Pieces for Multiple Choirs
The following charts were intended to make antiphonal use of two or more choirs, although several of these pieces are also performed by single choirs who divide into sub-groups. Feel free to contact me if you have questions about approaching any of these works.
Kokkolan Nuorisokuoro
Kokkolan Nuorisokuoro, the eye-opening, ear-cleaning youth choir from
Kokkola, Finland, with one of the gutsiest alto sections ever.
See bottom of page for an action shot.

As Above, So Below
(SSATB or SATB and children's chorus)


Juvenata! 2008
This belongs to the tradition of "music of the spheres", where the text and musical texture of the piece evoke the interdependent workings of the heavens and our own little planet. Full of circular, grooving ostinati that exert various kinds of magnetic pull on each other, the text is also full of circles ("I'm having déjà vu explaining that I'm having déjà vu…") as it links the cycles of the moon and the sea with the cycles of human history and the cosmos whose nature we reflect in miniature. This may sound rather highfalutin' , but the piece is meant to be funky and good humoured. The ostinati are quite simple in themselves - the challenge comes when cross-rhythms arise when they are superimposed. A piece with a very allusive text set to music with one foot planted in a Detroit horn section.

For the Vancouver Island CME, July 1999.

Canary In A Coal Mine


Young Singers
Written for the 20th Anniversary of the Young Singers, led by Anna Lynn Murphy, this piece makes it possible to bring together three ensembles: SATB, SSA and Unison. It can also be sung by a single SATB divisi ensemble, especially if the SA voices outnumber the TB voices, as is often the case. The Unison vocal line, which first enters at the pick-up to m. 57, can be sung by any mix of voices. Although it might require amplification, the SSA and/or Unison parts can be taken by soloists.

In olden times the men would go to the mines.
And to be sure that the air was there in the lines
They’d take a canary, and as long as it sang
They knew they were fine.

Sometimes you feel you sing alone in the dark.
Sometimes you feel you’re the only soul on the ark.
The dove carries the olive branch, canary carries the song,
And we all work the mines.


Triple Treble Choir (unison/SA/SSAA) and percussion


"Carillon" is a celebratory anthem especially useful when the beginner, intermediate and senior choirs within an organization wish to combine in a commemorative concert. The text is the inscription on an old bell: twelve words in Latin that translate as, "I mourn death; I disperse the lightning; I announce the Sabbath; I rouse the lazy; I scatter the winds; I appease the bloodthirsty." The central metaphor established by the title "Carillon", or a play of bells, is that a choir of young voices preserves the traditions and rings the changes of a culture. The score calls for one drum - something along the lines of a djembe - but more percussion can be added to taste. The SSAA choir sings mostly in two and three parts, although there are two sections of four part texture in the style of a motet that feature the SSAA choir alone, in contrast to the triple choir sections which are driving yet dignified. The piece builds to the chanting of "Pax!" in big block chords while the drummer roars out triumphant thunder. Lots and lots of antiphony, and a chance for every choir to shine.

For the Central Children’s Choir of Ottawa for their 45th anniversary.

Come This Far
(triple SSA choir or double SSA choir and TB choir)


"Come This Far" is a sort of battle call that honours the grass-roots explosion of young choirs in our culture, and champions the choirs' role in holding together our musical traditions, hence our sense of identity. It has an anthemic force while keeping a modern, somewhat colloquial tone in the text: we're the kids who've come this far, come to tell you who you are. The piece was written for triple SSA forces, with the middle SSA choir designed to be sung by TB forces (the performance notes show how to keep the TB voices in two-part most of the time, should that be desired). But despite the triple choir texture I mean this to be an accessible piece that is manageable enough to be part of a choir's repertoire, not the laborious, one-shot-deal you practise like mad for and then never perform again. There's lots of repetition, lots of doubling of parts in different combinations, some unison passages - everything I can do to make it user-friendly. The result is a not-that-hard piece with lots of striking antiphonal effects that can be staged in a variety of ways, such as having two of the choirs sing from the right and left in the balcony, with the middle choir on stage.

For the 20th anniversary of the Mississauga Children&39s Choir, Ontario.

Construction Ahead
(SATB and SSA choirs, or SATB choir with treble divisi, and percussion)


A Celtic-flavoured piece that merges with martial percussion, this chart is not driven by harmony, but by an involved and briskly moving melodic line often sung in mass unison or in two part texture. So even though the piece was scored for double choir, it could easily be rethought for single choir with passages of SA divisi. Themes drawn from Irish and British folk music (most particularly "The Rocky Road To Dublin" and "Royal Forester", both of which deal with the weary journey en route to justice) are fused with original text that examines the strange, distancing effects of modern journalism, where footage of human suffering is surrounded by computer graphics, network logos and pumped up theme music, so that human history becomes not a reality, but a virtual reality. The overall effect is meant to be a challenge, but not a downer. I wanted to write something inspiring and uplifting, but which stares the difficulties of this world straight in the face. The number of percussionists is flexible. At the premiere we had a smokin' snare drum with a floor tom and a djembe holding down the low beat.

For the choirs of Hopewell Valley Central H.S. and Timberlane Middle School, Pennington, NJ.

The overhead mics swing into position during a sound check with the
Nova Scotia Children's Honour Choir. Photo by Tim Callahan-Cross.

Don't Bend Down
(SATB and piano, optional bass and drums. Can be done with children's chorus and SATB)


The title is Caribbean slang for "don't be pushed around; stand up for yourself." A molten swamp of gospel/funk/blues, this is designed to get the choir down and dirty, and the audience up and roaring. In keeping with traditional gospel SAB voicings, the tenors and basses often work in unison, but they still get their chance to go their own way. Some simple divisi occurs in the SA voices. I revoiced the published version from its original format of children's chorus and SATB, but if you want to include children on their own part, just contact me, and a few lines of instruction will let you put the voicings back into their

For Chattanooga Sings! Community Chorus, TN.

First To Know

(SSA/SATB or SAB/SATB)   979-0-051-47651-0
(SSA/SSAA)   979-0-051-47652-7

I intended this piece to combine a three-part chamber choir with a larger 4 part ensemble, but there is room for balancing the forces in various ways. This is a bluesy cooker with a deep backbeat that gathers together various influences from the gospel tradition. The text paraphrases sayings such as "Oh Lord, I ain't what I ought to be; but oh Lord, I ain't what I used to be"; "I want to walk in Jerusalem, just like John"; "Every sinner got a future, every saint has a past." The melody is based on the great gospel classic, "Good News! The Chariot's Coming!" There's lots and lots of counter-melodies, lots and lots of call and response, and an energy that builds and builds into what should be a killer way to either open or close a concert. Also available for double treble choir.

For the Seattle Men’s Chorus, WA.

Juvenata 2008    Juvenata 2008
During a break the children of Juvenata 2008 explore the suitcase of toys I use in my rehearsals. Photos by Alex Keir.

Full Circle
(five part treble, drum[s] - much of the vocal texture is two and three part)


Originally written for three choirs, one from Newfoundland, one from Iceland, and one from the Mi'kmaq Nation of eastern Canada (in an SA/SA/Unison set-up which has been preserved in the published score). The three choirs sang the piece to commemorate the Vikings landing in Newfoundland, which completed the full circle of human migration around the globe. Although the piece only lasts six minutes, it has an epic sweep, and if I do say so myself, is full of drama and exciting textures. The drum part requires steadiness and precision, but is not technically or rhythmically complicated. Best if you have a large choir, this piece would also be handy as a collaborative project with another choir. Advanced overall, though much of the piece is at an easier level.

For Shallaway: Newfoundland and Labrador Youth in Chorus.

Go Where I Send Thee
(double SSAA choir, Choir I parts are more advanced, and are suitable for a double quartet: recording available of an earlier and slightly different version - published by Colla Voce)

(Colla Voce)   21-20230

A spiritual in a rapid-fire, funky setting inspired by the Golden Gate Quartet. Lots of antiphonal ostinati, lots of chanting - kind of like the Ikettes playing hopscotch. Both humorous and soulful. Advanced.

The recording by the Appleton North High School Varsity Women's Choir, Erick Lichte, conductor, makes an interesting timbral contrast with Scala, led by the Kolacny brothers, where the singers are often mic'd individually in studio sessions.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

Heaven Bound Train

(double SSAA choir)   Colla Voce 21-20226
(SSAA and SATB choir)   Colla Voce 21-20112

A slow cooker that builds to meltdown, this setting of an obscure spiritual takes the old gospel train image (plus the image of the underground railway to freedom) further than ever before, complete with long, scalding steam whistle blasts at the end. Packs a huge wallop that seems to really grip singers - of all my charts, this is the one that choirs have most repeatedly told me they are dying to try. Advanced. Both voicings are for a double choir, and in each case Choir 1 is SSAA. (Depending on the voicing, Choir 2 will be SSAA or SATB.) In both voicings Choir 1 is the more technically demanding, and is suitable for a double or triple quartet as well as a chorus.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

Chorfest, Regina
The church in motion: high school choirs come together for the ChorFest in Regina, Saskatchewan.
At the time this picture was taken I had no idea that my blue shirt had split down the back.
Photo by Gail Empey of Balfour Collegiate.

Living In A Holy City
(SATB (some soprano divisi) with optional percussion)

(treble)   979-0-051-47276-5
(SSATB)   979-0-051-47294-9

Corazón Vocal Ensemble
For the Peace College Chamber Singers of Raleigh, NC, at the inauguration of their head. “Living In A Holy City” is a musical hybrid; inspired by the nature of the commission, I grafted the “Crown him!” refrain from the old hymn tune Diadem onto the melody of a South African freedom song that expresses the yearning for a spiritual home. The hybrid moves into original music that incorporates my favourite technique of superimposed ostinati that slowly unfold like a kaleidoscope pattern. (If you like “Jabula Jesu”, this is the next step.) In the soundfiles you will hear some different approaches to the percussion, and indeed, I’ve often used the piece without percussion or handclaps at all. Tuneful, rhythmic, with every section getting lots of tasty lines, this is suitable for both sacred and secular gatherings, as either a concert opening or a closer. Cultures all over the world start out with the assumption that the divine resides on mountain tops, until the revelation comes that all the land you see below you is divine as well, so that “every step you take is the promised land”. That is the theme of this piece, which reminds us that all cities are holy (interesting to note that I wrote the words while walking the hills overlooking Belfast).

The piece can easily be adapted so that a second unison choir joins in, singing the melody and then repeating the unison chant of “I must be living in a holy city” in the closing section. The recording by Hopewell uses this approach, as does Amabile on the CD ‘Live and Kicking! See the discography for both recordings.

I have always been embarrassed that Boosey & Hawkes lists this piece as “words and music by Stephen Hatfield” when the music is so clearly based on a well-known South African freedom song, for all that I am expanding on it. Apparently at the time of this commission there were some startling copyright claims were being placed on various freedom songs - none by Africans, of course. The powers-that-be wished to avoid the matter, and so against my pleas this piece went into print with the music credited to me. My earlier website entry for this piece tried to tippy-toe around this issue, as this new entry must also do to some extent. But I want nobody to think that I am claiming responsibility for that great melody. (In my own little act of defiance of the legal situation, “Living In A Holy City” makes a continual multilingual pun between the English “City” and the Zulu “Sithi!” (we say, we proclaim).


West Tennessee Youth Chorus
Members of the West Tennessee Youth Chorus, directed by Martha Wright, the host choir of the Crossroads International
Choir Festival. This picture nicely captures the moment-by-moment exuberance of working with these six young ladies.

Missa Primavera (Our Lady of the Spring)
Soprano Solo, SATB (divisi) and Chamber Ensemble

Czech Choir Festival


Agnus Dei
Premiered June 9, 2012, at the Kostel Nanebevzetí Panny Marie (Church of the Assumption of the Lady Mary) in Hradec Králové, Czech Republic, at the Czech Choir Festival ‘Napsáno pro Sborové slavnosti’. The soprano soloist was Kamila Zborilová, and the Chamber Ensemble was formed by the Gentlemen Singers, who also sponsored the Festival. Ze specjalnymi podziekowaniami dla (with special thanks to) Chór Kameralny Dysonans from Poland, who were at the heart of the sound.

The Chamber Ensemble, which needs at least eight singers, can be TTBB or SSAA. At the premiere the Chamber Ensemble sang the Kyrie from the back of the church; moved to the front at the start of the Sanctus and then performed from there; sang along with the choir in the Gloria; then returned to the back of the church at the start of the Agnus Dei, from where they finished the movement.

I was asked to write a Missa Brevis with multicultural influences, which led to its deep roots in the dance, an art form long connected with the sacred. The Kyrie opens with a phrase that recalls a distinctly Bulgarian rhythm and melodic contour. If taken at twice its speed, the Sanctus could invite Turkish finger cymbals. The Gloria is inspired by the mandolin figures of bluegrass waltzes. Traditionally the most introspective part of the mass, the Agnus Dei recalls lands seen earlier on the voyage, with further travels that bring the Peking Opera together with plainsong and the blues: two modal brothers separated at birth. In this Missa the Gloria and the Sanctus have traded places, and it is now the Gloria that becomes the most light-hearted expression of joy.

The subtitle of my mass links the music to the eternal feminine, the great mother Mary, through whose intercession even fallen nature could appear in its unfallen radiance. Mary’s name comes from the word for “bitter”, and spring is a notoriously vulnerable, bittersweet time of year: “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May” (Shakespeare). There is a similar emotional vulnerability in this Missa, which is named for springtime but is full of dark skies. Even the cheerful Gloria, the only movement stable enough to earn a key signature, has moments of shadow. Shadow is a very beautiful thing. The Spanish for “man” (hombre) contains the French for “shadow” (ombre). As if mankind were a shadow that started with a tiny puff of air.


Ohisashi Buri
(SA children's choir, SATB choir and 4-hand piano)


More and more choirs are looking for pieces that can combine a children's group with an SATB ensemble. The title means "It's been a while", or "Long time, no see", and refers to the fact that I'm revisiting the ancient Japanese tradition of "kakegoe" - the shouts of encouragement and effort in a work song that helps drive the workers on. My text is "kakegoe" from four old Japanese songs (very short phrases - very little Japanese to learn), and with the help of 4-hand piano I set up lots of antiphonal chanting as the choir carries the shouts of encouragement through a variety of tonal styles, from pentatonic ostinati to sequences of jazzy compound chords. Neither the part for the SA choir nor the SATB choir is too difficult, and sections repeat note for note, although as with other of my pieces the challenge comes with the choir tackling a texture they're not used to. This is a high energy piece that ends with a wallop, and gives your pianists a chance to make some noise.

For Scala of Brussels, Belgium, and Ritsuyu-Kai of Japan.

One Drop
(Scored for SSA "main choir" [with a bit of divisi], percussion, and additional parts for "guests" and the audience.)


Written for Erkki Pohjola's Songbridge 2001, One Drop was originally performed by the Newfoundland Symphony Youth Chorus, while an easier unison backing part (which appears in the score as the part for "guests") was taken by choirs from Israel, Japan and South Africa. Like all Songbridge pieces there is also a simple part for the audience to sing - and I do mean simple. They can learn it in seconds. The "guests" part can be taken by a visiting choir, or, where a choral organization has more than one performing group, the main part can be taken by senior choristers and the guests part by intermediates. So, yes, the piece takes some extra coordination to mount, but conductors say it's worth it. One Drop addresses the global water shortage, but I pride myself that my texts never sound like the usual "message song". Full of verbal and musical puns (for example, the rhythm of the drips and drops which goes throughout the piece morphs into the dots and dashes of SOS in morse code), One Drop has packed a wallop at more than one international venue. And because of its hypnotic, funky groove, it connects unusually well with young listeners.


Run Children Run
(double SA choir with soloist(s))

(treble)   979-0-051-46972-7
(SATB)   979-0-051-47159-1

Scored for treble voices, but always intended to work for men's voices as well - and boy, does it ever!
A barnburner and crowd pleaser, I took an old field yell and turned it into a slow cooking, hard rocking number. The piece builds on just a few basic riffs, and I've taught nearly the whole thing to massed choirs, and performed it, in less than an hour (although I have the advantage of knowing it really well). If you have some soloists who can improvise over a riff, this is their chance to shine. Nowhere near as hard as it first looks on the page. The soundfile shows how the Chicago Children's Choir builds a fire under the second half of the piece.

For the Children’s Aid Society Chorus of NYC.

Sparks Fly Upward, The
double two-part choir and four percussion


Written for my 50th birthday bash with the Amabile Youth Singers, the double choir is scored SA/SA, but can be done in any number of ways by thinking of the soprano lines as any combination of high voices and the alto lines as any combination of low voices. The 1st choir gets a bit of divisi, and the 2nd choir, which has less text and is a faster learn, has a fair bit of unison. A funky chant with a deep backbeat and non-stop call-and-response, my text deals with the strange business of learning the links and divisions between the waking world and the world of dreams, the world we live in and the world we want to escape to. The song moves from summer camp, to cavemen around the fire, to ancient burial rites, to experiments with lucid dreams, to a choir around the Pearly Gates: an apotheosis of singing, Hatfield style. The soundfile features The Amabile Youth Singers, directed by John Barron and Brenda Zadorsky.


Kokkolan Nuorisokuoro
An open rehearsal at the Tampere Festival in Finland, working on "Three Ways To Vacuum Your House"
with Kokkolan Nuorisokuoro. Here we demonstrate the "fly-fisher" technique of placing your voice
in the audience the way a fly-fisher places the hook on the water.