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Choir Anthems
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Confused by the difference between a split trax and a listening CD? What’s an anthem? What does "SATB" mean? How is choral sheet music different from "sheet music"?

Hopefully this brief guide will provide you with some information on basic terms and help you to better navigate my store and find the choral-related items you want.

First, a basic definition. Sheet music generally means an individually printed song, often for voice, piano, guitar, or a combination of the three. Choral sheet music is something like a Southern gospel anthem arranged for an SATB choir, with piano accompaniment.

What is a ......

Anthem - An anthem (also called an octavo) is a single song or medley, arranged for a choir, usually SATB with piano accompaniment (but may be in other voicings as well) and sized 6-7/8" x 10-1/4".

Accompaniment Trax, CD, track or tape - This is basically a recording that provides a full accompaniment for an anthem, cantata / musical, or choral collection. See "Split trax" and "stereo trax" for more detailed descriptions.

Cantata (or musical) - A cantata book contains multiple vocal arrangements (choir parts and lyrics) along with piano accompaniment, and narration or script in one 6-7/8" by 10-1/4" book. Cantatas are created around a central theme. Many churches will perform choir cantatas during the Christmas and Easter seasons, and there are also non-seasonal works appropriate for any time of the year.

Performance time can vary from 35 minutes up to 60-70 minutes and may include simple staging with the choir, several solos, and a narrator. Or they can include options for a cast of characters (such as a nativity scene for a Christmas cantata) along with a script.

Choral book - A choral songbook containing multiple songs - vocal arrangements (choir parts and lyrics) along with piano accompaniment. These books typically measure 6-7/8" by 10-1/4". The book may have a central focus, such as contemporary Praise & Worship music, or Easy Anthems for SATB Choir.

Extended Anthems are choral works with narration, usually less than 10 minutes in length, focusing on a specific theme or church season. These are nice for special occasions such as 4th of July, Mother’s Day, Revivals, Veteran’s Day, etc.

Listening Tape or CD - A listening recording is usually a companion piece to a choral songbook or cantata / musical. It contains the audio recording of the entire musical or collection, as sung by a choir, with orchestral accompaniment. Please note these recordings cannot be used as an accompaniment tape since there is no way to separate the vocals from the accompaniment (see "split trax" for more details).

Orchestration - Orchestrations allow orchestras to accompany choirs - either anthems, choral collections, or cantatas/musicals. An orchestration contains every instrumental part included in the arrangement of an anthem or cantata, in place of the regular piano accompaniemnt. Orchestra parts are printed single-sided on 8-1/2" x 11" paper.

Practice or Rehearsal Trax - A recording (cassette or CD) in which each vocal part (soprano, alto, tenor and bass) has been highlighted above other parts and the background instrumentation. So, an alto listening to their tape will hear the other parts being sung softly in the background, while their vocal part is much louder and easier to hear. This is a great way to help each choir member practice and learn their part without distraction from other harmony parts.

Praise Band Charts - Particularly for more contemporary praise and worship anthems or songbooks, a Publisher may publish praise band charts, rather than a full orchestration, which includes string parts. The brass section may also be less than in a full orchestration.

SATB - means a choral arrangement with parts for soprano, alto, tenor and bass. There are numerous other voicings as well - SAB is soprano, alto, and baritone. TTBB means two tenor parts and two bass parts - suitable for a male quartet or chorus.

Solo Trax - These trax provide a back-up accompaniment for a solo artist to sing a song without needing a pianist. A lead sheet is often provided along with the recording, showing lyrics and chords. Some publisher provide three (3) different ranges so you can select which key suits your voice best. Often there may a recording of the original artist or group performing the song as well.

Split Trax - A split tracks (or trax) is a normal stereo recording, playable on an audio system that has some means to adjust the levels coming from the left and right channels. On one channel, the recording has the complete accompaniment playing - a full instrumentation. On the other channel, is all the choral vocals (without solos).

So, there are a number of options and possibilities using split trax accompaniment recordings. As your choir learns a piece, you can have the vocal part nice and loud against the background accompaniment. You can also route these choral vocals to different speakers, for different uses. As you get more familiar with the piece, you can lessen the choral vocals and let your group sing out. Or for performance use, you can even keep a certain amount of the choral vocals running through the choir monitors so the group keeps time with the accompaniment.

Stereo Trax - A Stereo Trax accompaniment recording is contains only the instrumental accompaniment parts, without vocals.

Stereo / Split Trax - A Split/Stereo accompaniment recording contains the entire piece (anthem, musical or choral songbook) twice: once in Split Trax format, once in Stereo format.

Hopefully this guide will give you an understanding of some terms commonly used in connection with choral sheet music. If I’ve made any errors, don’t hesitate to contact me, or I always welcome any suggestions for additional terms and definitions.

Thanks and happy shopping!
 
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