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Essential Repertoire?

I am considering buying a set of the Hal Leonard "Essential Repertoire, Book 1" books for my middle school choirs.  Is this a good recommended resource?  If not, can you recommend any other choral method books for beginner middle school choirs?
Replies (5): Threaded | Chronological
on December 17, 2013 7:04pm
I absolutely love those books. I've never used them as a methods books as far as the way they were written to be used, but I find them to be a great repertoire resource, great quality songs that are excellent for teaching technique.
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on December 17, 2013 8:02pm
Thank you SO MUCH!!!  Do you find that they are good for grades 6/7/8?  What is your suggestion for voicing?  2 part or 3 part?  My grade sixes come to me as absolute beginners with no choir experience, and I only see them twice a week for one semester.  The majority of boys still have unchanged voices.  In grade seven the voices are changing, but three parts are often too advanced for the kids (at least at the beginning.)  What are your suggestions?
on December 18, 2013 6:37pm
I would definitely use them with eight grade, there are some songs that I think would present a great challenge to seventh graders, but I would use something else for sixth graders.
on December 18, 2013 7:32am
Hi, Rebecca!

I taught middle school for 37 years.  While the Essential Repertoire, Book 1 is good, please remember that a choir is only as good as the theory and tonal training it receives.  Nothing replaces YOU.  Before the music comes the warm-up session.  The warm-ups you incorporate become the cornerstone of your choir.  I recently conducted a middle school Honors Chorus of 50 students.  I was told that this chorus did not have enough members to perform the Dies irae in Mozart's Requiem in d-moll.  They learned the warm-ups I set before them and we began working on tone (vowels), counting, consonants, and head voice.  Eight weeks later, with the help of my staff and the diligent work of the members, the chorus filled the auditorium with glorious sound.  The Dies irae was magnificent!  All the compositions were well performed by a chorus using excellent tone producing procedures.  That brings us back to your question.  Consider first what it is that you are trying to accomplish.  Have a yearlong plan divided into quarters, divided into weeks, divided into lessons.  Determine your goals for the year and then how you achieve those in large steps, and then how you achieve those goals in smaller steps, and then how do you achieve those goals through the daily lessons YOU present.  Warm-ups and theory lead you all the way.  The compositions you select merely allow YOU to put those concepts which you have taught into practice.  What you teach through the warm-ups and theory is extended through the compositions you select.  The benefit?  Read my profile.  You can do this as well, and more.  The key is in what I have written in the above sentences.  Now, let's consider repertoire.  It should lend itself to those concepts which you are teaching currently and in the recent past.  I would suggest that you view the J. W. Peppers web site, go into their Music Lists (button) and look at the list titled Mid. Sch. Repertoire.  These works can be purchased from Peppers, but they also can be purchased elsewhere.  The actual repertoire is longer because it includes works that Peppers does not sell.  If you would like the longer repertoire list which includes voicings fitting any/every choir and gives performance links, catalogue numbers, composers, arrangers/editors/adaptors and more information, contact me.  I will send it to you at no charge.  If you would appreciate those warm-up exercises, let me know that as well and I will be glad send them.  Theory worksheets are also available for the asking...all for free.  I am happy to help where I can.

John H. Briggs, Sr., MM in choral conducting, at the University of Colorado
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on December 19, 2013 5:29am
The aforementoined books, methods, and philosphies are quite good.
I was very happy with "Experiencing Choral Music" - Hal Leonard - McGraw/Glencoe.  The explanations are accessible, but intelligent.  There are books for the various grade levels.  The repertoire is great, and it does cover some choral standards, as well as introducing some new gems.  (I had several beginners, but we managed to perform "Esto les Digo" in October of that year, with fair success.  Part of that is what seems to be the book-writers' awareness that most of the movement in that piece is step-wise, so why not try it with younger students?)
The sight-singing book in that series is outstanding - it starts by assuming little/nothing, teaching basic rhythm, but quickly moves ahead; blends numbers and solfege, carrying them through with solfege.   As each concept is taught, there is a "real" song (composition with lyrics) that uses/reviews the concept, on the next page.
I was successful with it with my choral students.  Now I use it (the sight-singing book) with my private voice and piano students.  (Pianists benefit from the ear-training and general confidence.)  One or two of them have ordered one for themselves, because they like it and see the benefit.
I echo John Briggs philosophy, in that whatever text/sheet music you choose, your personality, energy, excitement about the music/concepts, your "teach-niques", your careful-but-flexible planning, etc. , will be the cornerstone, and the motivation, for their success.  So... you will succeed!  :)
Best Wishes!
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