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Sean Rafferty presents a selection of music and guests from the arts world.

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Music Genres
The Festal Choir
This category relates to music written for choirs. The tradition of choirs within religious establishments as begun in the middle ages continues to this day, and has provided an enormous wealth of music in a wide variety of forms and styles. Other than these and the choruses employed by opera houses, professional choirs are few, though there are many large amateur choirs.

  • In the church tradition, forms such as plainsong , the Mass and the motet have all involved choirs, though scholars continue to argue over the number of performers ideal for any given piece.
  • In the specifically German Protestant tradition within which Johann Sebastian Bach worked the regular performance of cantatas each Sunday encouraged him to write many masterpieces.
  • In addition, two of his works in the genre of the Passion survive -- large-scale pieces that set the sections of the Gospel relating to the Passion of Christ interspersed with reflective arias. Many of his predecessors (such as Heinrich Schütz ) and contemporaries left similar pieces.
  • Bach also wrote a number of secular cantatas.
  • Beginning around 1550 there developed in Rome the new genre of oratorio , which usually told a Biblical story in a sequence of choruses and solo arias. Similar to opera in that it was regularly dramatic in tone (though not staged), the oratorio flourished in the hands of Giacomo Carissimi .
  • Oratorio was introduced to England by George Frideric Handel , who left many examples that influenced subsequent composers such as Joseph Haydn and Felix Mendelssohn .
  • Important later oratorios were written by Hector Berlioz , Edward Elgar and William Walton .
  • The Requiem Mass developed a life beyond its liturgical origins. One can frequently encounter in the concert hall examples by Hector Berlioz , Giuseppe Verdi , Gabriel Fauré and the more individually conceived Requiems of Johannes Brahms ( A German Requiem ) and Benjamin Britten ( War Requiem ).
  • During the nineteenth century, many sacred and secular cantatas were written for the concert hall, while composers from Beethoven onwards occasionally introduced choirs into their symphonies. 

Guide to Classical Music
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