; he studied with Rogier de Hesdin during the summer of 1409, and he was listed as a choirboy in the cathedral from 1409 to 1412. During those years he studied with Nicolas Malin, and the authorities must have been impressed with the boy's gifts because they gave him his own copy of Villedieu's Doctrinale in 1411, a highly unusual event for one so young. In June 1414, at the age of only 16, he had already been given a benefice as chaplain at St. Gery, immediately adjacent to Cambrai. Later that year he probably went to the Council of Konstanz, staying possibly until 1418, at which time he returned to Cambrai.


Maurice Durufle

The French composer, organist, and pedagogue, Maurice Durufle, became in 1912 chorister at the Rouen Cathedral Choir School, where he studied piano and organ with Jules Haelling. At age 17, upon moving to Paris, he took private organ lessons with Charles Tournemire (whom he assisted at Ste-Clotilde until 1927), Guilmant and Vierne. In 1920 Durufle entered the Conservatoire de Paris, where he took courses in organ with Gigout (Premier Prix, 1922), harmony with Jean Gallon (Premier Prix, 1924), fugue with Caussade (Premier Prix, 1924), and composition with Ducas (Premier Prix, 1928). He graduatied with first prize also in piano accompaniment.


Antonin Dvorak

Dvorak was born in Nelahozeves near Prague where he spent most of his life. He studied music in Prague's Organ School at the end of the 1850s, and through the 1860s played viola in the Bohemian Provisional Theatre Orchestra which was from 1866 conducted by Bedoich Smetana.

From 1892 to 1895, Dvorak was director of the National Conservatory in New York City. The Conservatory was founded by a wealthy socialite, Jeannette Thurber, who wanted a well-known composer as director in order to lend prestige to her institution. She wrote to Dvorak, asking him to accept the position, and he agreed, providing that she were willing to meet his conditions: that talented Native American and African-American students, who could not afford the tuition, must be admitted for free. She agreed to his conditions, and he sailed to America.

It was during his time as director of the Conservatory that Dvorak formed a friendship with Harry Burleigh, who became an important African-American composer. Dvorak taught Burleigh composition, and in return, Burleigh spent hours on end singing traditional American Spirituals to Dvorak. Burleigh went on to compose settings of these Spirituals which compare favorably with European classical composition.


Sir Edward Elgar

Surrounded by sheet music and instruments in his father's shop in Worcester's High Street, the young Elgar became self-taught in music. On warm summers' days, he would take manuscripts into the countryside to study them. Thus there began for him a strong association between music and nature. As he was later to say, 'There is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it and you simply take as much as you require.'

Having left school at the age of 15, he began work for a local solicitor, but after a year embarked on a musical career, conducting piano and violin lessons. At 22 he took up the post of bandmaster at the Worcester and County Lunatic Asylum, a couple of miles to the southwest of Worcester. In many ways, his years as a young Worcestershire violinist were his happiest. He played in the first violins at the Worcester and Birmingham Festivals, and one great experience was to play Antonin Dvorak's Sixth Symphony and 'Stabat Mater' under the composer's baton. Elgar was thrilled by Dvorak's orchestration and this remained an influence on his own style for more than a decade.


David Fanshawe

David Fanshawe, a Churchill Fellow and the recipient of many international awards, was an internationally distinguished composer, ethno-musicologist, sound recordist, archivist, performer, dynamic and entertaining lecturer, record producer, photographer and author. Also widely known for his lead roles in documentaries; a TV, radio and public personality extraordinaire, he is acclaimed as "one of the world's most original composers."

David Fanshawe was born in 1942 in Devon, England and was educated at St George's Choir School and Stowe. In 1959 he joined the Film Producers Guild in London gaining valuable experience as a documentary film editor and recordist. In 1965, he won a Foundation Scholarship to the Royal College of Music, studying composition with John Lambert. He gained national recognition in 1970, as cantor soloist and composer, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, with Salaams, a work based on the rhythms of the Bahrain pearl divers. His ambition to record indigenous folk music began in the Middle East, in and was intensified on subsequent journeys through North and East Africa (1969-75) resulting in his unique and highly original blend of Music and Travel.


Gabriel Faure

Born in Pamiers, Ariege, Midi-Pyrenees, he studied at the Niedermeyer school of religious music in Paris with several of the greats including Camille Saint-Saens. He eventually became organist at Eglise de la Madeleine.

He became a prolific composer, and among the most noteworthy of his works are his Requiem, an opera; Penelope, an orchestral suite Masques et Bergamasques (based on music for a dramatic entertainment, or divertissement comique), and music for Pelleas et Melisande. He also wrote chamber music and his two piano quartets are particularly well known. Other chamber music includes two piano quintets, two cello sonatas, two violin sonatas, and a number of piano pieces. He is also known for his songs, such as Clair de lune, Apres un reve, Les roses d'Ispahan, En priere, and several song cycles, including La Bonne Chanson with settings of poems by Verlaine.


Irving Fine

Irving Fine's music, wrote Aaron Copland, "wins us over through its keenly conceived sonorities and its fully realized expressive content"; Copland also singled out its "elegance, style, finish and a convincing continuity", its overarching lyricism summed up in Virgil Thomson's description of its "unusual melodic grace".

Irving Fine was born in Boston, Mass., on 3 December 1914 and first studied piano; he was an admired pianist throughout his career, and was particularly esteemed by colleagues for his sight-reading ability. Fine went to Harvard University, attending the composition and theory classes of Edward Burlingame Hill and Walter Piston; he received his BA in 1937 and his MA a year later; at Harvard he also studied choral conducting with Archibald T. Davidson and, at Tanglewood, orchestral conducting with Serge Koussevitzy. In 1938-39 he attended Nadia Boulanger's composition classes at Fontainebleau, outside Paris, and at Radcliffe College, Cambridge (Mass.).


Gerald Finzi

Gerald Raphael Finzi was born into a fairly prosperous family on 14th July 1901. His father was a successful London shipbroker. There were four other brothers and sisters. He was descended from Italian Jewish ancestry and his parents were, at that time practising Orthodox Jews. The composer never really acknowledged this religious heritage. In fact he wrote a number of distinctively Christian works including fine setting of the Magnificat.

Finzi was educated privately. However during the First World War his mother moved the family to Yorkshire. There Finzi studied with the young composer Ernest Farrar. After Farrar had received his call up papers, Finzi completed the first part of his musical education with the great organist at York Minster-Edward Bairstow.

It was during his early life that Finzi first became aware of the transience of life- one of the major themes of his music. In the space of a few years his father and three brothers died. Ernest Farrar was killed on the Western Front. This sudden realisation of the harshness of the world recommended the poetry of Thomas Traherne - the great Platonist poet who dwelt on the innocence of the soul of a child and of course William Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality.


Edwin Fissinger

Dr. Edwin R. Fissinger, a charter member of the American Choral Director's Association, had an active career as a conductor and composer for forty-five years. In addition to orchestral, piano, and vocal compositions, he wrote 183 choral works, a substantial contribution of quality literature to this medium. His music has attracted the attention of serious choral musicians and has received performances by numerous All-State Choirs and at regional and national ACDA conventions.


Stephen Foster

Stephen Collins Foster known as the "father of American music", was the pre-eminent songwriter in the United States of the 19th century. His songs such as "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races", "Old Folks at Home" ("Swanee River"), "Hard Times Come Again No More", "My Old Kentucky Home", "Old Black Joe", "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair", and "Beautiful Dreamer" remain popular over 150 years after their composition.


Tom Gentry

A former member of the Society's music department, Tom is one of the barbershop world's most sought-after arrangers. Many of his arrangements have been published by the Society.

He joined the Barberhop Harmony Society in 1969 and has taken part in numerous quartet and chorus contests. His quartet Friends of Old competed in the 1982 International Contest in Pittsburgh, PA. He has been a member of two choruses that were fourth-place medalists at the international level, the Houston Tidelanders (1970) and the San Diego Sun Harbor Chorus (1973).

Tom is a graduate of Kalamazoo (Michigan) College, with a bachelor's degree in Psychology. He is currently a member of chapters in Akron and Canton, Ohio.

He became a certified Arrangement judge in 1979 and served on the category's Board of Review in 1983-84 before joining the Kenosha staff. Tom is also a former Music Category Specialist. His main non-barbershop passions are swing dancing and volleyball refereeing.


Carlo Gesualdo

Born into the Italian nobility, Don Carlo Gesualdo developed an early and passionate interest in music. Though recognized as a dynamic composer who was far ahead of his time, Gesualdo's brilliance as a musical talent has been overshadowed by his violent personal life. After discovering his wife (and first cousin), the lovely and charming Maria d'Avalos, in the arms of the Duke of Andria, Gesualdo flew into a jealous rage and stabbed them both to death. He fled to northern Italy to avoid persecution, and was never tried nor punished for his crimes. His second wife was Eleonora d'Este, a highborn lady whose powerful family included the Dukes of Ferrara and Modena. Gesualdo treated his second bride as dismally as his first, and his death in 1613 was rumored to have been arranged by the vengeful Eleonora. The incredible chromatic harmony and wild contrasts in his music seem to be a reflection of Gesualdo's temptestuous personality. His mania for constantly composing music may have been a sign of melomania.


Orlando Gibbons

Orlando Gibbons, born in Oxford, came of a musical family, like his near contemporary, Thomas Tomkins. His father William (c. 1540-1595) was appointed one of the waits at Cambridge in 1567, a fact which, at this time, would indicate that he was a singer or instrumentalist, or both. Orlando's brothers Edward (c. 1570-c. 1650) and Ellis (1573-1603) are each represented by a small number of surviving works. Christopher (1615-1676), his son, was to achieve an estimable position as a composer of the baroque period. As might be expected, some confusion in attributions has resulted from the fact that several members of the family composed. Orlando, in 1596, entered the choir at King's College, Cambridge. He became organist of the Chapel Royal in 1605, and in 1606 took the degree of Mus. Bac. at Cambridge. On May 17, 1622, the Chair of History at Oxford was founded by William Camden (1551-1623), the antiquary and historian, and at his request the degree of Mus. Doc. was conferred upon Gibbons on this occasion. In 1623, Gibbons became organist of Westminster Abbey, and as such he officiated at James I's funeral in 1625. Soon thereafter he himself died suddenly at Canterbury where, with the rest of the Chapel Royal, he had gone in attendance upon Charles I; the new king was waiting there to leave for Dover and meet his bride Henrietta Maria upon her arrival from France.


Ola Gjeilo

The music of Manhattan-based Norwegian composer and pianist Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978) has been performed and recorded in more than 30 countries worldwide in venues such as New York's Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall, Los Angeles' Disney Hall, Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, The Arsht Center in Miami, Washington DC's Kennedy Center and National Gallery, as well as the Copenhagen and Oslo Opera Houses. His music has been featured on PBS and radio stations across the US.

'09-'10 season Composer-in-Residence for the 2008 and 2009 Grammy winning Phoenix Chorale, Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo) has been commissioned by several notable artists and organizations, such as Barbara Bonney, Solveig Kringelborn, Philip Brunelle, the Edvard Grieg Society, St. Olaf College, Luther College, Choral Arts Ensemble, Taipei Male Choir, Oslo Church Music Festival, and the ACDA Women's Choir Concortium. His choral music has also been performed by elite choirs such as the Kansas City Chorale, Conspirare, World Youth Choir, VocalEssence, BYU Singers, and the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation's Radiokoren.


Philip Glass

Through his operas, his symphonies, his compositions for his own ensemble, and his wide-ranging collaborations with artists ranging from Twyla Tharp to Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen to David Bowie, Philip Glass has had an extraordinary and unprecedented impact upon the musical and intellectual life of his times.

The operas - "Einstein on the Beach," "Satyagraha," "Akhnaten," and "The Voyage," among many others - play throughout the world's leading houses, and rarely to an empty seat. Glass has written music for experimental theater and for Academy Award-winning motion pictures such as "The Hours" and Martin Scorsese's "Kundun," while "Koyaanisqatsi," his initial filmic landscape with Godfrey Reggio and the Philip Glass Ensemble, may be the most radical and influential mating of sound and vision since "Fantasia." His associations, personal and professional, with leading rock, pop and world music artists date back to the 1960s, including the beginning of his collaborative relationship with artist Robert Wilson. Indeed, Glass is the first composer to win a wide, multi-generational audience in the opera house, the concert hall, the dance world, in film and in popular music -- simultaneously.


Howard Goodall

Howard Goodall is an EMMY, BRIT, Gramophone and BAFTA -winning composer of choral music, stage musicals, film and TV scores, is well known as a TV and Radio broadcaster and is a leading spokesperson for music education in the UK. His best-known themes & scores include Into the Storm, The Gathering Storm, The Borrowers, Red Dwarf, The Catherine Tate Show, Q.I., Mr Bean, Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie, Mr Bean's Holiday, Blackadder, and The Vicar of Dibley.

In the theatre his many musicals, from The Hired Man with Melvyn Bragg in 1984 to Love Story in 2010, have been performed throughout the English-speaking world from the West End to Off-Broadway, winning many international awards, including Ivor Novello and TMA Awards for Best Musical.


Henryk Gorecki

After musical studies in Rybnik and Katowice, HM Gorecki's compositions first made their mark in the mid-1950s when he found himself at the forefront of the Polish avant-garde at the time of the post-Stalin cultural thaw. His early works show a clear development from the folk-influenced worlds of Szymanowski and Bartok in the Four Preludes for piano and Songs of Joy and Rhythm (1956) to the modernist techniques of Webern and Boulez in Epitafium (1958) and Symphony No.1 (1959), both premiered at the Warsaw Autumn Festival. During the 1960s Gorecki continued in a radical direction in the Genesis and Muzyczka cycles of works, whilst paring down his compositional material and exploring the folk music traditions of his beloved Tatra region in such works as Three Pieces in Old Style (1963) and Muzyka staropolska (Old Polish Music).


Percy Grainger

The Australian-born American pianist and composer, Percy Aldridge Grainger, was born to a father who was an architect who emigrated from London, England, and and to a mother, Rose, who was the daughter of hoteliers from Adelaide, South Australia, also of English immigrant stock. His father was an alcoholic. When Grainger was age 11, his parents separated after his mother contracted syphilis from his father, who then returned to London. Grainger's mother was domineering and possessive, although cultured; she recognised his musical abilities, and took him to Europe in 1895 to study at Dr. Hoch's conservatory in Frankfurt. There he displayed his talents as a musical experimenter, using irregular and unusual meters.

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Composers