Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Anthem Lit Top 10

Asking a choir director what is favorite anthem is, is like asking a parent who their favorite child is.  I can't pick just one.  In practice, I often say to my choir, "This one's my favorite!"  But then I clarify by nameing the season or style period.  This list is just as much for me as it is for you, but here's my current Anthem Literature Top 10, some easy, some hard, all good:

Be Not Afraid, Taylor Davis
This anthem became "all the rage" when I was living in Louisana a few years ago.  Partly because Taylor Davis went to school at Cenenary in LA, but also because it's a beautliful setting of Isaiah 43:1-7.  It's become a staple for me on Confirmation Sunday.  With the text flowing on how God is with us and loves us always, you can't go wrong.  Definitely a tear-jerker, but so worth doing.  It's also very accessible for any choir, the kind of anthem that's a snap to learn but makes your choir sound like a million bucks.  My favorite kind of anthem.

How Can I Keep From Singing, Craig Gilpin
This raucous gospel setting of a beloved text is a favorite of mine for my youth choirs.  The three part mixed is easy to learn with some great solos.  My pianists have loved to play it as well!  Just be prepared to clap with it.  You can't do it without the claps.

Followers of the Lamb, Edwin R. Ferguson
A fun setting of the shaker tune by the same name, this anthem isn't the easiest to learn.  It stretches to 6 parts at times, but when a choir nails it, they never forget it.

The Lord is My Shepherd, John Rutter
I first sang Rutter's Requiem in highschool and the tenor line at the end of his Psalm 23 setting has stuck with me ever since, the voice writing at "and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever ..." has to be one of the finest choral passages ever written.

Draw the Circle Wide, Mark Miller
I discovered this gem, text by Gordon Light, when the most recent UMC hymnal supplement, Worship and Song was published last March.  The message of inclusivity is relevant to our time.  We chose this as part of our stewarship emphasis last fall, and jammed our choir loft with our youth and adult choirs to sing it right.  It's pure joy.

What Does the Lord Require of You?, Mark Miller
A very dramatic anthem on Micah 6:8, it builds from an alto recitative to gospel chorus to baroque imitation back to gospel.  It's a little tougher than some with lots of rhythmic technique and a high B in the soprano toward the end, but it's wicked fun to sing (and conduct).  If you have a band, so much the better.  Your church will thank you for offering this one in worship.  And you just can't go wrong with Micah 6:8, ever.  Sing it every week!

With A Voice of Singing, Martin Shaw
I'm pretty sure I've auditioned for two different jobs with this anthem.  It's a bright anthem for organ and choir, and it needs to go fast.  That's half the fun ... How fast can you take this anthem with your choir and still understand the words?  That's how fast it should be.  The imitative sections are also perfect for introducing techniques important to the Renaissance and Baroque style periods.

Keep Your Lamps, Andre Thomas
I do this anthem the first Sunday every Advent season.  This spiritual setting really encompases already/not yet feeling of the season, the shout from John the Baptist to get ready as well as the words of Christ that you'll never know the time or the hour when salvation will greet you.  The dark minor key, done A Cappella with percussion makes this one unforgettable and an easy fave for your choir.  Our youth choir here loves this anthem.

Creation Will Be At Peace, J. Paul Williams and Anna Laura Page
A beautiful reflection on Isaiah 11, this anthem is amazingly worshipful.  I've offered it in worship with the optional handbell accompaniment.  I find myself singing it to myself often.

God So Loved the World, John Stainer
Truly, no lie, this is my favorite anthem of all time.  This setting of John 3:16-17 is at the center of John Stainer's oratorio The Crucifixion.  It's a peaceful spot in the middle of a real, visceral, reflection on Christ's ultimate sacrifice for us.  I program it in worship every Lenten season.

Honorable Mention:
The Lord Bless You and Keep You, Peter C. Lutkin
Every choir director knows this one.  Every choir member also knows this one.  And there's a reason for that - it's really good, and really accesible for choirs of all skill levels.  I've been singing it since high school, like most choir members, and I love closing concerts with it.  Just like I'll close this list with it!