The March 2016 issue of Choral Journal included a feature article titled “On Our Way: Programming a Martin Luther King Jr Concert for Youth Choir.” This is a timely topic on the 2017 Martin Luther King day that we celebrate in the United States. There are many resources available to serve as starting points for planning a program for youth choir that centers on civil rights and social justice. The article, written by Anthony Trecek-King, describes some of those resources and provides and overview of the music contained within.
“A substantial amount of music from many eras, genres, and sources has been written relating to civil rights and social justice, much of which would make an excellent choice to include in a concert celebration for Martin Luther King Jr. However, youth and children choral conductors face considerable complications with respect to researching and selecting music. While the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle for freedom is bursting with music, discovering literature that has been composed or arranged for chorus and, more specifically, for the requirements of a youth choir, remains elusive. Youth choirs are distinct ensembles, and programming for their specific needs should always be considered. For the purpose of this document, a youth choir is defined as an ensemble of singers ages 12-18 and can be one of three types of voicing: Mixed (SATB), Treble (SSA), or Changed Voiced Men (TTBB).
“In this author’s experience of working with a youth mixed ensemble, the women are often vocally and musically more advanced than the men. The range and tessitura have to be carefully considered (particularly with respect to the tenors and basses, whose voices might have recently changed), as they will have an impact on the overall success of the performance. Researchers, conductors, and musicians have created multiple resources that serve as starting points for planning and are readily available online or in print.
“Orchestras and universities are always seeking resources to assist with programming an MLK celebra- tion. One such source is A Catalog of Music Written in Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Anthony McDonald.3 Now in its third edition, this catalog includes a chapter on songs and contains a range of choral music. The focus of McDonald’s book is orchestral programming, yet it also serves as a place to begin researching choral music. Although it contains a wealth of information, it is not an exhaustive source, and McDonald omits important works worth considering, for example, Duke Ellington’s My People.”
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