Pieces for Treble Voices, Four Part and Beyond
Unless otherwise noted, all pieces are a cappella, and published by Boosey & Hawkes in their CME series. I have indicated levels of difficulty, and in order that nobody gets a nasty shock, when in doubt I have described the pieces as "advanced". However, whether or not a piece is advanced depends on how comfortable the choir feels with my approach. I know that directors have found many of my pieces daunting, and yet there is nothing listed here that has not been sung by twelve year olds (albeit twelve year olds with lots of choral experience).
I was pleased that when Dr. Solveig Holmquist wrote on my music in the American Choral Journal, she rated the majority of my work as only medium in difficulty, yet still rewarding to advanced singers due to the richness of the writing. This does not mean you should feel inadequate if my pieces do strike you as difficult! Such things are different for everybody.

Chongqing Shan Hu ("Chongqing Chorale"), from Chongqing, Sichuan Province, China. The picture says it all.

African Celebration

(SATB)   979-0-051-47072-3
(treble)   979-0-051-46706-3

A medley that interconnects several South African freedom songs, sung in Zulu dialects and English. Features the round I built around the famous Freedom Is Coming . (The title "African Celebration" is courtesy of Boosey & Hawkes, and I've never been comfortable with it.) Sections can be excerpted and performed on their own - doing the whole suite requires the stamina of fairly advanced singers. Packs a considerable emotional wallop, and is especially good for large choirs. A word about the tempo markings on the score: I've been trying to remember how they got there in the first place, and can only assume that I was out of my mind. I do not intend for the opening tempo to be so suddenly slowed down at m. 95, nor do I mean for too sudden an upswing at m. 122 or 131 (depending on which edition you have, there is a change in metronome mark at one of those spots.) I intend for the beat to be flexible enough to broaden at m. 95, and then re-energize at m. 131, but I want it to sound like slight variations on the same underlying tempo, rather than a lurching change of gears. The Amabile recording is a good guide to tempi that I like.
N.B. Typo in measures 92 and 94: the solo voices are tacet until m. 95 - they do NOT sing "jabula".

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

Battant Son Plein
(SSAA and shaker)


The title is French slang for "in full swing", and the piece was written for Scala, a fearless children's choir in Belgium who know what swing is all about. The text, a mixture of French and English (only a few short French phrases to learn) is a playful call to all singers to stand up and be counted, to make a wonderful noise, to "put your sound out on the water" so that the whole global community hears you. The playful words are matched by playful music - overlapping ostinati that build structures out of each other like musical Leggo. Crisp, rhythmic, and driven by steady eighths from a solitary shaker, this is a piece that can take singers a while to get their feet wet (for all that it has many repeated phrases I wouldn't call it a quick learner). However, once the singers are accustomed to the ostinato patterns they can really groove, and some people who are very familiar with my music think it's one of my most inventive pieces. But what do they know? Advanced level. Senior elementary and middle school choristers have sung it, but they were highly motivated, and in a choir with some older children as well.


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.

Forest Ridge
The young women of Forest Ridge perform 'Chant For A Long Day', with faces that reflect
the tenderness, weariness, doubt and pride of the song.

Chant For A Long Day
(SSAA, mostly in antiphonal unison - published by Boosey & Hawkes: The Music of Stephen Hatfield)


Inspired by the ancient cloth-making chants from the far north of Scotland. One of my very best texts, which alludes to the work of women and how they perceive themselves to be perceived: their stamina, strength, vulnerability, beauty. Starting in slow, soft unison, the piece gradually builds in momentum until it unexpectedly blooms into four part harmony. It's hard to describe its effect in a thumbnail description, but I can tell you that audiences have been spellbound, and have demanded an immediate encore. Advanced, not in technical demands, but in the subtle styling that's needed to make it work. Room for many brief but personality-rich solos.

For Cantabile of Madison, WI.

Members and friends of the Mendocino Women's Choir, led by Cynthia Frank, prepare for a performance
of Chant for a Long Day at Stonehenge - surely the best possible place in the world to
sing this song. The tribal face-paint was a spontanious group movement,
afterwards known as "The Baby Pagans".

Christmas Cantata
(See "When The Night Is Sweet With Starlight.")


Elektra Women's Choir
Elektra Women's Choir

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.

Members of the Hamilton Children’s Choir rehearse the handbells for "Creation".
(You actually need five bell-ringers for the piece -- we had one down with the flu during this rehearsal.)
For shots of the whole choir at work on the piece, see the bottom of the compositions page for Mixed Voices, SAB.

SSAA and handbells (additional parts for "guests" and audience)


Hamilton Children's Choir: Days 1-4
Hamilton Children's Choir: Days 5-7
Songbridge Premiere - Days 1 - 4
Songbridge Premiere - Days 5 - 7
Written for Songbridge 2008 for the Hamilton Children's Choir and given a double premiere in Poland and Germany, "Creation" uses handbells and treble voices to create a dialogue between eternal and mortal voices. The Hamilton Children's Choir, led by Zimfira Poloz, drew the bellringers from their own ranks and had the ringers sing as well - a beautiful effect, if you are able to do likewise. The piece, inspired by the creation as it appears in Genesis, is in seven short movements that parallel the seven days. Each day ends with a short prayer of thanksgiving in which the audience joins. As with all Songbridge pieces there is a simple part for a "guest" choir, as well as for the audience. The piece combines atonal and tonal writing, with much flexibility in terms of how the piece is mounted. The Hamilton Children's Choir used movement and blocking to turn their presentation into a masque, with the guest singers standing above and around them on the choral risers, but the piece also works without choreography. If you are using your own musicians on the bells, you will save a lot of time and trouble and pick up a lot of valuable insider techniques if you get an experienced player to do some coaching. Although listed as SSAA the choir spends much of its time in unison to three part texture, as well as some atonal sections where every singer acts as an individual voice.


Double Lotus
(SSAA with high solo: published by Roger Dean)

(Roger Dean)   15/1755 R-5

Double Lotus is my salute to Armenian music: I have taken phrases from sacred and secular sources and gone my ecstatic way with them, creating one of my most challenging but mind-blowing pieces. John Barron, who led the Amabile Youth Singers in the premiere, said that it was a tough piece to get going, but once you had it you wondered why it was ever hard. That the piece rewards the choristers' efforts can be heard in the superb Amabile performance on the "Family Tree" CD. The text invokes the names and spiritual states from a broad spectrum of beliefs - Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, ancient Greek, and a host of ancient Mesopotamian deities whose job is to make the universe take shape before your eyes and ears. Advanced and rapturous.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

Cantabile Women's Choir of Kingston
rehearsing 'Double Shot' with the Cantabile Women's Choir of Kingston.

Double Shot (Honey in the Rock)
(SSAA with low solo: also available for SATB)

(SATB)   979-0-051-47384-7
(treble)   979-0-051-47385-4

This is a slow gospel blues where I've built an original song around the gorgeous traditional refrain of "sweet honey in the rock". A hypnotic slow cooker that builds and builds until, deo volente, the roof is at least half a foot higher than when you started to sing. The solo is designed so that it can be sung "straight" or with gospel styling. Quick to learn, but still a showcase for phrasing, styling and deep-as-a-well vocal tone.

For La Jeunesse Girls' Choir, Cobourg, Ontario.

Down Low With Finesse
SSA divisi, a cappella

  Porfiri & Harváth
PHP 312 052

The title refers to handling a mood swing with style, but also pays tribute to the choir's name: Finesse is a girls' chamber ensemble from Mt. Whitney H.S. in Visalia, California, directed by Brad Hayashi. My text deals with the anxieties of young adulthood that are exorcised, chant-style, in a cyclone swirl of ostinati, funky riffs and "chacka chacka" vocal effects that turn the choir into a beat box or an air guitar. I've often said that I think of a choir as a tribe, in Down Low With Finesse the tribal experience of putting the piece together becomes the best therapy for overcoming despair, described in this piece as "that down-low creepin' song". The accompanying soundfile was made during a classroom rehearsal with Finesse – a wonderful workshop with a very hip, intelligent ensemble with a lot of personality.


At the Sborové slavnosti (Czech Choir Festival) in Hradec Králové, 2011. Rehearsing 'Dubula' with the children at the festival...


(SATB)   979-0-051-47381-6
(SSAA)   979-0-051-48127-9

Originally written for Mark Sirett and the Cantabile Youth Singers of Kingston, Ontario, there is now a treble voicing written for the 2012 Windy City Youth Choral Festival, hosted by Elena Sharkova and her choir, also named Cantabile, although this Cantabile is from Silicon Valley. A Xhosa song well known in South Africa, "Dubula" has all the rhythmic drive and open-chord vocal gorgeousness you'd expect from a South African song, along with two other characteristics less common in the South African songs usually championed by the global choral movement. It opens with a half-chanted section in free time, which makes an excellent contrast when the driving rhythm suddenly kicks in. And unlike the "freedom song", "Dubula" has nothing to do with themes of religious and political struggle: it's just flat-out party. Optional dance steps, very easy to do and manageable on risers, are provided with the score. Although not hard to learn, "Dubula" makes for a barn-burning concert closer. I have had conflicting advice as to whether the syllable in the third measure be "ngom" or "ngem", but at the moment the "ngems" out-number the "ngoms" two to one, so I will go with "ngem". Oh yes, and in the chorus the syllable hayl should rhyme with "smile", not "whale".

The phrase at m. 4-6 and 15-16 suggests a child whining that the bird has stolen all the food, and when I conduct this piece I get the singers to use a whining tone and rub their eyes like fretful children. In the SATB voicing the basses have accented, low-pitched figures on the word "Dubula" at m. 72, 74 and 76. Unless a choir has a bass section big and strong enough to pump out those low notes, I get the basses to jump up the octave for the three 'Dubula' figures. To see this option notated, click here.

People have told me that when they look up "Dubula" on the web, they are sometimes led to a piece whose title and lyrics translate as "Shoot The Boer". This is not the same song as "Dubula", whose title does mean "shoot", but whose lyrics have no reference to the Boers or to shooting another person. When singers perform my arrangement of "Dubula", they are not advocating violence or revenge. "Dubula" did originally carry a subtext of "Africa for Africans", but now the song is performed with an ethos of high spirits and good will. I have seen South Africans of several races and geneologies join together in raising the roof.


... and two very different performances at the same event.

Dwa Serduszka (Two Hearts)
(for SSAA, but with a fair bit of simple divisi)


A gorgeous, gorgeous Polish folk song that mixes sighs of despair with feisty, red-hot gypsy blood. A young woman stands up to her parents and the elders of her village over the boy she's been forbidden to see, but whom she "grabs" (literally) at the end of the song. A fine showcase for a choir's tone and phrasing, with a closing phrase that makes audiences gasp. Flowing and lyrical, with a refrain that comes right out of the groaning earth. The second sound file, by Madrigaïa, shows how the piece can be customized.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

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 mixed voices.

For the Portland Symphonic Girl Choir, OR.

The tribes of Earth, Ocean, Sky and Fire declare war on each other in this partial-dress rehearsal of
'Flying Colours' with Phoebe Voigts and the Saskatoon Children's Choir. One of the most productive,
creative and efficient rehearsals of my life. Photos by Ron Berntson. To see a picture of the SATB production
of the masque, look up Flying Colours on the Compositions Page for SATB.

Images captured from the DVD of Flying Colours.

Flying Colours
any combination of voices with percussion and optional piano


Part 1 - Central Bucks High School - West
Part 2 - Central Bucks High School - West
This is a masque of about twenty minutes in length, in which the story is told through ritualized movement and costume as well as through music. The video file shows footage from the beautifully realized premiere performance by the Saskatoon Children's Choir led by Phoebe Voigts. (The piece, a three-way commission, was also written for Joe Ohrt and his Central Bucks High School-West Chamber Choir, and Eric Wilkinson and the Sumpter High School Choir.) "Flying Colours" is a parable of suspicion and conflict. Four tribes, each with their own standards of costume and custom, concentrate so much on each other's differences that they miss how their four tribal chants create a lovely texture when sung simultaneously. Tensions mount amidst escalating skirmishes and broken treaties until there is war, destruction, an afterlife of haunted grief, and a closing section that suggests both how we never learn, and yet at the same time how we must. Whether the masque closes in an atmosphere of sunset or sunrise is up to the group, as are many other creative details of costuming and choreography. My text, thanks to the suggestion of Phoebe Voigts, is in "Amadeus language" - nonsense syllables out of which each tribe constructs its own speech. This has the side benefit that in the war sections where everything is fast and loud, the audience doesn't have to keep track of actual words. Percussion instruments (kalimbas, drums, rainsticks, cowbells, vibraslaps and finger cymbals) are distributed amongst the tribes as marks of status and honour as well as the instruments that keep the masque moving forward. The performance notes give details as to which parts are the most advanced and how the instruments are to be distributed. At the premiere, the Saskatoon Children's Choir had the kalimba parts softly doubled by a piano, which sounded very well as the piano's greater sustain helped the kalimba parts carry, which helped the singers keep in tune.

TYPOS: m. 127 in the top voice, the syllables should be "do-zo" not "lo-zo". At m. 99, the accents in the drum pattern should be the same as in the passage that starts at m. 109.


Aliqua Treble Ensemble

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.

(published as SSATB, but works well as SSSAA)


An exotic, early Renaissance feel that singers like to help create. Room for 1 to 4 soloists. The choir only has about fifteen seconds' of music to learn, but you can get many variations by mixing and matching the different voice sections. For example, the soloist sings his/her bit, then have two or three of the parts sing the refrain, then repeat the refrain with all five parts. Bring in the next soloist, and start the process over, but with a different set of two or three voices doing the first refrain. For choirs not up to five parts, the polyphonic texture will also work with fewer voices. Good for when you need a Christmas number that can be learned quickly. Lends itself to processionals and candlelight. I wrote this for a high school choir in its first year, but accomplished choruses will find plenty here to please them as well. In the sound file for this piece, I am taking the low part. Mixing and matching the different parts betwen male and female voices is easily done.

For Cawthra Park Secondary School, Mississauga, Ontario.

Geordie: or How the Lady Ann Saved Her Man


From Scotland comes a great ballad with a great melody and a great story that tells how the Lady Ann rode into Edinburgh to free her man from a resentful king and the executioner's axe. The choir gets to impersonate a wide range of characters, and every vocal part gets plenty of time with the melody. The writing is not that difficult, but the choir needs energy and stamina to keep the story rolling forward. If your choir is looking for something with a dramatic flair that showcases every section, check this one out. The soundfile features the Amabile Youth Singers, directed by John Barron and Brenda Zadorsky.

For the Cantabile Women’s Choir of Kingston, Ontario.

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.

Partners in Praise
Partners in Praise: the Minnesota choir that tore the walls down with "Job, Job."

Jabula Jesu
(SSAA and two percussion, optionally more)

(SATB)   979-0-051-46723-5
(treble)   979-0-051-48254-2

Hopewell (SATB)
Partner in Praise (treble)
To answer the question I'm most frequently asked, yes, both 'J's are hard,  and "Jabula" is accented on the middle syllable. (There is a pronunciation guide with the score.) An irresistible South African melody in a very rhythmic setting that spotlights every section of the choir. Singers seem to get a big charge out of this one - I wrote it for a first year high  school choir, and it's also been done by middle schools, but even experienced choirs get completely hooked. Easy to learn, and makes quite a show stopper.(An abridged version of this song appears in African Celebration.) If you had success with this piece and want something similar yet different, check out Living In A Holy City.

There is a crazy typo in the translation which has pursued various editions of this piece. "Thandaza" should be "pray", not "play". However, the phrase "have a good time" is not an accident. When I was learning the song from a young man named Prince, he stressed that the mood in this song is one of joyful prayer. "Have a good time" was Prince's own phrase, and I think it may have been that phrase that convinced people that the word was "play". The confusion does raise a pleasing point though. Isn't it rather lovely that the two verbs, play and pray, can have fused owing to this ongoing mistake.

For Mayfield Secondary School, Brampton, Ontario.

Job, Job
(SSA with sections of divisi in every part)

(SATB)   979-0-051-47806-4
(SSA)   979-0-051-47572-8

Partners In Praise
The Drake Chorale
Best suited for the more mature sound of high-school singers or older, this piece comes from the bluesy, moaning, deep-souled traditions of the field yell and the gospel holler. According to the choirs who've sung it there is an electricity in the air from the first notes on. There is a fair amount of divisi, although it's simple and homophonic in nature. Centered around the famous story of Job, the piece contains both the darkness and the uplift we associate with that harrowing tale. It starts out as a groan of grief and ends like a blazing chariot, soaring and victorious. The soundfile features Partners In Praise Girls' Choir, directed by Julia Fahey.

In the first editions of the printed score, the 1st line of the 2nd paragraph in that part of the Performance Notes called “optional percussion” should say, “In the choruses you could introduce a tambourine”, not “In the verses you could introduce a tambourine”. Some sharp-eyed conductors have noted inconsistencies in the placement of vocal scoops. These inconsistencies are unintentional (my apologies). Choirs can assume that when melodic lines are repeated, the approach to the scoops remains the same, and a scoop that occurs in one voice will also occur in another.

For Partners in Praise Girls’ Choir for their 10th anniversary.

Recording "Koka" for Floating Upstream with the Hopewell Valley Chamber Choir. Ken Elpus, Hopewell director and co-conductor
on the CD is standing by the piano. For a picture of the piece in choreographed performance, see the page for SATB compositions.

SSAA or SATB and piano, four hands

(SSAA)   979-0-051-47910-8
(SATB)   979-0-051-47911-5

Juvenata! 2008
Kokapelli Choir
Written for Kokopelli of Edmonton, Alberta, because I knew they would turn the piece into their own miniature Bollywood spectacular. This old Punjabi song also works without choreography, but it won't work without two good pianists at the four-hand piano, where precise rhythmic control is crucial. The song finds our hero and heroine in India's rainy season, trapped by a sudden downpour. Ths gives our heroine the perfect opportunity to use all her powers of persuasion to get her man to buy her a "koka", or a "nose ring", to honour her youth and her beautiful complexion. For most western choirs it will take a while to get used to singing in Punjabi, but oh boy is it worth it! The piece is advanced, not because of crazy tuning, but because I have tried to keep the Punjabi vocal ornaments, traditionally sung by a soloist, in place in the choral texture. The song is in straightforward 4/4 time, but rhythmic challenges abound nonetheless as the voices imitate the flexibility of an Indian flute and the four-hand piano imitates the shimmering, virtuoso licks of an entire Indian dance band. My arrangement is not only a tribute to Kokopelli, but to musicians Kiran Ahluwalia and Kiran Thakrar.


Let Me Ask You
(SSAA with soli)


An antiphonal slow-cooker that moves from piano unison to heaven-wrenching chords at the end, "Let Me Ask You" is an original piece in a gospel style that owes much to Leadbelly and the Dixie Hummingbirds. The text is like the flip side to "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child": "If they ask you who I am, tell them I'm my mother's child." The famous mothers (or mothers-in-law) of Moses, Ruth and Jesus are invoked, with a closing vision of the whole sky as the great dark mother sitting on her star-studded throne. Amabile used four singers in the soli section, two altos and two sopranos. On the easy side of advanced. Most of the notes aren't hard to learn, but the piece requires a relentless groove.

For the Holton-Arms School of Washington, DC, in honour of its centennial.

CC Marysburg
photo: The Humboldt Journal
The Saskatoon Children's Choir sing "Living In A Holy City"

Living In A Holy City
(SSSAA (much of it SSA) 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).


La Lluvia (YOO-be-ah)
(SSAA and three percussion)

(treble)   979-0-051-46941-3
(SATB)   979-0-051-46940-6

Non stop rhythmic energy below a cool surface. Inspired by a panpipe riff from the high Andes, the whole piece spirals out of a couple of ostinati. The interweaving riffs create a soundscape of la lluvia, or "the rain." The basic ostinato, from B below middle C to the D a tenth above, moves upward through the choristers' break in a way that strengthens and limbers up the voice. The basic material is learned very quickly, but the choir needs to be on their toes when all the spirals are put together.

There is a typo in m. 34 of both the treble and SATB voicings. The second to last note in the measure should be an E, not an F# - a correction which will make instant sense to anybody learning the score.

There is a typo in the alto at m. 8. The final note in the measure should be an F, not an E. Compare with m. 88.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

Maid That's Deep In Love, A
(SA until final verse, then SSAA: published by Alliance Music)

(Alliance)   AMP 0327

The classic English ballad scenario of the girl who dresses like a boy so she can search for her sailor love over the seven seas, only to discover her barely disguised charms play havoc with her messmates. A gorgeous, lilting melody with a modal flavour, and a text that gives lots of room for story telling and word painting. Advanced.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

Kokolan, Photo: © Anne Sjökvist       " Kokolan, Photo: © Anne Sjökvist
Kokkolan Nuorisokuoro rehearses "The Most Incredible Thing" in Kokkola, Finland. The princess is not impressed with this brash suitor,
and neither is the rest of the choir. Photos © Anne Sjökvist

Most Incredible Thing, The
SSAA, clarinet and string bass


Danish National Girls' Choir
Much of this piece, 20 to 25 minutes in length, is in unison, two or three parts in an attempt to keep the piece accessible, although the most skilled choir will find plenty through which to express its fullest musicality. The Danish National Girls' Choir asked me to write a piece in honour of the two hundredth anniversary of Hans Christian Andersen's birth, and I chose a story that is little known in the English world. Banned by the Nazis (what better recommendation can there be?), "The Most Incredible Thing" tells of a contest to construct the greatest marvel in existence. The centerpiece of the story is the description of an incredible clock whose moving figures create such a variety of tableaux with the striking of each new hour that all of human existence is contained within it. The clock is destroyed; the princess is claimed by the destroyer; their wedding is disrupted by the clock's figures as they break down the church door and take their revenge on the destroyer. The clockmaker and the princess live happily ever after, as will the audience, I hope, after hearing my music and my English version of the text. The piece can be sung as a concert number from the risers, but it also invites a variety of stagings or semi-stagings, particularly with the different figures and different scenes that represent each passing hour. The soundfile features the Danish National Girls' Choir, directed by Michael Bojesen.


O Sapo (The Toad)
(for SSSAA: percussion optional but I highly recommend 4 to 5 players)

(SSSAA)   979-0-041-47358-8
(SSATB)   979-0-051-47654-1

Les Ms
This Brazilian charmer is one of my most groovelicious charts, and goes down like Perrier and lime on a hot day. The vocal parts are rhythmic and repetitive, so although the sopranos have to get their lips around a few rapid lines of Portuguese, there are also only a few phrases of music to learn. The text is somewhat in the Tico Tico tradition of brisk, impudent alliteration whose meaning is a distant second in importance to the sheer bravura of the diction. A perfect piece to program when you need to get the audience bouncing in their seats - or at least flaring their nostrils in time. Described by one conductor as "the most joyful piece of music I've ever heard." In a lot of ways this is not that hard a piece, but it takes style and verve to pull off, and the altos have to be comfortable with a repeated low G. The piece works at various tempi. Compare the performances by Amabile and Les Ms. Edie Yeager sent the soundfile from West Valley Middle School, an ensemble she described as a "7th grade group of ordinary, non-auditoned students." I am pleased to receive such confirmation of my belief that many of my nominally "advanced" charts do not exclude young singers.

In Soprano 1 at m. 23, the fifth and sixth notes of the measure should be C an octave above middle C, not D.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

Ödi Ödi
(six part voices, although can be performed from unison to three parts, with tuned percussion or keyboard taking the other three voices)


This setting of a Tamil song is most effectively sung with a double SSA choir, with the 2nd choir being a double or triple trio. Its message - searching for a light that was within us all along - lends itself well to various sorts of thematic programming. Since the song is in 7/8, it gives choirs a chance to experience something of the rhythmic flexibility of the Indian tradition. A very dreamy, meditative mood is created. With all six voices, advanced level, though I've done the core melody in unison with young children, while the accompanying drone was done on Orff-tuned percussion. There is also a simple but very evocative part for zils. The second sound file, by Madrigaïa, shows how the piece can be customized.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

On The Rio
four parts for any combination of voices
and optional gospel tambourine


Forest Ridge
Here is a flexible chart designed to appeal to any number of choirs, green or ripened. It brings together two songs of the sea which can be performed separately if desired. The vocal texture is designed to allow for any mixing and matching of high voices and low voices, with options built into the score so that young men whose ranges are on the idiosyncratic side have alternate routes within the line they are singing. The first half of the piece is a slow-stomping 6/8 rouser of a sea shanty which grows into a gospel/blues fireball telling the tale of a hurricane at sea, a gallant captain, and a chorus of wailing souls on the water. For conductors who wonder what sort of subject matter will appeal to the boys they long to recruit: here it is. The soundfile comes from a Hatfield festival organized by Alison Seaton at Forest Ridge in Washington State. All the participants joined in on this piece, with the men's voices scattered throughout the four parts.

For the Pennsylvania ACDA, 2005.

Scala Rehearsal
In the studio with Scala, the fearless choir from Brussels.

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.


Ripple Effect
SSAA and piano


Amabile (studio)
Amabile (live)
"Dip your fingers in the water and the rings will spread.
And they spread to who knows how far away?
To beyond what you see, beyond what you hear,
Like the voice of the candle when you pray."

"Ripple Effect" was written in honour of the 25th anniversary of the Amabile Youth Singers, the choir with whom I’ve collaborated on so many pieces. This is one of my dreamy, creamy pieces, where the text's theme of ripples sent through water and air is reinforced by musical allusions to the chord progression of Donovan's water song "Atlantis" and the D flat tonality and rising thirds of Debussy's airy "Clair de Lune". The goal is a gentle luminosity, a pearly fog or a cool river full of blue and silver sparkles. (A very helpful comment, I'm sure.) "Ripple Effect" refers to the spreading influence of trailblazers like Amabile, as well as the importance of choral music in the search for a transcendence beyond words. Fairly advanced, but well within the reach of a good high school ensemble.


Rosebud In June
(SSAA with options for solo/soli)

(SSAA)   979-0-051-47527-8
(SSATB)   979-0-051-47528-5

Nove Voce
A goooorgeous minor modal melody collected in Somerset by Cecil Sharp, a text full of the primal magic of the shifting seasons in old agrarian England, and an arrangement that moves from unison to five parts like a slowly spreading fan, a curtain gradually opening on a distant past blooming into summer. Ideal for a large choir, where it creates a great swell of sound, but I've heard well-balanced chamber choirs make good use of the options built into the score for solos, trios and quartets. The mood combines gravity and gaiety; it has the dignity and the ritual splendour of a processional, but a processional done in big boots over meadows and ditches, with everybody red-faced and rosy-cheeked from singing their hearts out in the open air. The verses are more demanding than the chorus, and I've used this piece with green choirs through assigning the verses to the most experienced voices, and keeping the full choir for the chorus, which is grand and involved enough that they don't feel they're being patronized. The audio clip is from a candlelight performance by Quintessential Vocal Ensemble of St. John's.

For the Cantangeli Young Women’s Choir, Iowa.

Just before the show at Juvenata 2008 in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. Photo by Alex Keir

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

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

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.

(can be done unison, SA, SSA or SSAA, with piano and room for bass and drums)


Technically not that difficult, especially in its unison or SA form, but it takes confidence to pull this one off because the style keeps hopping between Latin, boogie-woogie and a stop-and-start declamatory delivery. (I'm pleased to say that the driving grooves and unexpected switcheroos put this piece in particular favour with a New Orleans drummer.) Text and music are both full of biting humour as they cast a half-amused, half caustic look at the occupational hazards of hanging on to this crazy planet.

For the Contra Cost Children’s Chorus, CA.

Sida Rudaia (See-da Roo-DIE-ya)


In Ukrainian. A wailing love story with a hot gypsy refrain - dark, teasing boy, nervous, fair haired girl, and wicked stepmother. Room for soloist(s) with a good edge to their voices. Some gritty harmonies, in an effort to catch the sound of the untempered scale that is traditionally used in this style. Should raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Advanced. At measure 120 I'd cut the metronome marking in half to facilitate the accelerando.
N.B. Typo in m. 96: The lower note in Treble I should be a B flat, not a B natural. The metronome marking at m. 120 should be 70, not 144.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

Son de Camaguey
(SSAA with flexible number of percussion - three at least)

(SATB)   979-0-051-46973-7
(TTBB)   979-0-051-48110-1
(SSAA)   979-0-051-48109-5

Now available for SSAA voices. For those choirs who went to town on Jabula Jesu, this chart is the likeliest follow-up: a bit harder, and a different rhythmic style, but the same approach of interlocking ostinati, in this case built around the chorus of a Cuban folk song. High-spirited and uptempo, with every section getting lots of spotlight, this chart only has a few phrases of easy Spanish to learn. (I've been told that the local pronunciation of "Camaguey" turns "quey" into "way". ) The percussion parts, which are sketched in but rely on the players' ability to comp, are ideal if you have, as many schools do, a tribe of percussionists, often non-reading, whom you'd love to motivate, but can't think of anything to do with. The Cuban style gives them a chance to bring out all the toys, and the score gives them the chance to solo, as well as accompany.

For the Governor Simcoe Senior Secondary Choir, Ontario.

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.


Aliqua Treble Ensemble
In case you've ever wondered if a small ensemble could perform "TJAK!" here is Aliqua in action.

(four part voices)


Amabile: live
Amabile: studio
Central Bucks High School - West
Inspired by the Balinese monkey chant, and performed without conductor, with vocal cues given by the "elders of the choir". The piece can be reassembled in any number of ways, and even if performed in the suggested sequence, there's lots of room for improvisation. Looks like a royal pain on the page, I know, but it's nowhere near as hard as it looks. Middle school choirs have managed it. Check out a recording, which will make all sorts of things instantly clear. Choirs enjoy turning this piece into their own spectacle, and I've heard of every possible method of presentation being tried. Because the piece is not set out in a conventional way, choirs can at first feel uncertain about it; but in my experience, once they get into it, even the sceptics are converted. Has a tendency to make audiences go batty. Gets more ovations than anything else I've done.

There is a missing accent in treble 4 at the downbeat of m. 12. The accented downbeat in treble 4 and the accented pick-up in treble 3 should be shot back and forth between the groups like a sonic volleyball.

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

SCC Marysburg
photo: The Humboldt Journal.
SCC Powell River
photo: The Powell River Peak.
The Saskatoon Children's Choir performs "Überlebensgross". See above for
more pictures of this wonderful choir, as well as on the page for "Contacts".

(SSAA and four percussion)


Les Ms
Lady Cove
Central Bucks High School - West
This is the piece that created such a ruckus at the '98 ACDA in Providence. It can be used as a processional (the performance notes give you ideas). A salute to the power of women's voices (the title means "larger than life"), the chart combines influences from flamenco to dance music of the thirties, among other things, to create a montage that has proven to really shake an audience up. Advanced. And whereas I usually write percussion parts that could be handled by members of the choir, in this case you need players with some experience.

Here are some tips for when the percussionists are asked to hold bamboo poles and strike downward. Bamboo poles can usually be found in Chinatown furniture stores, but PVC pipe may be easier to get. I've used a wide variety of diameters in both bamboo and PVC. In order to get a big, resonant sound (and to protect the surface you are "poling" against) it helps to strike the poles against the little wooden platforms that are staples in theatre arts departments. The space in the wooden structure acts as a resonator and amplifier. Depending on the size and height of the platforms I've had the percussionists stand on the floor and drum the poles against the platform, or sometimes the percussionists are standing on the platform as well, although depending on the equipment you're using that can deaden the sound somewhat.

The performance by Central Bucks is courtesy of Brad Zabelski and Traveling Tracks (www.travelingtracks.com). Note that both Lady Cove and Les Ms. Come from St. John's, Newfoundland. My Lord, the choral action in that city!

For Central Bucks High School-West Women’s Ensemble, Doylestown PA.

Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy, The

(treble)   979-0-051-46911-6
(SSATB)   979-0-051-46912-3

Pure Heart
mosaic (SATB)
This setting of the well known Trinidad carol gives the contrapuntal aspect of calypso particular emphasis. Lots of interlocking counter-melodies and bubbling ostinati. A very fresh and joyful flavour. Perfect for anybody who suspects, as I do, that there is a club in Paradise where the angels sing nothing but early Harry Belafonte records (shake your body line!).

The soundfile from Pure Heart shows how well and how charmingly a Japanese choir can channel the style. Check them out at pure-heart.jimdo.com .

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

From Akihabara, Japan, Pure Heart Female Choir (in English, sorry the Japanese characters would
not come through on my website), with Minako Yonezuka, who first contacted me about missing
scores, a problem with which conductors everywhere can sympathize. Japan is one of the countries
outside of North America that has most taken to my work, in particular The Virgin Mary Had A Baby Boy.

When the Night Is Sweet With Starlight (Christmas Cantata)
(from unison voices to double choir with electric keyboard and three percussion)


This is my Christmas Cantata, a half hour in length, and you know, I think it turned out nicely. Much of the work is unison, 2 part and 3 part voices, so even though there are sections in four part divisi the overall difficulty level is not beyond a good children's choir, yet it's equally suitable for adult women. My text has worked with a broad range of ages as well. The focus is on Mary - no shepherds and wise men, no hunt for room at the inn. I use the oratorio tradition of combining dramatic musical tableaux with meditations on those tableaux. I bring together Christmas traditions from different times and different points of view: there's an Annunciation, a Magnificat, an Ave Maria, a Wassail, Plainchant, and tributes to Sephardic Jews. Musical styles range from medieval to modern, and I feel good about the way all these different elements flow so naturally in and out of each other. Many of the individual movements stand on their own, giving you a wide variety of Christmas anthems in one piece. I am grateful to medievalist Deborah Hatfield Moore whose research unearthed a forgotten piece of chant which I adapted for the "starlight, starbright" section of the Cantata.

For the Peace College Chamber Singers of Raleigh, NC.

Ya Faraoule (Ya Fa-ROW-lay)
(SSAA, flute, oboe, two to five percussion - the more the merrier)


This is perhaps my most ambitious piece to mount, but choirs who've tackled it have been very enthusiastic. I combine Lebanese songs of romantic longing with Egyptian songs of romantic joy. There are plenty of sensuous, serpentine Middle Eastern lines for singers and woodwind alike. The text is on the Song of Solomon side, which is a problem for some directors and a plus for others. The new Amabile recording (not the one that was included on the Boosey & Hawkes demo CD) is a big help in hearing the style and putting the piece together. The new recording is also crucial in getting the pronunciation right, as it turns out the native speaker who helped me with the printed guide had some ideas unique to herself. I am very gratified that a professional belly dancer, who was completely sceptical about this project, decided it was on the mark, and danced to it. Some of the percussion parts can be taken by choral members, but the two people at the main drums should ideally have some experience. Advanced. All the directors who've told me this is on the top of their list of Pieces They Want To Do If Only.... Get the recording and go for it!

For the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario.

Les Ms
Les Ms. of St. John's, Newfoundland, and their pianist/arranger/conductor
Dr. Valerie Long, after a sweet and scorching "Ya Faraoule" at Festival 500.