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Celtic (sacred)

Following are the suggestions which came in for "Celtic" music (which term is apparently not completely pinned down!) for sacred, Christian choir. Enjoy!

Cherwyn Ambuter

Depends partly on what you want to mean by "Celtic", what you want to distinguish it from, and from what centuries. But for starters, look in hymnals, in the index of composers and sources of tunes, and look under "Irish", "Gaelic", and "Welsh". Many of these will be set for unison voices, but one can usually construct SAB or SATB arangements from the accompaniment.

For example, from The Hymnal 1982 (Episcopal):
Gaelic: #8 Bunessan (Morning has broken)
Irish: #69 St. Mark's, Berkeley (here with modern words)
#370 St. Patrick's Breastplate, and Deirdre (stanza 6)
#488 Slane (Be thou my vision, Irish words c. 700)
#645 St. Columba
Welsh: #423 St. Denio
#610 Blaenhafren
#621 Rhuddlan

>From "Hymnau a Thonau er Gwasanaeth yr Eglwys yng Nghymru" (a Welsh
title): #68 Llangloffan
From "Llyfr Tonau Cynnulleidfaol": #299 Lledrod
From "Llyfr y Psalmau": #697 Song 67
From "Petrie Collection of Irish Melodies": #84 Gartan
From "Dublin Troper": #226 Veni Sancte Spiritus

Remembering that text and tunes current in the 17th century were remarkably well preserved in the southern Appalachian Mountains well into the 20th century, when many of them were collected by Cecil Sharp,there are probably a number of tunes of Celtic origin in "The Southern Harmony". The Hymnal 1982 lists:
#118 Star in the East
#213 Middlebury
#238 Holy Manna
#439 Wondrous Love
#550 Restoration
#571 Charlestown


Look at Michael McGlynn's site:

Check out Doreen Rao's Celtic series with Boosey and Hawkes. Lots of great stuff in there.
good luck.

Dear Cherwyn, I have a new piece published by Shawnee called "Irish Psalm." It's fun! If you have high-speed internet, you can hear the sound clip at the following link:
Hope you enjoy it!
Dan Rash

John Bell and the Iona, Scotl;and community has books of simple songs for 4 parts. Good Luck.
Cherwyn: Do you know the octavos of GIA publishers? I have their promo materials (available to anyone for a modest yearly fee in the usual way) coming in: actual octavos along with listening CD, Many of their things have that celtic feel....often using flute, perhaps a percussion instrument on the beat...even the voices have a kinship with the celtic sound. Understand, not all but many....
Here's a link

Then look for a sidebar with a "Listen to the Music" button....I have particularly liked compositions by John Bell..I think one titled "Will You come and Follow Me" is among the sacred compositions , but there is a good selection overall. Also, go to "Choral Music Overview"....then "College and High School " see
these titles, and I believe there is a procedure for securing perusal copies.

I have never used anything but sacred pieces, but I think they have secular as well.

Do you also know the Iona Community in Scotland? This is how I got to GIA n the first place....but I ordered ocatvos from Scotland before they had a relationship with GIA in the USA. You might use this link to noodle around the Scotland site, looking for that celtic sound in their music..

Try getting to "Song and Audio" (maybe on the BOTTOM of a page about their written publications??), but read the blurbs about the interconnectedness between worship, social justice, and everyday life on this page to get a feel for what will be in the music texts so you'll know if this approach appears to be suitable for your situation...After you get to the "Song and audio" page, then look for the CD of "One is the Body" (be careful that you're looking at the CD, not the book) on "more information" and
look for "listen to an excerpt"'s an a cappella piece with modal overtones, and rhythmic patterns that are celtic in feel. There'll be lots of others in this genre. Anyway, this is definitely a place where you can find celtic stuff.....sorta' like going to the horse's mouth, so to speak!!! :-) since you're "not in Kansas anymore"....
OK....hope this lengthy tome will be a help...

You could try Brentwood Benson Publishing here in the States, part of Provident Music Group. I used to work there. Ed Kee & Jonathan Crumpton are still there, & the web site lists sales reps based on your location. I know Ed was looking into the Christian Celtic scene a few years back, so they may have some songs for choir.


Another possibility would be Word UK, which is a division of Word Music based out of Nashville, TN. I believe Word UK's offices are in Milton Keynes, England. They distribute some Christian Celtic groups like Iona.

Hope that helps.

I'm taking 'Celtic' as 'traditional Welsh / Scottish / Irish' although there are a lot of fine arguments about who exactly the Celts were.

A number of famous hymn tunes are Scottish, Welsh or Irish in origin and it might be worth searching on the web by hymn title for full anthem style' SATB settings. The United Methodist Hymnal (as an
example) carries the first set of tunes below and of course gives a straightforward SATB harmonization of each. I'm at home at present but I have several anthems based on some of these tunes in my church files that I can point you to if you don't have success searching on the web.

Slane - used for 'Be thou my vision'
St Columba - used for 'The King of Love my shepherd is'
Gartan - used for 'Love came down at Christmas'
Candler - used for 'O come thou traveler unknown'
Llangloffan - used for 'O crucified redeemer' and others
Afron - used for 'See how great a flame aspires'
The Ash Grove - used for 'Sent forth by God's blessing'
Ar hyd y nos ('Men of Harlech') - used for 'God that madest earth and
Amazing Grace (a traditional Scottish tune) - numerous arrangements are

I'd also like to point you to Canasg Music Publishing, a small on-line sheet music publisher at that I run with colleagues in Scotland, where I lived for 10 years. In the Christmas section of the catalogue, you'll find some traditional Celtic carols and contemporary
writing based on Celtic texts, such as:

Taladh Chriosda (Lullaby to the Christ Child) - traditional Gaelic
(west of Scotland) SAB
Please to see the King - traditional Welsh / Borders new year carol (in
English) SATB
Duan Nollaig - traditional Gaelic SATB
Balulalow - contemporary setting by Douglas Cook of a 16th century
Scottish lullaby to Jesus SATB
Christmas round a 4 voci - music by David Johnson, words by the
Scottish Wedderburn brothers
Villanelle de Noel - setting by Michael Buck of a sacred Christmas poem
by Scots poet Tom Scott SATB

Pronunciation guides for the Gaelic pieces are available

John Hearne, a Scottish composer, has also written a very fine setting of Taladh Chriosda. Available from
Past Times issued a CD entitled 'A Celtic Christmas' (PT7243) which is interesting listening for the 'feel' of traditional performance styles

Finally - last year I was commissioned by a church in Texas to write an anthem for St Andrew's day based on tunes from the Scottish Psalter. It uses a text by Charles Wesley ('Blest be the love'). I've also written a concert setting of an ancient Scottish plainchant 'Aurora rutilat' (Dawn glows red), a hymn for the celebration of the feast day of St Columba. My original version is published by Canasg in the sacred music section of the catalogue; an extended version for combined SATB and children's choir
was commissioned by the Lancaster Chorale and I can send separately.

Do let me know if any of this is of interest. If you would like to order any Canasg music in the meantime, you'll be able to do that on-line at If you would like IPA pronunciation
guides, I can send them.

With best wishes,
Sheena Phillips

There is a good bit of Celtic music out there for Christian choirs.Head to the GIA website for some good sources.

"Light the Fire" is a mass setting by Liam Lawton. Simple to learn but with instrumental variety it is highly effective. My choirs and congregation have loved it. GIA - G-4559. There is a recording available.

I have not used his "Mass of the Saints," as of yet! G-4666

Paul Halley of the Paul Winter Group has a wonderful organ piece called "Outer Hebrides". Look at "" for that one.

"Celtic Hymn Settings for Piano" at Hope Publishing, Code No. 8117

With a little hunting on various publisher websites you'll find a bunch.
Good luck!

CHRIST-CHILD'S LULLABY, Scottish carol from the Outer Hebrides, arranged by Wayland Rogers for SATB with soprano solo. Boosey and Hawkes M-051-47536-0. In English.


My Kyrie on "Logan Dell", "Highland Carol" and "The Greening of the Willow" all fit this description. All are published by Santa Barbara, and you can see scores and hear full recordings at

Hope all is well.

Ben Allaway

Cherwyn Ambuter

Hope this helps some... ~~ Don Burrill.
on April 2, 2007 10:00pm
and what to think about 'A Celtic Prayer' written by one of our former lay-clerks Daniel Rouwkema.
Published by Faber in London.