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Choral Music and Importance of Choral Music

Originally posted by: ChorSymphonica

Camarata Chamber Singers, November, 2019


Choral music has always held a prominent position in American musical life. According to a Chorus America’s study, estimated 42.6 million Americans regularly sing in choruses today. More than 1 in 5 households have at least one singing family member, making choral singing the most popular form of participation in the performing arts for both adults and children. Music is an art, entertainment, pleasure, and medicine for the body and soul. Playing and listening to music is intrinsic to all cultures and has surprising benefits not only for improving memory and focusing attention, but also for physical coordination and development. Let’s drive deeper into what is choral music and understand its importance.


What is Choral music?

Choral music is music performed by a group of singers or a choir. The singers may perform without accompaniment, or may be accompanied by any instrumental combination, from piano to full orchestra. Choral music is necessarily “polyphonal” i.e., consisting of two or more autonomous vocal lines. Choral, chorale, choir, and chorus stand in obvious relationship to one another and are in some respects used interchangeably when a body of singers, for example, is referred to as a choir.

Below are definitions of common used musical terms in choral music

Choir – Group of singers in a chorus

Chorale – A hymn sung by the choir and congregation often in unison.

Chorus – A group singing in unison.

Classical – The period of music history which dates from the mid 1700’s to mid 1800’s. The music was spare and emotionally reserved, especially when compared to Romantic and Boroque music.

Duet – A piece of music written for two vocalists or instrumentalists.

You may refer to the full list of definitions here – Glossary of Musical Terms


Types of Choral Music

There are various types of choir depending on the participating members in the choir group. Few of the most common types are:

Mixed choir (with male and female voices) – This is perhaps the most common type, usually consisting of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices.Male choirs – with the same SATB voicing as mixed choirs, but with boys singing the upper part (often called trebles or boy sopranos) and men singing alto (in falsetto), also known as countertenors.Women’s choir – a choir of adult women, high voices only, usually consisting of soprano and alto voices, two parts in each.Men’s chorus – a choir of adult men, low voices only, usually consisting of two tenors, baritone, and bass.Children’s choir – This includes boy choirs. Boy choirs typically sing SSA or SSAA, sometimes including a cambiata/tenor part for boys whose voices are changing.Boys’ choir – a choir of boysGirls’ choir – a choir of girls, high voices only


Types of Choral Music based on Institution

Choirs can also be categorized based on the institutions they belong for example –

Church (including cathedral) choirsChorale – dedicated to mostly sacred Christian musicCollegiate and university choirCommunity choir (of children or adults)School choirs


Brief History of Choral Music

The Beginnings – During the latter part of the medieval period, a style of vocal music called organum evolved out of Gregorian chant. With multiple, independent parts, this was arguably the first example of polyphonic vocal music in Europe, laying the groundwork for the choral music of the Renaissance era. Two kinds of choral composition were prominent during this time: the motet, a kind of Latin religious work; and the mass, another kind of sacred composition based specifically on settings of Liturgy – both were largely written for an a cappella ensemble.

Baroque Period – Increased interact