SSA or SSAA: Rhythm and Rhyme
I have a women's ensemble of approximately 20-25 members. I am looking for
4-6 part repertoire for our spring concert. The theme for the concert is
"Rhythm and Rhyme" - our department-wide theme is "Words and Music". The
repertoire can be a play on words, interesting children's lyrics (like
Jabberwocky) or something totally fun like Andrews Sisters.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Robert Cutler Professor of Practice
Here is a compilation of all the responses I received to my query for SSAA
Thank you so much to all of you who contributed to this list. I'm sure the
women's portion of the "Rhythm and Rhyme" concert at Lehigh will be a
CAT THAT BOOGIED, THE (SSA-piano) is an old American folk song whose
character is changed by this setting. The boogie-woogie piano part is
arranged so that it may be played as an independent solo. The voices may
perform a cappella, as a separate choral piece in canon. If a good pianist
is invited to play this work as a solo for a choral program, and then the
choir sings the piece a cappella, the effect will add both contrast and
color to the concert. If, after the choir has sung the piece, the pianist
returns to play his/her solo again, but is unexpectedly joined by the
voices, the audience will be amazed that the two "solos" fit perfectly
together! The Cat That Boogied can be very entertaining.
Two children are taking a cat for a walk. They look up at the sky to study
a cloud and to see an airplane. The cat disappears, so the frustrated
children hunt for it.
Voice ranges are: Soprano 1, D1-f2; Soprano 2, D1-d2; Alto, b-d2. (2:45) 2+
Look at Stephen Paulus' "The Earth Sings" and "Songs Eternity." The Earth
Sings uses percussion played by singers. They are both three-movement works
and can be excerpted as well.
We did "Tching Tchinga Ryah" by David Maddux last year and it was very well
received by both the choir and audiences. Alliance Publications. Also try
the SSAA arrangement of Copland's Ching a Ring Chaw.
We've got 9 years' worth of repertoire posted at
http://www.ocwomenschorus.org/repertoire.htm---have a look and feel free to
ask me for details about any pieces that intrigue you!
Sounds like you must do "Rock-a-bye Baby" arranged by Michelle Weir. I
would think it would fit perfectly.
Do you know Scherzo by Paul Goldstaub, published by Roger Dean?
There is a very imaginative arrangement of Jabberwocky by a Canadian
composer, John Govedas, with piano and woodblock accompaniment. i am not
sure if it is published as yet. I could borrow a copy for you. Would you
consider Little Miss Muffet Havelock Nelson (B&H pub.)? How do I Love Thee
by Nathan Christiansen, Treble Clef Pub. is a take off Eliz. Barrett
Browning's text in a jazz idiom and modern text. A good closer.
Our "Poetry in Song" concert totally in English contained the above
titles and many others with Shakespeare and Tennyson texts, ex. Holst "The
Princess" for two separated choruses SSAA/SSAA.
I have a few pieces with some great texts (see below for the words). Let me
know if you'd like a PDF of the music for perusal.
Music to hear (words by Shakespeare) unison/2-part/occasional 3- and 4-part
Oranges and Lemons (children's song) four equal voices unaccompanied
jollymerry (Edwin Morgan) voices mainly unison, but split spatially, string
quartet and oboe
Jabberwocky by Ron Jeffers.....published by Earthsongs. Challenging but fun
There is a wonderful collection of short pieces called "jeu de mot" or
something like that. The pieces are in different languages. Each piece
has a idiosyncratic word issue in the language. For example, the
opening line of one piece is "a flea and a fly in a flew were caught."
What about some sprechstimme works? Even those written for SATB
could be done with 4 part women if they are only spoken word like
There is a fabulous arrangement of Simple Gifts by Amy Dalton. You can go
here to listen to it- http://www.sbmp.com/SBMP-MP3/04-Octavos2/SBMP%20302.mp3
as sung by the BYU Women's chorus. You have to have some really great Alto
2s as they carry the melody and have a very strong part in this
I always recommend the Stravinsky Four Russian Peasant Songs. They are
very do-able, and of course you know about Stravinsky's unique perspective
on texts. These are all fortune-telling songs, so the words are basically
meaningless when you read them literally (the big fat guy tromps through the
turnips...I chase the grouse across the field...) but obviously have
mysterious, old, symbolic meanings. Stravinsky puts the stress on different
syllables of the same word (complicated for Russian since stress can
indicate pronunciation) like he does in the Mass. I love these pieces a
lot, so I recently edited them for GIA. I put the Russian into IPA and
provided solfege to make learning them easier.
Would you be interested in a new set of three SSA songs based on the
"The Spider and the Fly," Mary Howitt
"The Silver Swan," Orlando Gibbons (his original text set to a new melody)
"The Camel's Complaint," Charles Carryl (not well known but very funny)
Voicing is in three parts with piano accompaniment. Voice range is a bit
high because it was written for middle-school voices. But thanks to the
miracle of modern technology I can transpose it down (and yes, I remember
your ongoing battles with Sibelius).
Definitely have a look at Stephen Hatfield's Three Ways to Vacuum Your
House. You can hear excerpts on his website. Rhythmic, funny, challenging,
Pieces that come to mind (a bit heavier on the "rhythm" side):
"Dance Ablaze" - Janika Vandervelde
"Sisters" - Gwyneth Walker
"Caracolitos Chicos" - Alberto Grau
"Me Come, My Dazzled Face" - Andrew Rindfleisch
"Moondance" or "I Just Found Out About Love" - arr. Jeremy Fox
"Elijah Rock" - Clifton Noble, Jr.
"Reel a Bouche" - Malcohm Daglish
"Psalm 100" - Rene Clausen
"Can You Hear" - arr. Francisco J. Nunez
Robert Cutler Professor of Practice