Choral music has the power to touch the lives of many people. From our earliest days in school, many of us have experienced the exhilaration, the fun and the rewards of participation that communal singing can bring. No instrumental tuition is required… just bring your voice! Judging by the number of choral events taking place across the globe (over 200 choirs and choruses list their concerts at Bachtrack), the number of choirs in action has rarely been healthier. This month, we explore what it is about singing in a choir that is so special. We also investigate why choral music is such a popular genre for listeners, especially in the realms of contemporary music.

Most of us started singing whilst at school. Teacher Alan Coady explores the benefits that choral singing brings in schools, drawing on his personal experiences about the collective power that singing can realise.

One need only watch television programmes featuring Gareth Malone to witness the appetite for community singing. Many claims are made about the supposed health benefits of joining a choir, but how much truth is there in this? Rohan Shotton, who studies medicine, bursts a few bubbles…

After you’ve had your appetite whetted by hearing some of the great choral works – Allegri’s Miserere, perhaps, or Tallis’ Spem in alium – what should you explore next? Jane Shuttleworth leads you gently by the hand down the choral byways to recommend some hidden choral gems which could become firm favourites. Penny Homer turns her focus to contemporary music, suggesting some wonderful discoveries. 

Contemporary choral music enjoys a popularity not always shared by its instrumental counterparts. Penny Homer suggests ways into this area of the repertoire, picking out some notable works and why they need to be heard.

We have a number of contributions from the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, including an article about the thorny issue of a perceived decline in musicianship in young singers, some top tips for running choral workshops and a composer’s insight into composing for choral forces from Ben Parry.

Bob Porter, artistic director of the Brandenburg Choral Festival, gives a guide to the history of choral singing in Britain. Girl choristers singing in the cathedrals of the United Kingdom have become an increasingly common sight (and sound) but this wasn’t always the case. David Hill, Director of Music at Winchester Cathedral from 1987 to 2002, and his daughter, Alison, who attended Salisbury, the first cathedral to admit girl choristers, reflect on their experiences.

We've been investigating the choral scene beyond Britain's shores. Estonia is as big on the choral map as any nation. We've found out about some amazing events there and even had a response from Arvo Pärt about choral music. Bachtrack writer Sofia Nyblom also contributes a feature about choral singing in Sweden, particularly the debt it owes to choral director, Eric Ericson. We've also heard from chorus masters in Los Angeles and Vienna on the choral scene there. 

We threw open the ring to allow our Twitter followers to suggest their own choral gems. You didn't disappoint us!

Hidden Gems of the Choral Repertory

Singing in Schools

The Art of Choral Composition: a composer's viewpoint

Is Singing Really Good For You?

The British Choral Tradition: an introduction

Arvo Pärt and Choral Singing in Estonia

Sweden: Where many hearts beat like one

Contemporary Choral Music

Choral Month in Austria: Wiener Singverein

Choral singing across genres

Suggestions from our Twitter followers

Girls Allowed: Cathedral Choirs