10 Must-Have Pieces for Choir Competitions and Festivals


Choice of repertoire is an important factor in the enjoyment and success of a choir at a competition or festival. Choirs are constantly searching for new music that will make their programme stand out; a showcase work that both challenges the singers and leaves an indelible impression on the listener.

We’ve composed a list of 10 Must-Have Pieces for Choir Competitions and Festivals that will ensure your performance stands out from the crowd!

1. Snow Dance for the Dead – Seán Doherty

Seán Doherty’s music is fast becoming a favourite of choirs internationally. ‘Snow Dance for the Dead’ is a tour de force full of intensity and drama that is sure to have a lasting effect. Although the work splits into ten parts the lines are often imitative and as a result the piece can be tackled by choirs big and small, advanced to intermediate. An astonishing choral accomplishment.

2. Angel – Liam Bates

Liam Bates’ piece is both delicate and immense. Choirs will relish showcasing their full dynamic and expressive range in this powerful piece. Close harmony opens out to expansive declamatory chords all achieved through compelling harmonic progressions.

3. Molaimis – Ben Hanlon

Most choirs try to feature a piece that is up-tempo, dynamic and thrilling – Ben Hanlon’s ‘Molaimis’ has all these traits and more. Driving mixed-metre ostinatos, wonderful use of harmony and striking melodies combine to make a captivating and emotionally stirring piece. The piece uses a religious text in Irish (and so is also suitable for Sacred Music categories) however, the text’s overall length and complexity is easily manageable.

TTBB available now, SSAA & SATB coming soon!

4. Childish Things – Eoghan Desmond

The first half of Eoghan Desmond’s ‘Childish Things’ is full of technical challenges coming in the form of rhythm, harmony and articulation. The piece then changes mood affording the choir the opportunity to demonstrate legato phrases and sumptuous harmony. Quirky and playful, elegant and sophisticated in one neat package!

5. The Old Woman – Rhona Clarke

Rhona Clarke’s ‘The Old Woman’ is a barnstormer! Brimming with energy from start to finish, the piece has highly effective body percussion with choral parts that are perfectly judged for choirs that want to showcase an ability to execute energetic and technical music.

6. The Savior must have been a docile Gentleman – Stephen Gardner

Many choirs choose to feature a piece in their festival programmes which conjures a special or ethereal atmosphere. Stephen Gardner’s ‘The Savior must have been a docile Gentleman’ is certainly one such piece. Delicate and soft, the composer overlaps the parts in such a way to create wondrous harmonies. The piece grows organically to a type of introverted but passionate climax before dissipating away into the ether.

7. A Nywe Werk – Seán Doherty

Described by The Times, London as ‘stupendous’, Seán Doherty’s ‘A Nywe Werk’ has been lighting up the festival circuit recently. And it’s no wonder why; exhilarating rhythmic writing, magnificent harmony across multiple parts and all with a wee doff of the hat to early and medieval music.

8. O Frondens Virga – Ben Hanlon

Within 4 minutes of music, composer Ben Hanlon brings us on a journey from a spiritual dawn to an exultant night. The atmospheric opening features a plainchant inspired melody coloured by tone clusters. This gives way to a vigorous and highly rhythmic middle section before Hanlon crowns the piece with a majestic ending.

9. Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep – Rhona Clarke

Rhona Clarke weaves her compositional magic into this famous text. The mood is perfectly judged – a gentle tempo with harmony that feels introspective, combining to create a powerful aura. A short section for solo in the middle of the piece soars before the work draws to a close, the music transmitting a unique mix of fortitude and sensitivity.

10. Ubi Caritas – Raeghnya Zutshi

Raeghnya Zutshi’s setting of the ‘Ubi Caritas’ is quite simply a hidden gem waiting to be revealed to the world. Beginning in a traditional homophonic style, the piece soon opens up to allow lush 8-part chords to soar in moments of pure magic. The work ends with each member of the choir independently singing quasi-plainchant fragments of the text. So effective and impressive but within reach of most ensembles. Absolutely glorious!

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