1. Not One Sparrow is Forgotten (1997)

William Hawley arranged this simple recessional based on the 1908 Canterbury Shaker Hymnal. The Shaker community was a utopian, religious sect emerging in England and the USA in the 1780s. As the lyrics of this song say, God provides for even the humblest creatures, and this holds true for us humans too. Knowing that the Shakers parcticed gender equality, we cannot help but notice that the holy Father and Mother are addressed equally. A recessional is typically performed while the congregation enters or leaves the church. This one is so short that we repeat it for your enjoyment.

2. Fölszállott a Páva // A peacock takes its perch (1907)

The Páva, or peacock, is a prominent symbol in Hungarian culture, including many arts. “Fölszállott a páva”, a traditional Hungarian poem, uses the peacock to tell a story of hope. Perched atop a town’s county hall, the brightly feathered yet frail bird signals that change will come to the struggling Hungarian people. Through trials of faith and fire, they will achieve freedom and prosperity. While the text can be read as harboring a nationalistic sentiment, it also holds a message of hope, perseverance, and unity in times of struggle.

3. They are at Rest (1909)

“They are at rest” is a catholic choral piece composed by Sir Edward Elgar. Elgar is considered a classically British composer, but took most of his inspiration from continental composers like Wagner and Mendelssohn. The song was written for the anniversary of the passing of Victoria, queen of Britain. This is reflected in the melancholy yet serene tone of the piece. With its solemn tempo and mournful lyrics, “They are at rest” reminds us of the rest at the end of the road, and of the respect we owe those who have passed.

4. Gda Bregi Spiju (1984)

This wordless arrangement of “Gda Bregi Spiju” (“When Mountains Sleep”) was created by Croatian composer Branko Stark. It is based on a traditional Croatian folk song that is often performed as a choral piece. The music describes scenes of hillsides, alive with the sounds of birds and other creatures. It celebrates the beauty of the Croatian landscape, but can be understood as expressing love for one’s homeland, nature, and cultural heritage. As you listen, we invite you to immerse yourself in the same sense of connection with the natural world.

5. Across the Bridge of Hope (2000)

Swedish composer Jan Sandström wrote this song to accompany a poem by Irish middle schooler Shaun McLaughlin. The lyrics express hope for a resolution to the Northern Ireland conflict between ‘orange’ (Protestants) and ‘green’ (Roman Catholics). Not long after writing it, Shaun lost his life in a street shooting related to the conflict. His poem, and by extension this piece, has become a voice for young victims of war, reflecting a child’s vision of peace in a world torn apart by violence. As you listen, we invite you to be carried by the music’s gentle yet powerful currents and cross the bridge of hope.

6. There Will be Rest (1999)

Frank Ticheli composed this piece to a poem by Sara Teasdale (USA, 1884-1933). The emotional waves that start and end in pianissimo reflect the intimate, thoughtful atmosphere of Teasdale’s writing. Notice how the accent on the word ‘dream’ immediately fades away, as though startled by its own daring. Feel the shiver on your skin hearing the powerfull ‘crystal of peace’. And  witness the majesty of the ‘stars’ at the end.

7. The Distant Star (2013)

Swedish composer Christian Engquist’s “The Distant Star” is a captivating choral piece that transports listeners into a mysterious night-time landscape. The composition masterfully weaves ethereal harmonies with poignant lyrics, evoking the infinite wonders of the universe. “The Distant Star” is a profound musical journey that resonates deeply with both performers and listeners.

8. Mieli (2000)

Finnish composer Liisa Matveinen created this piece for eight female voices based on a traditional song from her home region, Ilomantsi in Eastern Finland. The poetic lyrics are in the Ilomantsi dialect and are hard to translate, we are told. Mieli means ‘mind’ or ‘longing’.  A woman imagines her mind flying over the land without rest, like the unstoppable wind, to bring her loved one home. Listen to her longing thoughts as they move with the wind, over the trees, towards her far-away love. 

9. Earth Song (2007)

Frank Ticheli’s “Earth Song” is a powerful musical piece that speaks to our desire for peace in a world torn apart. Composed in response to the ongoing conflicts and environmental degradation of our times, it calls for collective healing. In the music, we recognize contrasts in dynamics that represent the emotional journey from distress to hope. Following the piece’s build-up, we gradually get glimpses of a more compassionate future. “Earth Song” continues to resonate deeply with contemporary listeners, inviting us to take refuge in music, and imagine a world in peace.

10. Bridge over Troubled Water (1979)

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel is a beloved classic that celebrates the enduring power of friendship. This heartfelt ballad has brought our choir closer together, especially when we sang it during our memorable trip to Metz. Performing this piece, we’re reminded of the value of connection and support in dark times. And although Simon & Garfunkel’s friendship didn’t last, the song continues to unite people worldwide.

11. Peze Kafe (1952)

“Peze Kafe” is a captivating Haitian folk song that tells the tale of a young boy sent by his mother to weigh coffee at the market. Along the way he is arrested and loses his coffee, likely to colonial police. The song’s vibrant melody, blending joy and sorrow, reflects the Caribbean way of handling life’s challenges. It thereby reminds us that even in the face of adversity, we can party! As such, “Peze Kafe” resonates with broader themes of colonial history and its lingering impacts. Swedish composer Sten Källman sought to bring this and other Haitian folk songs to a wider audience. Following in his footsteps, we share “Peze Kafe” to remind ourselves why we sing: to connect, to heal, and to celebrate life. We thus recognize the song’s historical context, while honoring its cultural significance and bittersweet, upbeat beauty.