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A choir is a musical ensemble consisting of voices, that is, singers. See the end of this article for other meanings of the word.

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Structure of choirs Choirs are often led by a conductor. Most often choirs consist of four parts but there is no limit to the number of possible parts. However, other than four, the most common number of parts is three, five, six and eight.

Choirs can sing with or without instrumental accompaniment. Singing without accompaniment is called a cappella singing. When singing with instrumental accompaniment, the accompanying instruments can consist of practically any instruments, one or several.

There exists a large number of different types of choirs, among others:

  • Mixed choirs, perhaps the most common type, usually consisting of soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices, often abreviated as SATB. Another typical division is SSAATTBB, where each voice is divided into two parts.
  • Female choirs, usually consisting of soprano and alto voices, two parts in each, often abreviated as SSAA.
  • Male choirs, usually consisting of tenor and bass, two parts in each, often abreviated as TTBB.
  • Children's choirs, often three part SSA, sometimes more voices.

Choral music A great number of composers have written choral works. However, composing instrumental music is an entirely different field than composing vocal music. Inclusion of text and to cater the special capabilities and limitations of the human voice makes composing vocal music in some ways more demanding than composing instrumental music. Due to this difficulty, many of the greatest composers have never composed choral music. Naturally, many composers have their favourite instruments and rarely compose for other types instruments or ensembles and choral music is in this sense not a special case.

One of the first great choral composers was Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643), a master of counterpoint, who conclusively showed some of what could be done with choirs and many other musical ensembles. Monteverdi, together with Heinrich Schütz[?] (1585-1672), demonstrated how music can support and enforce the message of the lyrics. They both composed a large number of music for both a cappella choir as well as choirs accompanied by different ensembles.

A century later, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was the next to make his prominent mark in history. Due to his work as a cantor he came to compose an overwhelming amount of sacred choral music; cantatas, motets, passions and other music.

Famous choirs

Professional choirs

Amateur choirs

Children's choirs

Important choral works

  • J.S. Bach's B-Minor Mass
  • Brahms' Requiem "All Flesh is Grass"
  • Carl Orff's, Carmina Burana "O Fortuna! velut luna, statu variabilis!"
  • Hindemith, Four Songs for Honey and Salt
  • Lalo Schifrin[?]'s, "Rock Requiem"
  • Traditional, "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"
  • Traditional, "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye"
  • Gesualdo[?], The fifth Book

Other meanings of the word choir

  • In orchestras, a group of similar instruments is often called a choir. For example, in a symphony orchestra, the group of brass instruments is called the brass choir.
  • In a church or cathedral, the choir or quire is the area between the nave and the presbytery: see Cathedral diagram.
  • "The Choir" is also the name of a rock band.
  • In angelology[?], a choir is a specific grouping of angels within the angelic hierarchy.

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