Bündner Jugendchor, Switzerland performing at the European Choir Games in 2019 © Jonas Persson

Top 10 Most Performed Songs at Choir Competitions and Events

The most sung pieces at INTERKULTUR’s choral competitions and festivals

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INTERKULTUR runs numerous choir competitions every year — including the World Choir Games, the largest international choir competition in the world. This gives us a lot of insight into what the most famous choral music is in any given year and what songs are good choices to sing with a choir.

Below, we’ve assembled the 10 top most performed songs at choir competitions by INTERKULTUR from 2018 to 2021. That way, you can keep an eye on the popular works that are lighting up the choral competitions and events around the globe.

1. “Ubi Caritas” by Ola Gjeilo

Norway’s Ola Gjeilo begins this enchanting, almost medieval, piece with the group singing in unison before unfurling into a grand tapestry of harmonies. Based on the popular “Ubi caritas” Latin hymn, Gjeilo updates it while keeping it true to its roots. The balance of eras, and the harmonic narrative that combines them, makes this an interesting mixture for the ear while never falling into self-indulgence.

2. "Even When He Is Silent" by Kim André Andresen

Kim André Arnesen is a Norwegian composer who is capable of handling deep subject matter with textured, touching works. This commissioned piece gives us stunning emotional weight the lyrics deserve — the words were found scratched in the wall of a concentration camp. That context gives the work special importance, one that is not lost on the audience.

3. "Ave Maria" by Franz Biebl

Written in 1964 by Germany’s Franz Biebl, this rendition of the Ave Maria has gone on to be used well beyond the all male choirs it was written for. Made famous by the Cornell University Glee Club Christmas, it has been adapted for winds and brass, as well as mixed choirs. Its soft enchantment is universal, bringing out the divine inspiration under the words with tender sophistication.

4. “Bogoroditse Devo” by Sergei Rachmaninoff

The Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff gave us one of the world’s favorite choral compositions with this work of sacred music. He adored it so much that he asked for the fifth movement to be sung at his funeral. Since it was written in 1915 and performed for the first time in Moscow that same year, it hasn’t lost an ounce of power and grace.

5. “Mironczarnia” by Jakub Neske

Probably one of the biggest crowd pleasers out there, this piece begins with ghostly chanting and builds to dramatic heights from there. This modern work is based on the poem of the same name by Miron Białoszewski, and the striking use of its syllables by Neske is a stroke of genius. It’s driving rhythm expresses the anger and frustration of the original poem, in which a writer is incapable of getting any inspiration.

6. "Salve Regina” by Javier Busto

This Latin language work is a contemporary masterpiece of choral music. Spanish composer Javier Busto brings the female voice through transcendent moments while still creating a cohesive, unified whole. Powerful yet restrained, it deftly works its way into the listener. First published in 1999, the piece launched Busto to the top of his field. In May 2022 the composer himself will work on his repertoire with singers from all over the world in Calella at a Sing Along Project by the World Festival Singers.

7. "Nyon Nyon” by Jake Runestad

The American Jake Runestad gave us this playful, joyous exploration of voice in 2006. Using words he invented to produce a variety of effects, Runestad achieves a wide range of sounds. The composition also lends itself to theatrics, making it a great way for choirs to make a splash in a competition. And both choir singers and audiences can hardly contain themselves during it.

8. "Northern Lights” by Ola Gjeilo

Gjeilo makes this list again with this work borrowing lyrics from Song of Solomon combined with music inspired by none other than the aurora borealis. As haunting and ethereal as the natural phenomenon that inspired it, this is one of the best pieces for a women’s chorus in today’s choir competition and event scene.

9. "Cantate Domino” by Josu Elberdin

The Spanish composer Josu Elberdin wrote this piece using the English, Basque and Latin languages to express the love of singing to God. That singing is at the core of the work should come as no surprise, as the piece is brimming with optimism and warmth.

10. "Lux Aurumque” by Eric Whitacre

American Eric Whitacre wrote this piece of Christmas choral music in 2000. In the two decades since, it’s won over crowds with its stirring moments that twinkle like snow in moonlight. The lyrics are borrowed from a short English poem which was then translated into Latin for Whitacre by Charles Anthony Silvestri. The somewhat tight harmonies make the piece an elegant way for a choir to flex its proverbial muscles

Is there any piece on this list you have already performed with your choir, too? Check out our website for upcoming INTERKULTUR Events in 2022-2024 and take the chance to prove your skills and present exciting pieces in front of an international jury.

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