Basic Motets the Every Choir should know
  • What are your thoughts on basic motets which every choir should know?

    Two which immediately spring to my mind are:

    "Ave Maria" - Arcadelt
    "Ad Te Levavi" - Franz Xaver Witt

    Perhaps we could put together a list of 20 essential latin motets and 20 essential English motets for Parishes.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,872
    Most of the works recommended will probably be found in Tbe Catholic Choirbook series, perhaps even in The Catholic Choirbook Anthology.
  • How about Victoria's "Jesu Dulcis Memoria" and "O Magnum Mysterium" on the list?
  • I forgot to add:

    It is preferable that they match the text of either the offertory or the communion chant for the day. Or are suitable as a generic motet for the liturgical season.

    Refer to the 1974 Index here:


    "Ad Te Levavi" - Franz Xaver Witt - Offertory Advent I and Ordinary Time XV
    "Ave Maria" - Arcadelt - Offertory Various Feasts of Our Lady

    "O Taste and See" - Raph Vaugn Williams - Communion Ordinary Time XIV and Ad Libitum.

    If I ever write my own motet, it will be to one of the communion ad libitum texts.

    I am aware that it is common practice in the OF these days to omit the chant entirely and go straight into a motet or offertory hymn, whilst in the EF they still chant the propers even if only is psalm tone or recto tono before going into a motet or Latin Hymn.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    I recall that JT and/or AOZ might have written an article about this some time ago. (In any case, their schola's site has links on the sidebar to several excellent titles. The site itself isn't updated much anymore, but the links are still good. It's a treasure trove, really!)

    I'd add Palestrina's Sicut Cervus (PDF).
    Thanked by 1tomboysuze
  • Well we have to have "If Ye Love Me" Thomas Tallis
    Second on the Sicut Cervus
    A great one that's fun is the Pitoni "Cantate Domino"
    Teach Me O Lord - Atwood
    Tantum Ergo - Deodat Severac (also pretty as SA)
    Ubi Caritas - Durufle (sublime)
    Notre Pere - Durufle
    Adoramus Te Christe - Palestrina
    Jesu Rex Admirabilis - Palestrina

    I'm not sure how basic these are except "If Ye Love Me"
    Haleymartin - Do you mean basic as in "very useable" or basic as in "kind of easy to put together"?

  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,872
    tomboysuze asked just the question I have: What do you mean by basic? Easy to prepare? Covering lots of bases? Communion and/or Offertorie motets ... or something else?

    Or, put another way, what is not basic?
  • AmyH
    Posts: 2
    I direct a 30 member, all volunteer Catholic church choir. We sing SATB regularly and have learned some traditional pieces like the Mozart, Ave Verum and the Cherubini, Veni Jesu with success. I am interested in bringing a little more traditional polyphony into our music, but there is so much music on this site, and much of it is a little too polyphonic for our skill level. Keeping in mind the two pieces we ARE able to do, can anyone point me to some suggestions for SATB music that might have a little more parallel harmony? Basically, we need beginner polyphony.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    I am in the same position as you. Try Palestrina's Sicut Cervus. We are learning this one, it is taking time, but we will use it as the Psalm at the Easter Vigil. After Easter I will begin working on the O Magnum - Victoria for next Christmas. Biebl's Ave Maria is a good one too.
  • Blaise
    Posts: 439
    Ave Verum-William Byrd
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Ally
    Posts: 227
    Another vote for Palestrina's Sicut Cervus and If Ye Love Me - Tallis. The Tallis is especially good if you want to work on that type of sound without working on the Latin yet. At least, those have worked for me.

    O Magnum is coming along really well for Christmas here - Canadash, I did exactly that, worked on it since Easter. Finally.
    Thanked by 1Blaise
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,423
    AmyH - The Palestrina "Adoramus Te Christe" (Proper to Good Friday, and appropriate for Passion Sunday) is very homophonic in texture, while being polyphonic in it's harmonic language. It was the first piece of polyphony I did with my small choir, and it went very well. I have at least one member who said it was her favorite thing we have ever sung.
    (oh, and it's in the Catholic Choir Book)
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,540
    Reviving this thread.
    Tantum Ergo - Deodat Severac
    Holy moly is this lovely.
    So is the Duruflé Notre Père, which I promptly ordered. Stunning.
    Thanked by 1barreltone
  • Sicut cervus may well be the poster child for polyphony.
    If Ye Love Me might be a runner up.
    There are so many, and so little time!

    Even if we don't get to sing them here we'll know them when we get to heaven.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,540
    As I remarked to a friend yesterday after perusing a few of the unknowns (to me) on this list: it really baffles me that so many churches have such awful music when there is SO MUCH truly EXCELLENT music available in the public domain FOR FREE. It’s truly mind boggling how rich and deep our heritage of both choral and organ music is. And it sits languishing and abandoned by so many churches. There really is no excuse (perhaps apart from man power) as to why churches are replete with banal music.
  • LarsLars
    Posts: 71
    because banal liturgy?
  • davido
    Posts: 608
    Good music requires effort. Bad music doesn’t.
  • Davido,

    If it's truly execrable, and sung/played as such, this takes tremendous effort.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,540
    Good music requires effort. Bad music doesn’t.

    If only this maxim was indeed true, perhaps we would have our answer… but the amount of effort I see “worship teams” put into terrible music can be pretty prolific at times. There are churches that will spend thousands on expensive AV and electronic musical equipment but won’t bother to pay for an organ (or organist). Can’t afford the money for handbells, but we can afford a 30k sound control board. Can’t pay to have the ciphers fixed on the organ (guess we won’t use it any more) but can pay to have GIA artists visit for a weekend workshop. Can’t afford hymnals but can buy a 5k industrial projector and have it professionally installed. See it time and again.

    (Also, having to read different through-composed rhythms for every verse of a hymn (so called) is hardly “easy”.)
  • Still worse, to sing/play beautiful music execrably... and to do so blissfully unaware that you're doing so, because you think you're making beautiful music, this is an art form.
  • Noel Jones' collections are wonderful, and the CMAA has a new publication, forthcoming this fall in this regard: The Parish Book of Motets, newly typeset and edited by Dr. Aaron James, from the Toronto Oratory. It will be a fantastic collection, good editions, and include a few newly-commissioned pieces well-suited for amateur parish choirs.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,540
    That’s very exciting news!
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,777
    but the amount of effort I see “worship teams” put into terrible music can be pretty prolific at times
    I think what we are talking about is not necessarily the amount of devoted 'effort' as much as the amount of money and drive invested into amateur skill and equipment to bring it to a level of acceptability. Hollywood is the perfect example of how humanity can prop something up to a level of 'wow' while at the same time promoting dross that is supposed to be 'exceptional'.
  • davido
    Posts: 608
    Last week, myself and three other parishioners rendered mvts 3 and 4 of BWV 4 during communion. Between the four of us, there were represented 8 college degrees in music, plus countless hours of practice on our instruments. Not to mention the the hour we spent putting it together on Saturday, or the time we each spent preparing it on our own.

    This is what I mean by effort. God deserves such.
  • Jenny, the news re: the new CMAA motet book is fantastic. Count me in.
    Thanked by 1RedPop4