Many of us are now in the throes of the last couple weeks of school. Concerts are over, the students are restless (the teachers are even more so!). As I wind down the year, I make the time pass by beginning to plan for next school year. I have 30 seniors graduating that will leave a big hole in my program, and, though I know the results of my two auditioned choirs, I am not completely certain of everyone’s ability levels coming in. So I am choosing a starter piece for each of my choirs to get them successfully making music right away, and I will share my choices with you in this post.
For my top auditioned choir (of which only eight students will return) I am choosing “Deep River”, arranged by Russell Robinson. This piece, published in 2011 by Shawnee Press, is a cappella and keeps the traditionally-held harmonic structure of the song, all the while sitting in a very comfortable range. There are many teaching opportunities to focus on dynamics, intonation, vowel formation, and diction. Most of the piece is also diatonic, so the piece works well for recalling solfege after a restful summer. “Deep River” is available here on the Hal Leonard website.
The case for my Women’s and Men’s Choruses is different from that of my other choirs. These classes only meet for a half a period alongside their lunch, and they exist in two separate sections that only get to rehearse together a couple of times before the concert. Therefore, programming for these choirs always poses a bit of a challenge. For Women’s Chorus, I will begin with the Carl Strommen arrangement of Martini’s “Plaisir d’Amour” for SSA and piano. The piece begins with all three voices in unison. With a few exceptions, much of the rest is really in two parts. Usually one of my sections is stronger than the other, so I will give two of the parts to that class and the third to another, putting all of it together closer to the concert. There is a tremendous amount of musicality that can be taught in this classic arrangement, which is available here.
My Men’s Chorus is nearly always smaller than Women’s Chorus, and often times it includes recruits that know very little about music. Programming here is even more….interesting. In this case, I will begin next year with the excellent setting of the “Kyrie” text by Dan Krunnfusz. This piece for TB and piano features very simple rhythms, perfectly suited ranges for both young tenors and basses, and is almost entirely modal, adding to the “cool” factor. The piano part supports but does not overshadow, and the composer adds that the piece may be performed a cappella if desired. Published by BriLee, the piece is available here.
Finally, I have a freshman choir that typically sings SAB music, since there are always far fewer men than women. For this choir, I am looking for something that helps me to teach rhythm, solfege, and vowel formation and also for something that is fun and catchy. Therefore, I am going with “Dansi Na Kuimba”, an excellent song in Swahili and English by Dave and Jean Perry, published here by Alfred. There is syncopation, a logical melody, basic harmony and intervals, and great performance potential. Singers love this piece and with very good reason. It will excite them for what is to come in choir.
Teachers: Have you started planning music for next year yet? Feel free to share accessible pieces you have chosen in the comments! And, as always, if you have ideas for pieces you would like to see included in a post, send me an e-mail at .
Brandon Moss is a choir director, teacher, and composer/arranger living and working in Central Ohio. He teaches at Central Crossing High School, directs the Chalice Choir at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, and serves in leadership roles with the Ohio Choral Directors Association and the Ohio Music Education Association. He is currently working on the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Conducting at The Ohio State University.