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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 51 - 100 of 123 items.


Edvard Grieg

Grieg was born in Bergen, and was of partial Scottish descent. His great-grandfather immigrated to Norway around 1770, and settled as a businessman in Bergen. Edvard was brought up in a musical home. His mother, Gesine, became his first piano teacher.

In the summer of 1858, Grieg met the legendary Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, who was a friend of the family and Gesine's brother-in-law. Bull noticed the 15-year-old boy's talent and persuaded his parents to allow him to go to Leipzig to study.

Grieg attained numerous concerts in Leipzig, but disliked the dicipline of the conservatory and found it little inspiring. In the spring of 1860, he caught a life-threatening lounge disease. The year after, he made his debut as a concert pianist, in Karlshamn, Sweden. The next year he finished his studies in Leipzig, and held his first concert in his hometown Bergen.


George Frideric Handel

Handel was born February 24, 1685, in Halle, Germany, to a family of no musical distinction. His own musical talent, however, manifested itself so clearly that before his tenth birthday he began to receive, from a local organist, the only formal musical instruction he would ever have. Although his first job, beginning just after his 17th birthday, was as church organist in Halle, Handel's musical predilections lay elsewhere. Thus, in 1703 he traveled to Hamburg, the operatic center of Germany; here, in 1704, he composed his own first opera, Almira, which achieved great success the following year. Once again, however, Handel soon felt the urge to move on, and his inclinations led him to Italy, the birthplace of operatic style. He stopped first at Florence in the autumn of 1706. In the spring and summer of 1707 and 1708 he traveled to Rome, enjoying the patronage of both the nobility and the clergy, and in the late spring of 1707 he made an additional short trip to Naples. In Italy Handel composed operas, oratorios, and many small secular cantatas; he ended his Italian sojourn with the spectacular success of his fifth opera, Agrippina (1709), in Venice.


Jonathan Harvey

Born in Warwickshire in 1939, Jonathan Harvey was a chorister at St Michael's College, Tenbury and later a major music scholar at St John's College, Cambridge. He gained doctorates from the universities of Glasgow and Cambridge and (on the advice of Benjamin Britten) also studied privately with Erwin Stein and Hans Keller. He has written many widely-performed unaccompanied works for choir - as well as the large-scale cantata for the BBC Proms Millennium, Mothers shall not Cry (2000). His church opera Passion and Resurrection (l981) was the subject of a BBC television film, and has received seventeen subsequent performances. His opera Inquest of Love, commissioned by ENO, was premiered under the baton of Mark Elder in 1993 and repeated at Theatre de la Monnaie, Brussels in 1994.

Harvey is now in constant demand from a host of international organisations, attracting commissions far into the future, and his music is extensively played and toured by the major ensembles of our time (Musikfabrik, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Intercontemporain, London Sinfonietta, ASKO, Nieuw Ensemble of Amsterdam and Ictus Ensemble, to name but a few).


Stephen Hatfield

Stephen Hatfield is a resident of Vancouver Island, where he composes for the theatre * Has taught band, chorus, stage band, vocal jazz, guitar, keyboard, steel drum and music appreciation, as well as university English and graduate courses in teaching techniques * Noted for his exciting arrangements of world music, and for his original works which weave influences from diverse cultures into a fresh and distinctive idiom * His choirs have earned gold medals in national festivals, and he has received various awards for his work in education, music and poetry, including the Governor General's Gold Medal * Often featured as a guest conductor and workshop leader throughout the world.


Paul Hindemith

Paul Hindemith was a German composer, violist, violinist, teacher, music theorist and conductor. Born in Hanau, near Frankfurt, Hindemith was taught the violin as a child. He entered Frankfurt's Hoch'sche Konservatorium, where he studied violin with Adolf Rebner, as well as conducting and composition with Arnold Mendelssohn and Bernhard Sekles.

Hindemith is among the most significant German composers of his time. His early works are in a late romantic idiom, and he later produced expressionist works, rather in the style of early Arnold Schoenberg, before developing a leaner, contrapuntally complex style in the 1920s. This style has been described as neoclassical,(citation needed) but is very different from the works by Igor Stravinsky labeled with that term, owing more to the contrapuntal language of Bach than the Classical clarity of Mozart.


Gustav Holst

Gustavus Theodore von Holst was an English composer with Latvian (and some Spanish) roots.

Born in Cheltenham, where he was educated at Pate's Grammar School, he went on to study at the Royal College of Music in London. His best-known work is probably his orchestral suite The Planets, completed in 1916, although the composer himself did not count it as one of his best creations and later often complained that other works were completely eclipsed by it. The Planets (1914-1916) was partly inspired by meditations on his own horoscope/natal chart and dealt with the 'seven influences of destiny and constituents of our spirit.' Holst was especially influenced by a 19th-century astrologer called Raphael, whose book concerning the planets' role in world affairs led Holst to develop the grand vision of the planets that made The Planets such an enduring success.


Herbert Howells

Herbert Norman Howells CH was an English composer, organist, and teacher. He was the youngest of six children born to Oliver and Elizabeth Howells. His father was an amateur organist, and Herbert himself showed early musical promise. He studied first with Herbert Brewer at Gloucester Cathedral, as an articled pupil alongside Ivor Novello and Ivor Gurney, the celebrated English song-writer and poet, with whom he became great friends. Later he studied at the Royal College of Music under C.V. Stanford, Hubert Parry and Charles Wood.

In 1915 Herbert Howells was diagnosed with Graves' disease and given six months to live. Since doctors believed that it was worth taking a chance on a previously untested treatment, he became the first person in the country to receive radium treatment. He was briefly assistant organist at Salisbury Cathedral in 1917, though his severe illness cut this appointment short; he later served as acting organist of St John's College, Cambridge during World War II.


Charles Ives

Charles Ives was the son of George Ives, a U.S. Army bandleader in the American Civil War, and his wife Mary Parmelee. A strong influence of Charles's may have been sitting in the Danbury town square, listening to his father's marching band and other bands on other sides of the square simultaneously. George Ives's unique music lessons were also a strong influence on Charles; George Ives took an open-minded approach to musical theory, encouraging his son to experiment in bitonal and polytonal harmonizations. It was from his father that Charles Ives also learned the music of Stephen Foster. Ives became a church organist at the age of 14 and wrote various hymns and songs for church services, including his Variations on 'America' . Ives moved to New Haven in 1893, enrolling in the Hopkins School where he captained the baseball team. In September 1894, Ives entered Yale University, studying under Horatio Parker. Here he composed in a choral style similar to his mentor, writing church music and even an 1896 campaign song for William McKinley. On November 4, 1894 Charles's father died, a crushing blow to the young composer, but to a large degree Ives continued the musical experimentation he had begun with George Ives.


Gabriel Jackson

Gabriel Jackson was born in Bermuda in 1962. After three years as a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral, Jackson studied composition at the Royal College of Music, first with Richard Blackford and later with John Lambert, gaining his BMus in 1983. While at the College he was awarded the R.O. Morris Prize for Composition in 1981 and 1983, also winning the Theodore Holland Award in 1981. In 1992 he was awarded an Arts Council Bursary.

His music has been performed and broadcast throughout Europe and the USA, and in recent years has been heard in Cape Town, Ho Chi Minh City, Kiev, Kuwait, Sydney, Tokyo and Vancouver. His works have been presented at many festivals in the UK and beyond, including Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, ThreeTwo (New York), Lek Art 2000 & 2004 (Culemborg), ppIANISSIMO (Sofia), Haarlem Choir Biennale, Europa Cantat, Festival Vancouver, Festival ProBaltica, as well as Spitalfields and Meltdown in London. His liturgical pieces are in the repertoires of many of Britain's leading cathedral and collegiate choirs. In 2003 he won the liturgical category at the inaugural British Composer Awards.


John Joubert

John Joubert (born 20 March 1927) is a British composer of South African descent, particularly of choral works. He has lived in Moseley, a suburb of Birmingham, England, for over 40 years. A music academic at the universities of Hull and Birmingham for 36 years, Joubert took early retirement in 1986 to concentrate on composing and has remained active into his 80s. Though perhaps best known for his choral music, particularly the carols Torches and There is No Rose of Such Virtue and the anthem O Lorde, the Maker of Al Thing, Joubert has composed over 160 works including two symphonies; violin, piano and bassoon concertos; and seven operas.


Zoltan Kodaly

Zoltan Kodaly (December 16, 1882 - March 6, 1967) was a Hungarian composer, ethnomusicologist, educator, linguist and philosopher.

Though born in Kecskemet, Kodaly spent most of his childhood in Galanta and Nagyszombat (now Trnava, Slovakia). His father was a keen amateur musician, and Kodaly learned to play the violin as a child. He also sang in a cathedral choir and wrote music, despite having little formal musical education.

In 1900, Kodaly entered Budapest University to study modern languages, and began to study music at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, where Hans Koessler taught him composition.

One of the first people to undertake the serious study of folk song, Kodaly became one of the most significant early figures in the field of ethnomusicology. From 1905 he visited remote villages to collect songs and in 1906 wrote his thesis on Hungarian folk song ('Strophic Construction in Hungarian Folksong'). Around this time he met fellow composer Bela Bartok, to whom he introduced Hungarian folk song. The two went on to publish several collections of folk music together, and they both show the influence of folk music in their own compositions.


Libby Larsen

Libby Larsen (b. 24 December 1950, Wilmington, Delaware) is one of America's most prolific and most performed living composers. She has created a catalogue of over 400 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over twelve operas. Her music has been praised for its dynamic, deeply inspired, and vigorous contemporary American spirit. Constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles and orchestras around the world, Libby Larsen has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory.

Larsen has been hailed as "the only English-speaking composer since Benjamin Britten who matches great verse with fine music so intelligently and expressively" (USA Today); as "a composer who has made the art of symphonic writing very much her own." (Gramophone); as "a mistress of orchestration" (Times Union); and for "assembling one of the most impressive bodies of music of our time" (Hartford Courant). Her music has been praised for its "clear textures, easily absorbed rhythms and appealing melodic contours that make singing seem the most natural expression imaginable." (Philadelphia Inquirer) "Libby Larsen has come up with a way to make contemporary opera both musically current and accessible to the average audience." (The Wall Street Journal). "Her ability to write memorable new music completely within the confines of traditional harmonic language is most impressive." (Fanfare)


Orlando Lassus

Orlando di Lasso was born in Mons in the province of Hainaut, in what is today Belgium. Information about his early years is scanty, although some uncorroborated stories have survived, the most famous of which is that he was kidnapped three times because of the singular beauty of his singing voice. At the age of 12 he left the Low Countries with Ferrante Gonzaga and went to Mantua, Sicily, and later Milan (from 1547 to 1549). While in Milan he made the acquaintance of the madrigalist Hoste da Reggio, an influence which was formative on his early musical style.

He then worked as a singer and a composer for Constantino Castrioto in Naples in the early 1550s, and his first works are presumed to date from this time. Next he moved to Rome, where he worked for the Archduke of Florence, who maintained a household there; and in 1553, he became maestro di cappella (chorus leader) of the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome, a spectacularly prestigious post for a man only 21 years old, but he stayed there only for a year (Palestrina took this post a year later, in 1555).


Morten Lauridsen

The music of Morten Johannes Lauridsen, composer-in-residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale from 1994-2001 and professor of composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music for more than thirty years, occupies a permanent place in the standard vocal repertoire of the Twentieth Century. His seven vocal cycles -- Les Chansons des Roses (Rilke), Mid-Winter Songs (Graves), Cuatro Canciones (Lorca), A Winter Come (Moss), Madrigali: Six "FireSongs" on Renaissance Italian Poems, Nocturnes, and Lux Aeterna -- and his series of sacred a cappella motets (O Magnum Mysterium, Ave Maria, O Nata Lux, Ubi Caritas et Amor and Ave Dulcissima Maria) are featured regularly in concert by distinguished ensembles throughout the world. O Magnum Mysterium, Dirait-on (from Les Chansons des Roses) and O Nata Lux (from Lux Aeterna) have become the all-time best-selling choral octavos distributed by Theodore Presser, in business since 1783.


Stephen Leek

Stephen Leek is a composer, conductor, educator and publisher who has been at the forefront of Australia's musical culture for over 20 years. His distinctive music captures the rhythms, colours and ethos of Australia and Australians. He is a versatile composer much respected for work that is suited to all ages and levels of skill. His prolific output is in a straight-forward musical language which speaks directly to its audience, yet maintains an integrity that has seen it performed by leading musicians in the great concert halls of the world.

Leek studied at the Canberra School of Music with composer Larry Sitsky and cellist Nelson Cooke. Stephen commenced his professional life doing part-copying work for other composers. He was offered the full-time position of Composer/Musician to the Tasmanian Dance Company - a position he held for 3 years. During that time he honed his skills by working in schools and in communities, composing and collaborating with choreographers and musicians in what was then Australia's only 'Dance in Education Company'.

Since then, Leek has worked as a composer and conductor across Australia in a diverse range of residencies and commissions. He has been a pioneer in establishing the ideals and practices of the 'Composer in Residence' scheme in the Australian community.


Gyorgy Ligeti

Ligeti was born in Tarnava-Sanmartin (in Hungarian, Dicsoszentmarton, renamed Tarnaveni in 1945), in the Transylvania region of Romania to a Hungarian Jewish family. Ligeti recalls that his first exposure to languages other than Hungarian came one day while listening to a conversation among the Romanian-speaking town police. Before that he hadn't known that other languages existed. He moved to Cluj (Kolozsvar) with his family when he was 6 and he was not to return to the town of his birth until the 1990s.

Ligeti received his initial musical training in the conservatory at Cluj. In 1943, after the takeover of Northern Transylvania by Hungary following the Second Vienna Award, his education was interrupted when, as a Jew, he was sent to a forced labor brigade by the Horthy regime. His brother, at the age of sixteen, was deported to the Mauthausen concentration camp; his parents were both sent to Auschwitz. His mother was the only other survivor of the immediate family.


Mosie Lister

In 1939, Mosie Lister studied music at the Vaughan School Of Music in Tennessee. He began his musical career as a singer, performing as an original member of the Sunny South Quartet before World War II. After a four year stint with the Navy, he worked a few months again with the Sunny South Quartet before leaving to form the Melody Masters with Jim Wetherington, Alvin Tootle, Lee Kitchens, and Wally Varner in 1946. Lister remained in Atlanta when the Melody Masters moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. In 1948, Lister was tapped by Hovie Lister to be the original baritone for the Statesmen. (Despite their common last name, similar first names and involvement with the Statesmen, Mosie is no relation to Hovie).


Franz Liszt

Liszt was born in the village of Doborjan, near Sopron, Hungary, in what was then the Austrian Empire (Doborjan is now Raiding in Austria after the Treaty of Trianon of 1920). His baptism record is in Latin and lists his first name as Franciscus. The Hungarian variant Ferenc is often used, though Liszt never used this himself. His father, Adam Liszt, was Hungarian and his mother was Austrian-born Anna Liszt, nee Lagen.

Liszt displayed incredible talent at a young age, easily sight-reading multiple staves at once. His father, who worked at the court of Count Esterhazy, gave him his first music lessons when he was six years old. Local aristocrats noticed his talent and enabled him to travel to Vienna and later to Paris with his family. As a result, Liszt never fully learned Hungarian; his later letters and diaries show that he came to regret this deeply. One letter to his mother begins in faltering Hungarian, and after an apology continues in French (his preferred language).


Zhou Long

Born into an artistic family, Zhou Long began studying piano from an early age. Due to the artistic restrictions implemented during the Cultural Revolution, he was forced to delay his piano studies and live on a rural state-run farm where he operated a tractor in the fields. The deserted landscapes with horrible winds and fires experienced during the Cultural Revolution made a deep impression and influence his compositions even today. Nearing the end of the Cultural Revolution, he was able to resume his musical studies in the areas of composition, music theory, conducting and also traditional Chinese music. Only one year after the end of the Cultural Revolution, Zhou Long was one of one hundred students chosen from eighteen thousand applicants to study at the newly reopened Beijing Central Conservatory in 1977. From 1977-1983, he studied composition with Wu Zu-qiang. After graduating in 1983, Zhou Long was appointed with the position of composer-in-residence with the National Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra of China. With only a brief stay in this position, Zhou Long journeyed to the United States under a fellowship to attend Columbia University and further his composition studies with Chou Wen-chung, Mario Davidovsky, and George Edwards, receiving a Doctor of Musical Arts in 1993. Living in Brooklyn, New York, he became the music director of Music from China, a group founded in 1984 with the aim of presenting concerts of traditional Chinese music in the United States. Under the direction of Zhou Long, Music from China expanded its original goals to also encompass contemporary Chinese works that reflect both Chinese and Western sound worlds and musical languages. After a decade of devoted artistic ingenuity, Zhou Long was given the ASCAP Adventurous Programming Award in 1999.


Frank Martin

The freelance composer and teacher Frank Martin was born on September 15, 1890, in Geneva and died on December 24, 1974, in Naarden (Holland). Frank Martin was born into a family of hugeunots who fled from the region of Montelimar in 1754 and settled in Geneva. He grew up in Geneva as the son of the vicar Charles Martin and attended the classical college there until completion of his undergraduate studies. Frank Martin learned to play the piano very early. At the age of 12 (1903) he had the opportunity of hearing St. Mathew's Passion by Johann-Sebastien Bach in Geneva. The emotions that Martin felt were very decisive and influenced his first compositions. Frank Martin never attended a conservatory but studied composition from 1906 onwards under Joseph Lauber (1864-1952) who had taught in Geneva since 1901. From 1908 onwards he studied (for two years) mathematics and physics at the University of Geneva but did not complete these studies, choosing instead to devote himself entirely to music. His first success came in 1911: his 'Trois poemes paiens' (1910) were performed at the Festival of Musicians in Vevey. Hans Huber (1852-1921) and Friedrich Klose (1862-1942) encouraged him to continue with his compositions.


Steve Martland

Steve Martland was born on 10 October 1959 in Liverpool and studied composition in Holland with Louis Andriessen. His preoccupation with the function of the composer in society is reflected in his commitment to music education. He has directed many composition projects in schools both at home and abroad and he ran Strike Out, his own annual composition course for school children.

Most recently Martland wrote the test piece for the TROMP International Music Festival and Competition: Starry Night for percussion and string quartet. His widely performed choral music includes Street Songs, originally for the King's Singers and Evelyn Glennie and later presented by the Monteverdi Choir and Colin Currie under John Eliot Gardiner with a film by the Quay brothers; and Tyger Tyger, for Youth Music's nationwide Sing Up campaign. Future plans include more choral music, in collaboration with Paul Hillier.


Paul Mealor

Described in the New York Times as, 'one of the most important composers to have emerged in Welsh choral music since William Mathias... A real and original talent', Paul Mealor's music has rapidly entered the repertoire of choirs and singers around the world. His music has been described as having, 'serene beauty, fastidious craftsmanship and architectural assuredness... Music of deep spiritual searching that always asks questions, offers answers and fills the listener with hope...' His sacred motets, songs and cycles have been performed, broadcast and recorded by artists in the UK, USA and much further afield.

Mealor was catapulted to international attention when 2.5 billion people (the largest audience in broadcasting history) heard his Motet, Ubi caritas performed by the choirs of Westminster Abbey and Her Majesty's Chapel Royal, conducted by James O'Donnell at the Royal Wedding Ceremony of His Royal Highness Prince William and Catherine Middleton (now TRH The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge) at Westminster Abbey, 29th April 2011.


Kirke Mechem

Kirke Mechem is a prolific composer with a catalogue of over 250 works. He enjoys an international presence, as ASCAP recently registered concert performances of his music in 42 countries. Born and raised in Kansas and educated at Stanford and Harvard Universities, Mechem conducted and taught at Stanford, and served as composer-in-residence for several years at the University of San Francisco. Mechem also lived in Europe, spending three years in Vienna where he came to the attention of Josef Krips, who later championed the composer's symphonies as conductor of the San Francisco Symphony. He has been honored and recognized for his contributions from such organizations as the United Nations, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Gallery, the American Choral Directors Association, and the Music Educators National Conference. He was presented with a lifetime achievement award from the National Opera Association.


Felix Mendelssohn

Mendelssohn was the son of a banker, Abraham, who was himself the son of the famous Jewish philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn, and of Lea Salomon, a member od the Itzig family. Abraham sought to renounce the Jewish religion; his children were first brought up without religious education, and were baptised as Lutherans in 1816. (Abraham and his wife were not themselves baptised until 1822). The name Bartholdy was assumed at the suggestion of Lea's brother, Jakob, who had purchased a property of this name and adopted it as his own surname. Abraham was later to explain this decision in a letter to Felix as a means of showing a decisive break with the traditions of his father Moses: 'There can no more be a Christian Mendelssohn than there can be a Jewish Confucius'. Although Felix continued to sign his letters as 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy' in obedience to his fsther's injunctions, he seems not to have objected to the use of 'Mendelssohn' alone.


Meredith Monk

Meredith Monk is a composer, singer, director/choreographer and creator of new opera, music theater works, films and installations. A pioneer in what is now called "extended vocal technique" and "interdisciplinary performance," Monk creates works that thrive at the intersection of music and movement, image and object, light and sound in an effort to discover and weave together new modes of perception. Her groundbreaking exploration of the voice as an instrument, as an eloquent language in and of itself, expands the boundaries of musical composition, creating landscapes of sound that unearth feelings, energies, and memories for which we have no words. She has alternately been proclaimed as a "magician of the voice" and "one of America's coolest composers." During a career that spans more than 45 years she has been acclaimed by audiences and critics as a major creative force in the performing arts.


Claudio Monteverdi

In Claudio Monteverdi's lifetime, Western art music stood at a crossroads. There were two major types of vocal music at that time: popular songs on mundane themes and music intended to accompany church services. The former group included fairly simple settings for solo voice and madrigals, which set music for two or more independent voice parts. Church music had evolved by the early 16th century into an elaborate polyphony. Josquin Desprez and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina were the foremost composers in this style, in which four or more parts develop musical lines from the tunes to popular and even bawdy songs. Each of the four or more parts wove these tunes together in a dense counterpoint, with no part assigned a primary melodic or harmonic function. The music displayed the consummate skills of their composers, and sounded breathtakingly beautiful when done by a capable choir. However, by the late 16th century, this type of contrapuntal music had become too difficult for most church choirs to sing and most parishioners to understand.


Cristobal de Morales

Almost all of his music is sacred, and all of it is vocal, though instruments may have been used in an accompanying role in performance. He wrote many masses, some of spectacular difficulty, most likely written for the expert papal choir; he wrote over 100 motets; and he wrote 18 settings of the Magnificat, and at least five settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah (one of which survives from a single manuscript in Mexico). The Magnificats alone set him apart from other composers of the time, and they are the portion of his work most often performed today. Stylistically, his music has much in common with other middle Renaissance work of the Iberian peninsula, for example a preference for harmony heard as functional by the modern ear (root motions of fourths or fifths being somewhat more common than in, for example, Gombert or Palestrina), and a free use of harmonic cross-relations rather like one hears in English music of the time, for example in Thomas Tallis. Some unique characteristics of his style include the rhythmic freedom, such as his use of occasional three-against-four polyrhythms, and cross-rhythms where a voice sings in a rhythm following the text but ignoring the meter prevailing in other voices. Late in life he wrote in a sober, heavily homophonic style, but all through his life he was a careful craftsman who considered the expression and understandability of the text to be the highest artistic goal.


Thomas Morley

The composer, organist, and theorist Thomas Morley (ca. 1557-ca. 1602) was the chief English exponent of the Italian madrigal tradition.

Thomas Morley was born about 1557 and, sometime between 1602 and 1608, died after a long illness. During his early years he studied composition with William Byrd and organ under Sebastian Westcote. In 1588 Morley received a bachelor of music degree from Oxford and took the position of organist at St. Giles, Cripplegate. In 1591 he became organist at St. Paul's, joining the Chapel Royal the following year. About this time Morley married; he and his wife, Susan, had three children between 1596 and 1600.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Probably the greatest genius in Western musical history, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria, Jan. 27, 1756, the son of Leopold Mozart and his wife, Anna Maria Pertl. Leopold was a successful composer, violinist and assistant concertmaster at the Salzburg court.

Wolfgang began composing minuets at the age of 5 and symphonies at 9. When he was 6, he and his older sister, Maria Anna (who was nicknamed "Nannerl"), performed a series of concerts to Europe's courts and major cities. Both children played the keyboard, but Wolfgang became a violin virtuoso as well.


Carl Nielson

Danish composer. He studied violin and trumpet as a child and began composing by imitating classical models. In 1890 he went to Germany to learn of newer developments and met Johannes Brahms, whose music came to influence his own. His individual style - still following classical forms but using intense chromaticism combined with a lyric, melodic strain - emerged after 1900. The last five of his six symphonies (1902 - 25) are the core of his work, but he also composed many short orchestra pieces, piano and chamber music, concertos for violin, flute, and clarinet, and a wind quintet.


Johannes Ockeghem

Although often thought to be Flemish, Ockeghem was born in Saint-Ghislain, in the provence of Hainaut (now part of modern Belgium), part of the Duchy of Burgundy. Like many composers in this period, he started his musical career as chorister: in his case, in the Notre Dame in Antwerp. Around 1452 he moved to Paris where he served as maestro di cappella to the French court, as well as becoming treasurer of the St. Martin cathedral in Tours.

Very few of his works have survived: some 14 masses, 10 motets, some 25 chansons, and a single requiem. This Missa pro Defunctis is the earliest surviving example of a polyphonic requiem mass.

A strong influence on Josquin Des Prez, Ockeghem was famous throughout Europe for his expressive music and his technical mastery. His technical prowess is demonstrated most clearly in the astonishing Missa Prolationem, composed entirely in canonical style, and his no less astonishing 36(!) part canon Deo Gratias. - but even these technique-oriented masterpieces demonstrate his insightful use of vocal ranges and unique expressive tonal language. Being a renowned bass singer himself, certainly his use of complex bass lines sets him apart from the other composers in the Dutch Schools.

To commemorate his death, Josquin Des Prez composed Nymphes des Bois on a poem by Molinet.


Fred Onovwerosuoke

Award-winning composer Fred Onovwerosuoke's diverse background has given rise to a varied compositional style. Born in Ghana to Nigerian parents, Onovwerosuoke grew up in both countries and eventually naturalized in the United States. "FredO", as friends call him, has traveled in more than thirty African countries doing field work and analyzing some of Africa's abundant music traditions. "I see hidden across Africa a gold-mine of unlimited musical scales and modes, melodic and harmonic traditions, and, yes, rhythms - abundant yet largely untapped," says Onovwerosuoke of his dominant influences, and also maintains that "my compositions are informed by my travels around the world, and each piece is harnessed and nurtured by an African sensibility that is unmistakable and genuine."


Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

He was nicknamed Il Prenestino. He had a tremendous influence on the development of Roman Catholic church music.

He went to Rome at the age of fourteen to sixteen and is supposed to have studied under Claude Goudimel. In 1544-51 he was organist of the principal church of his native city (St. Agapito, Palestrina), and in the latter year became maestro di cappella at Cappella Giulia in Rome. By his first compositions -- three masses dedicated to Pope Julius III (previously the Bishop of Palestrina) -- he made so favorable an impression that he was appointed musical director of the Julian chapel. He held similar positions at various chapels and churches in Rome until his death (notably St. John Lateran (1555-60) and St. Maria Maggiore (1561-6)); and by his compositions, which are very numerous -- masses, motets, hymns, and others, of which only one-half have been published -- he produced a complete revolution in the history of church music, altering the existing chants in line with the recommendations of the Council of Trent. The Missa Papae Marcelli is generally counted among his greatest masterpieces.


Arvo Part

The composer Arvo Part (pronounced "pairt") was born in Estonia in 1935. Although at that time Estonia was a nascent independent republic, the Soviet Union took control of it in 1940, and stayed except for a brief period under the Nazis, for the next 54 years.

Arvo PartPart's musical education began at age 7, and by 14 or 15 he was writing his own compositions. While studying composition at the Tallinn Conservatory it was said of him that: "he just seemed to shake his sleeves and notes would fall out". There were very few influences from outside the Soviet Union at this time, just a few illegal tapes and scores.

Part's oeuvre is generally divided into two periods, and he is best known for his more recent works. The early works range from rather severe neo-classical styles influences by Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Bartok. He then began to compose using Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique and serialism, but this not only earned the ire of the Soviet establishment, but also proved to be a creative dead end.


Stephen Paulus

Composer Stephen Paulus has been hailed as "...a bright, fluent inventor with a ready lyric gift." (The New Yorker) His prolific output of more than two hundred works is represented in many genres, including music for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensembles, solo voice, keyboard and opera. Commissions have been received from the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Houston Symphony and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, with subsequent performances coming from the orchestras of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, St. Louis, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the BBC Radio Orchestra. He has served as Composer in Residence for the orchestras of Atlanta, Minnesota, Tucson and Annapolis, and his works have been championed by such eminent conductors as Sir Neville Marriner, Kurt Masur, Christoph von Dohanyi, Leonard Slatkin, Yoel Levi, the late Robert Shaw, and numerous others.


Krzysztof Penderecki

One of the best known, most listened to, and most popular composers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Krzysztof Penderecki has undergone a marked evolution in compositional style. After achieving fame with such astringent, often anguished, scores as his Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (1960) and Passion According to St. Luke (1965), both of which stretched tonal language, Penderecki followed a personal imperative in moving toward more tonal music. As early as 1980, his Symphony No. 2 embraced pre-serialist notions of melody and harmony. This fertile exploration of traditional language has continued to yield rewarding works into the new millennium. Penderecki was given violin and piano lessons as a child. He studied art and literary history and philosophy at the local university while also attending the Krakow Conservatory. He privately studied composition before he entered the Krakow State Academy of Music in 1954.

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Francis Poulenc

The brilliant French composer, Francis (Jean Marcel) Poulenc, was born into a wealthy family of pharmaceutical manufacturers. His mother, an amateur pianist, taught him to play, and music formed a part of family life. At 16, he began taking formal piano lessons with Ricardo Vinees.

A decisive turn in his development as a composer occurred when Francis Poulenc attracted the attention of Erik Satie, the arbiter elegantiarum of the arts and social amenities in Paris. Deeply impressed by Satie's fruitful eccentricities in the then-shocking manner of Dadaism, Poulenc joined an ostentatiously self-descriptive musical group called the Nouveaux Jeunes. In a gratuitous parallel with the Russian Five, the French critic Henri Collet dubbed the "New Youths" Le Groupe de Six, and the label stuck under the designation Les Six. The 6 musicians included, besides Poulenc: Auric, Durey, Arthur Honegger, Milhaud, and Tailleferre. Although quite different in their styles of composition and artistic inclinations, they continued collective participation in various musical events. Les Six also had links with Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau.


Michael Praetorius

Michael Praetorius was the son of Michael Schultze (Praetorius being a Latinization of the name). At an early age Praetorius attended the University of Frankfurt a. O., his brother supporting him.

When his brother died, Praetorius became organist at Frankfurt and later held the same post at Luneburg. In this latter town Pratorius began his career as Kapellmeieter. In 1604 he entered the service of the Duke of Brunswick at Wolfenbuttel, first as organist, later as "kapellmeister" and secretary. He was appointed honorary prior of the Ringelheim Monastery near Goslar, but without compulsion to reside there.

Praetorius had become famous as composer of church music, among which should be mentioned the mammoth edition of over twelve hundred songs. He began to write a complete encyclopedia of the art and practice of music, of which he finished three volumes with the title Syntagma Musicum. The second volume of this work is the most elaborate and valuable of all treatises on instruments and instrumental music in the 16th century. It is considered one of the most remarkable examples of musical scholarship in existance. Among his other titles were Musae Sioniae published in nine parts and Hymnodia Sionae. He ranks high as a writer and also as a composer of church melodies.


Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (December 22, 1858 -November 29, 1924) is regarded as one of the great operatic composers of the late 19th and early 20th century. His operas include including Madame Butterfly and La Boheme.


Henry Purcell

Born in 1659, Henry Purcell was the finest and most original composer of his day. Though he was to live a very short life (he died in 1695) he was able to enjoy and make full use of the renewed flowering of music after the Restoration of the Monarchy.

As the son of a musician at Court, a chorister at the Chapel Royal, and the holder of continuing royal appointments until his death, Purcell worked in Westminster for three different Kings over twenty-five years.

In the Chapel Royal young Purcell studied with Dr. John Blow. Dr. Burney, the eighteenth century historian, is amusingly skeptical on this point: "..... he had a few lessons from Dr. Blow, which were sufficient to cancel all the instructions he had received from other masters, and to occasion the boast inscribed on the tomb-stone of Blow, that he had been 'Master to the famous Mr. Henry Purcell'." Legend has it that when, in 1679, Purcell succeeded Dr. Blow as organist of Westminster Abbey, the elder musician stepped aside in recognition of the greater genius, and it is true that on Purcell's death in 1695 Blow returned to the post, and would write a noble Ode on the Death of Purcell.


John Purifoy

John Purifoy is an ASCAP composer and arranger with various published choral anthems, cantatas and keyboard collections and works recorded by Carol Lawrence, Anita Kerr, the Chicago Master Chorale and other artists. His work for chorus and orchestra, We Hold These Truths, narrated by Alex Haley won the 1987 Freedoms Foundation Award for musical programs. He is the composer and lyricist of the stage musical, Lambarene, which received a workshop production at the state theatre of New Jersey in 1991. John lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Vicki, a television news producer, and two teenage sons, Drew and Michael.


Sergey Rachmaninov

Sergei Rachmaninov (also spelled Rachmaninoff) was a legendary Russian composer and pianist who emigrated after the Communist revolution of 1917, and became one of the highest paid concert stars of his time, and one of the most influential pianists of the 20th century.

He was born Sergei Vasilevich Rachmaninov on April 2, 1873, on a large estate near Novgorod, Russia. He was the fourth of six children born to a noble family, and lived in a family estate, where he enjoyed a happy childhood. He studied music with his mother from age 4; continued at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and then graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1892, winning the Great Gold Medal for his new opera "Aleko."

He was highly praised by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky , who promoted Rachmaninov's opera to the Bolshoi Theater in 1893. But the disastrous premiere of his 1st Symphony, poorly conducted by A. Glazunov, coupled with his distress over the Russian Orthodox Church's pressure against his marriage, caused him to suffer from depression, which interrupted his career for three years until he sought medical help in 1900. He had a three-month treatment by a hypnotherapist, aimed at overcoming his writer's block. Upon his recovery, Rachmaninov composed his brilliant 2nd Piano Concerto, and made a comeback with successful concert performances. From 1904-1906 he was a conductor at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.


Imant Raminsh

Born in 1943 in Ventspils, Latvia, Imant Raminsh came to Canada in 1948. After completing an ARCT diploma in violin at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto and a Bachelor of Music programme at the University of Toronto, he spent two years at the Akademie "Mozarteum" in Salzburg, Austria, studying composition, fugue, violin and conducting, and playing in the professional Camerata Academica orchestra. His music has been heard on 6 continents, and performed in such renowned halls as Carnegie Hall and Notre Dame.


Einojuhani Rautavaara

Einojuhani Rautavaara is internationally one of the best known and most frequently performed Finnish composers. He is by nature a romantic, even a mystic, as is often apparent from the titles of his works: for example Angels and Visitations for orchestra or his double-bass concerto Angel of Dusk. Despite Rautavaara's label of "mysticism" he is a complex and contradictory figure whose works cannot be categorized in stylistic terms.

Rautavaara's earliest works revealed close ties to tradition but also his desire to renew it. They were followed by an extreme constructivist and avant-garde phase (as in the serially organized fourth symphony "Arabescata", 1962) after which Rautavaara turned to hyper-romanticism and finally mysticism. Since the early 1980s, Rautavaara has adopted a sort of post-modern musical language in which modern and traditional elements of varying degrees of constructivism or freedom are combined with one another.


Bernice Johnson Reagon

For more than a half-century Bernice Johnson Reagon has been a major cultural voice for freedom and justice. An African American woman's voice, a child of Southwest Georgia, a voice raised in song, born in the struggle against racism in America during the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s, she is a composer, songleader, scholar and producer.

Perhaps no individual today better illustrates the transformative power and instruction of traditional African American music and cultural history than Bernice Johnson Reagon, who has excelled equally in the realms of scholarship, composition, teaching and performance.

A woman of significant accomplishment, she has served as Distinguished Professor of History at American University, curator emerita at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History and as the founder and long-time artistic director of Sweet Honey In The Rock, a world-renowned a cappella ensemble of African-American women. Success in any one of these fields would be noteworthy, but she has combined music, a commitment to social justice and academic excellence, and has earned esteem in all three.


Max Reger

The celebrated German composer Reger (Johann Baptist Joseph) Max(imilian) Reger, was the son of a school-teacher and amateur musician, who gave him instruction on the piano organ, and various string instruments. In 1874 the family moved to Weiden, where he studied organ and theory with Adalbert Lindner. He then attended the teacher-training college; after visiting the Bayreuth Festival in 1888, he decided on a career in music. He went to Sondershausen to study with Riemann in 1890, and continued as his pupil in Wiesbaden (1890-1893).

From 1890 to 1896, Max Reger was active as a teacher of piano, organ, and theory. Following military service, he returned to Weiden in 1898 and wrote a number of his finest works for organ. He went to Munich in 1901, first gaining general recognition as a pianist and later as a composer; was professor of counterpoint at the Konigliche Akademie der Tonkunst (1905-1906). Prominent compositions from this period included the Piano Quintet, op. 64 (1901-1902), the Violin Sonata, op. 72 (1903), the String Quartet op. 74 (1903-1904), the Variationen und Fuge uber ein Thema von J.S. Bach for Piano, op. 81 (1904), and the Sinfonietta, op. 90 (1904-1905). He went to Leipzig as music director of the University (1907-1908) and as professor of composition at the Conservatory (from 1907).


Josef Rheinberger

The composer, organist and teacher, Josef (Joseph) Gabriel Rheinberger, was unusully gifted as a child and acquired considerable fame when only 5 years old. He recived at about this time lessons in theory, pianoforte and organ from Sebastian Pohly, a retired schoolmaster at Schlanders (a special pedal-board being made for him. When 7 years old, he already served as organist in his parish church, and at the age of 8 composed a mass for three voices. After enjoying for a short time the instruction of Choir-master Schmutzer in Feldkirch, he attended the conservatory at Munich from 1851 to 1854, and finished his musical education with a course under Franz Lachner.


Ned Rorem

Words and music are inextricably linked for Ned Rorem. Time Magazine has called him "the world's best composer of art songs," yet his musical and literary ventures extend far beyond this specialized field. Rorem has composed three symphonies, four piano concertos and an array of other orchestral works, music for numerous combinations of chamber forces, ten operas, choral works of every description, ballets and other music for the theater, and literally hundreds of songs and cycles. He is the author of sixteen books, including five volumes of diaries and collections of lectures and criticism.


Gioachino Rossini

Gioachino Antonio Rossini was an Italian composer who wrote 39 operas as well as sacred music, chamber music, songs, and some instrumental and piano pieces. His best-known operas include the Italian comedies Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) and La cenerentola and the French-language epics Moise et Pharaon and Guillaume Tell (William Tell). A tendency for inspired, song-like melodies is evident throughout his scores, which led to the nickname "The Italian Mozart." Until his retirement in 1829, Rossini had been the most popular opera composer in history.


John Rutter

John Rutter's compositional career has embraced both large and small-scale choral works, orchestral and instrumental pieces, a piano concerto, two children's operas, music for television, and specialist writing for such groups as the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and the King's Singers. His most recent larger choral works, Requiem (1985), Magnificat (1990) and Psalmfest (1993) have been performed many times in Britain, North America, and a growing number of other countries. He co-edited four volumes in the Carols for Choirs series with Sir David Willcocks, and, more recently, has edited the first two volumes in the new Oxford Choral Classics series, Opera Choruses (1995) and European Sacred Music (1996).

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Choral Composers | Songwriters