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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - Vocal Music - Cantata, Chorale, Choral

Continuing our alphabetical look into different vocal music, today we are looking at Cantata, Chorale, and Choral music.


A cantata is similar to an oratorio (future blog topic). It is performed by soloists, chorus, and an orchestra. The difference between a cantata and an oratorio is that the cantata gets its words from a prewritten text (books or poems). Many cantatas have a religious theme but there are some that don’t. In the same way that an opera is made up of recitatives and arias the cantata follows a similar setup. However, unlike an opera, there isn’t any scenery and there are no costumes. J.S. Bach wrote several cantatas, this is one example: Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust


A chorale is simply another word for a hymn. The language is straightforward and the melody is singable by many. Again J.S. Bach wrote several chorales, but other notable composers include Gerald Finzi, Eric Whitacre, John Rutter, Emma Louise Ashford, Jeremiah Ingalls, Johannes Brahms, and Anton Bruckner. Here is an example of what could be considered chorale…The Star Spangled Banner.

Choral Music

Choral music is music that has been specifically written for and performed by a choir.

It encompasses a wide range of styles including, classical, sacred, secular, folk, and contemporary music.

The first choral pieces were sung in church as a natural follow on from plainsong chant that the monks used to sing.

Notable choral works include Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B minor, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem, and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana.

Choral music often features multiple voice parts, including soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, which create harmonies and rich textures. See our Choir section in the first blog of the vocal music series.

It can be performed a cappella or with accompanying instruments, such as piano, organ, or an entire orchestra.

In addition to traditional choral music, there are also contemporary choral compositions that explore experimental and avant-garde techniques. These may involve extended vocal techniques, innovative harmonies, and non-traditional vocal textures.

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