Saturday, February 24, 2018

Show Choir

Debbie Wolfe, Show Choir

New York State of Mind
Hal Leonard 08201463
Arranged by Steve Zegree
I selected this well-known ballad by Billy Joel for my women’s show choir this year as their show is based on New York.  Steve Zegree created some beautiful harmonies in his arrangement.  It has been a great crowd pleaser!

Light in the Hallway
Arranged by Jacob Cochran
This piece recorded by Pentatonix, was chosen as my mixed group’s ballad as it fit perfectly with the show based on the book Where the Wild Things Are.  Jacob Cochran is an up and coming arranger. This is just one of his beautiful arrangements.  It begins with  solo and moves into a duet.  The choir enters with an a capella section and closes with one as well.

Women's Choir

Rachel Landrum, Women’s Choirs

There Is No Rose
SSAA, piano and oboe
Z. Randall Stroope
Alliance AMP0392
Floating suspensions and understated piano lines characterize Randall Stroope's haunting setting of the beautiful Christmas text from the 15th century. Scored for women's voices, piano and oboe, it is a rich, emotive selection for the holiday season. When we performed this piece, our 1st chair oboe player from our high school band played the oboe solo for us. It was very special and always is when directors can add another student’s instrumental talent to a choir concert.

The Cloths of Heaven
SSA and piano
Eleanor Daley
Alliance AMP0511
I performed this piece with my women for festival season 2016. It’s a bit of a challenge in some areas, but a great piece to use to teach your ladies proper syllabic stress through the incorporation of simply beautiful poetry. It is included on the North Carolina, Indiana, Texas, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Florida state lists of approved and recommended repertoire.

Ndikhokhele Bawo (Xhosa Prayer)
SSAA with percussion
Mzwandile Mabuza
Hal Leonard
Ndikhokhele Bawo is a traditional Xhosa song that almost every black South African grew up singing in church. It is commonly sung during Holy Communion, as it is significant to do so considering the text: “Guide me, O Lord, Guide me, O Great Redeemer through the troubles of this world. Lord, I thank you for watching over me thus far. You are forever by my side. Lord, I thank you for watching over me thus far.”

Easy Rhythm Sight Singing Series
By Hank Beebe
This series is written for choirs that need simpler rhythmic content than our Renaissance, Baroque and Classical series provide, while including the same progression of solfege skills. Each mixed choir version contains one voice part that stays within the cambiata range. The SAB and SA(T)B editions are musically identical, the Bass part in the cambiata range. The (T) in the SA(T)B version duplicates the Bass part in the Tenor clef, creating the appearance of four voices in a three-voice composition - great for choirs with small (or weak) tenor and/or bass sections. For boys' choirs, we provide the TCB (Treble, Cambiata, Bass/Baritone) editions. SSA, TTB, and TBB editions are identical, except for clefs.

Two Year College

Susanne VanDyke, Two-Year College

Each February the Mississippi Choral Community College organization provides a unique experience for their students. The format of the two day event includes: individual performances by each community college choir (ten minutes in length), a mass choir (actually two mass choirs due to large number of participants) conducted by musicians prominent in the choral field and a performance by a university choir, either state or regional in origin. This month I thought I would share with you what I’ve chosen for my ten minute concert.
NWCC repertoire was selected by taking into consideration the time slot in which we perform, as well as an awareness that our audience will consist of college students who will be listening to 12 choirs in a short amount of time.

Bach (Again) Come Sweet Death
SATB (a cappella)
Music by: J.S. Bach Conceived: Edwin London 
Arranged: Rhonda Sandberg
Colla Voce 45-21065
This is a great way to combine the importance of singing Bach chorales with a unique twist that makes it relatable to younger musicians. The piece begins very straightforward, simply singing through the chorale. Then hand motions are added to reflect the text. Finally, the beginning 8 measures are sung again, with each individual choir member choosing their entrance and tempo with the whole group ultimately returning to a unified ending in the last measure. The subject of death is obviously a heavy one. As a conductor, sensitive to the emotional ups and downs of the college students I teach, I chose to delve deeper into the symbolism of the subject of dying. We had an interesting discussion about the death of negative attitudes, the death of a bad habit and how we all desire for the death or the resolution of our problems. This was done with the intent of tempering a text that, for a student struggling with depression or anxiety, could weigh heavily on them. It’s an enjoyable piece to teach and the staging coupled with the solid score makes for a stunning opener for a concert.

Daemon Irrepit Callidus
Gyorgy Orban
Hinshaw Music 08763856
This is considered one of my “chestnuts”. I have used this piece several times in my 25 years of conducting and it is always a hit with the students and the audience.  There is rhythmic and melodic contrast throughout. In one section the sopranos, altos and basses hold a steady rhythmic pattern while the tenors soar with a beautiful melody. This is immediately followed by a syncopated portion with the altos, tenors and basses while the soprano line smoothly moves through an almost modal melodic line. The dramatic final two measures feature chromatic lines in varying directions simultaneously by all four parts.  The students always react to the constant dissonance as well as the subject matter with questions about not only their discomfort but also their attraction to the piece. Their insights as they compare their visceral reaction to the music as well as to the text that is reflected in the music make for great discussion. It is gratifying to watch them grow to love singing this piece, as they always do.

Bonse Aba
Victor C. Johnson
Heritage Music Press 15/2829H
I chose this song to contrast the intensity of the above mentioned choices for my ten minute concert at the community college state choral festival. It opens with 12 measures of hand drum, djembe and shaker that can give the choir the opportunity to change positions or perhaps incorporate some movement. This traditional Zambian folk song was discovered by the composer while teaching a fine arts camp in Lusaka, Zambia, Africa. The students sang Bonse Aba as a welcoming song to Victor Johnson and from there he composed this arrangement. It is an easy piece to put together with a short text and repetitive rhythmic and melodic lines.

Making More Sense of How to Sing: Multisensory Techniques for Voice Lessons and Choir Rehearsals
Alan J. Gumm
Meredith Music Publications
Hal Leonard, Distributor
The book description states: “With multi-sensory techniques to match and build learning strengths, this book is for any singer from the rank beginner to the experienced and mature singer.”
One of the things that drew me to this book was the never ending quest we have as conductors to be able to reflect with a physical motion the sound we would like to hear. Certainly, this is not the first book to reflect this concept, but I found it worthy of consideration here. There are illustrations that help in the comprehension of the motions to be used in communicating abdominal support, breath, an open relaxed position for singing, posture and vowel production. A good reference guide.

Senior High

Carrie Owens, Senior High Choirs

Stand Together
SSAB accompanied
Jim Papoulis
Boosey & Hawkes 48019165
Stand Together is a great piece for a non-auditioned high school or middle school choir at the beginning of the year. The text speaks about accomplishing more when we work together. Which is a great theme at the beginning of the school year. The rhythms are complex with sixteenth note tied across the beat. I used this to teach complex rhythms in our sight-reading.The melodic lines are stepwise and skips that are predictable. Students can be successful quickly and enjoy singing it.

Through the Dark
SATB accompanied
Andrea Ramsey
Pavane Publishing 08301900
Through the Dark has text adapted from the writings of Helen Keller. There is a lot of “meat” on this bone musically and depth of text. Musically there is mixed meter, harmonic dissonance, wide dynamic range, mostly homophonic passages, long phrases and varying tempos. The text speaks of light and darkness, sound and silence. My students related to this text very easily as we discussed the light and dark in our own lives. The piano accompaniment has little to do with the choir parts. Be sure your accompanist can listen to a recording before playing so they have an idea of the gestalt.

Your Smiling Face
James Taylor Arr. Ken Berg
Alfred 33137
If you are interested in Vocal Jazz or Pop A Cappella, but you are not ready to add vocal
percussion and movement, Your Smiling Face is a great jumping off point for top your
ensemble. This may be perfect for the lighter side of your spring concert. Audiences enjoy the throw back and your students will gain a knowledge of James Taylor’s music. Before choosing this chart be sure you have a solid singer that can handle the range of this solo. The accompaniment parts are repetitive. There is a key change, which presents a minor learning challenge. The texts and rhythms are mostly homophonic in texture. Enjoy!

Progressive Sight Singing Third Edition by Carol Krueger
Oxford University Press
Dr. Krueger’s approach to Sight Singing has reinvigorated my passion for teaching students to be musically literate. Progressive Sight Singing along with Dr. Krueger’s companion resources in her Dropbox (only $10 if you attend one of her workshops) have been an invaluable part of my classroom. She sequences ear training, sight-reading, dictation, rhythm, melody in an easy to follow procedure. You will choose your literature on what you want your students to master over the course of the year. This year my non-auditioned choirs have focused on major and minor tonalities, skips of a third and audiation within those scales. The literature I chose is primary major and minor. This spring I was able to choose a piece that goes back and forth from major to minor and my students are successfully reading this on solfege in two and three parts.
I highly recommend you attend one of her workshops. She will also be at Lakeshore Choir Camp June 18-22 as the High School Clinician. Please email Dr. Krueger for more information of her summer 2018 workshops at

Music In Worship

Slater Murphy, Music in Worship

A Festival Call to Praise
Words and Music by Joseph M. Martin
Harold Flammer/Shawnee Press, 35006628, Orchestration available
SSAA setting available
A delightful mixed meter setting of familiar texts commonly used to open times of worship and celebration.  I have used the first part of this piece as a processional, then repeating back to the beginning once the choir has finished ascending to the loft.  The constant meter changes will develop and sharpen the rhythm skills of your singers and instrumentalists.  The melodic rhythm augments to half notes at the middle section, providing a wonderful contrast, culminating in a huge crescendo into the final mixed meter passages.  The upper ranges of the final chords can be a bit of a challenge for the treble voices, but these can be revoiced if necessary.  The orchestration is challenging and will require detailed preparation. 

I Will Not Be Shaken
Jacob Park and Tommy Walker
Arranged by Cliff Duren
LifeWay Worship, 6-34337-286464, Orchestration available
I have used this anthem with student groups, adults, and senior adults.  It is a fabulously bluesy setting utilizing a great melody, carrying a fantastic text declaring the ability of God to serve as our refuge and deliverer in times of trouble.  Two soloists take turns stating the opening theme, then can be used to provide some duet call and response with the choir later in the song.  As the intensity of the music ramps up through each section, the choral director should be careful to adhere to the opening tempo, because the building momentum will tend to accelerate the basic pulse.  The orchestration is supportive and works well with a full instrumental group or with a small band.

Order My Steps (In Your Word)
Glenn Burleigh
Arranged by Jack Schrader
Hope Publishing, C5083
Also available in SAB and TTBB settings; Rhythm charts are available
I’m thinking right now that most everyone has done this song, but in case you haven’t, it is a classic.  I’ve enjoyed using it with a variety of groups; it always challenges me to reinterpret it based on the capability of the singers and the context for use.  If you have a duet team who is of a high caliber, you may want to consider merging the Brooklyn Tabernacle version into this setting, which utilizes the duet throughout, phrase by phrase, as a restatement of the choral theme.  It’s not hard to do and only requires a repeat of ten measures in the first section.  The song demands a full range of expression, utilizing the softest softs as well as grand moments like the dramatic crescendo into the final chorus.  I usually revoice the final line of the song if I want a stronger ending.  You will enjoy the experience of hearing your students learn to artfully express the beauty contained in this brilliant setting.

Sing!  How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church
By Keith and Kristyn Getty
B&H Publishing Group, Nashville
Keith and Kristyn Getty, the Irish performer/composer duo, are widely acknowledged as among the leading modern hymn writers today.  Keith helped write what has become today’s most popular hymn, In Christ Alone.  Their focus continues to be producing theologically rich, singable music for the church in this generation.  This book is filled with biblical, practical insight that, if put into practice, can help to renew congregational singing in your church.  It has been my personal experience that a church with a healthy congregational worship life will have the most opportunities to develop strong choral and instrumental ministries.  Sing! is a great resource to have handy when you are asked to explain why we sing.  After reading this book, the question changes from “do you have a voice?” to “do you have a song?”  There is much practical guidance provided, including the foundational argument that singing is for everyone, especially for families. 

Men's Choirs

Terry Walker, Men’s Choir

Love, Do You Hear Me Sing?
Glenda E. Franklin
Shawnee Press 35031174
This song is in three parts. It is beautifully written, but simple. A great piece for any level of secondary male chorus.

Do You Fear the Wind
Leland Sateren
Alfred Publishing Co. SCHCH00410
This is a standard piece, and a challenge for a male choral group. It has been performed many times for good reason. It is powerful when executed properly.

Canto Del Agua
David Hill
Alliance Music Publications 0384
This piece is also written for three parts. It is a fun piece in the Spanish language, which offers an increasingly common alternative to Latin texts and African folk songs. it is appropriate for all secondary levels.

The Boy's Changing Voice 
by Henry Leck
Hal Leonard Corporation
Henry Leck offers a holistic approach to male choral singing in this DVD. He answers questions about the changing voice and provides tools to be implemented into the rehearsal process. This is a great resource for teachers who are seeking techniques to help guide young male singers through this crucial phase in their life as a singer.

Junior High

Tammy Carney, Junior High

Mark Brymer
Hal Leonard 215182
This arrangement of Jolene is written like the Pentatonix recording with Dolly Parton.  My girls are preparing this now and it has been easy to teach!! This is also a great feature for soloist!

Linden Lea
Larry Shackley
Heritage Music Press 15/3505H
I chose this piece for District Festival this year.  Based on a William Barnes poem, this Ralph Vaughan Williams tune is beautiful in the young male voice.  The tenor section gives those unchanged voices a chance to soar in the sweet places of the voice.   Singers must however be independent and certain as the accompaniment is very ornamental.   Challenging for a two part octavo.

Dies Irae
Ryan Main
Found this piece at a reading session this year!  Great SATB for the second semester junior high mixed choir.  Voices are settling a bit and could have great success with this piece.  Dies Irae is very rhythmic and has opportunities for great musicality!

Composed and Arranged by Andy Beck
Vocalize! Is a book of 45 accompanied vocal warm up that teach technique to younger voices.  I love anything I can reproduce! We use this resource mostly to remind singers of simple ways they can improve their tone, articulation, range, and vocal energy.  My students can use the accompaniment tracks and lead warm ups for me!