Winter Concert Literature for MS/JH Singers

by Jennifer Alarcon, R&S Chair for Middle School and Junior High Choirs

alaraconSelecting literature for your MS/JH choir can be challenging for the Winter/Holiday concert season. Not only are you searching for pieces that fit the current ranges of your students, but you are also in a season rich in a multitude of traditions. As you are selecting Winter/Holiday literature consider the vocal ranges of your choir, a variety of traditions and folk music represented, and variations in tempo, meter, and tonality.

Rangectc
Finding music that fits the ranges of adolescent singers is perhaps the most challenging part of a choral director's calling. The most preferable literature will fit nicely in your student's ranges without any alteration at all. However, when performing literature for a non-contest setting, consider moving pitches out of range to pitches in your student's range as long as it does not change the quality of the chord. For example, Emily Crocker's Jubilate Deo has a refrain in which the bass line ascends to middle C and the D above it. Currently those pitches are not pretty or comfortable for my bass section. I was able to modify by using what Mrs. Crocker wrote for the basses in the refrain after a key change where she sets the basses on a tonic pedal. With this knowledge, I have my bass singers sing that tonic pedal at every refrain, not just the one post key change. By making this slight adjustment, the integrity of the piece is intact and my singers are singing comfortably and confidentially in their current range.

Explore Winter Traditions and Themes
America truly is a melting pot of cultures and religions and many of us see this daily in our choral classrooms. When programming literature for Winter Concerts there are possibilities in addition to Christmas and Hanukah. These possibilities include Judith Herrington's arrangement of Duermete, Mi Corazon is a sweet Bolivian lullaby that could give a 2-PT or SA choir opportunities to focus on singing a legato line. African Noel (SSA), by Victor C. Johnson, is an upbeat African carol with percussion that will energize and excite your audience. Another wonderful SSA selection is Hava Nashira arranged by John Leavitt. This accompanied piece is a joyful Israeli folk song. It also has optional parts for clarinet and percussion. Finally, Andrea Ramsey's Cover Me with the Night (TTB) is a West African prayer that has a driving accompaniment, percussion, and the option of spotlighting soloists. This would be a great combination piece if you participate in a concert with your local high school.

Vary Tempo, Meter, and Tonality
As you select concert literature choose varied pieces that not only keep yourself and your choirs engaged in the learning process, but that are also fun and interesting to listen to as an audience member. Robust and regal concert openers include Festival Alleluia (2-PT) by Allen Pote, Gloria (TB) by Mark Patterson, and Jubilate Deo (SATB) by Emily Crocker. Minor tonality selections include Hanerot Halalu (2-PT) arranged by Blanche Chass, Bidi Bom (TTB) by David Eddleman, and Rise Up In Festive Song (SSA) by Pierre Clereau, ed. by Patrick M. Liebergen.

Another consideration can be choosing a few pieces that include accompaniment other than the piano. Not only will your singers' faces light up singing a piece with percussion or a woodwind instrument, but so will your audience. This option depends on your budget and/or the availability of trained musicians but perhaps you could reach out to the local high school or University and see what instrumentalists are available.

As you embark on the journey of selecting literature for your winter concert, I encourage you to explore music that fits the ranges of your singers, represents a variety of holiday traditions, and maintains audience engagement by varying tempo, style, meter, and more. Whether you are searching for classic Christmas and winter carols, or want to explore folk and world music, please dream big and have fun programming your winter concert.

Winter Concert Literature –Voicings include Unison, 2-PT/SA, SSA, TB, TTB, and SATB

 
 

Title

Composer/Arranger

Voicing

Language/Notes

Duermete, Mi Corazon

Arr. Judith Herrington

Unison/2-PT

Bolivian lullaby

Festival Alleluia

Allen Pote

Unison/2-PT

English. Great concert opener.

Jubilate Deo

Mozart, Arr. Linda S. Spevacek

2-PT & TB

Great piece to expose your students to Mozart

Bring a Torch Jeanette, Isabella

Arr. Christi Cary Miller

2-PT/SA

Traditional French carol sung in English.

Gaudium! (Joy!)

Audrey Snyder

2-PT/SA

Latin and English. Optional descant.

Hanerot Halalu

Cohon, Arr. Blanche Chass

2-PT/SA

Hebrew song for Hanukah. Lively with a dramatic bridge section.

Hine Ma Tov

Allan E. Naplan

2-PT/SA

Hebrew, lively melody with a refrain that’s sounds akin to a madrigal

In the Bleak Midwinter

Holst, Arr. Lou Williams-Wimberly

2-PT/SA

Beautiful and exciting accompaniment, moves between unison and 2-pt, good transition piece for the developing treble choir

Kling, Glöckchen

Arr. Vicki Tucker Courney

2-PT/SA

Traditional German Carol

Lullaby on a Silent Night

Arr. Sally K. Albrecht

2-PT/SA

English partner song with “Silent Night”

Let There Be Peace On Earth

Arr. Ruth E. Dwyer and Martin L. Ellis

2-PT/SA (opt. SSA)

English, focus on singing with a legato line

Gatatumba

Arr. Judith Herrington

3-PT any combination

A Christmas folk song from Andalucia. Optional percussion.

Furaha!

Sally K. Albrecht

SATB

Swahili and English.  Joyful and inviting.

Here We Come A-Caroling

Douglas E. Wagner

SATB

A compilation of British carols.

Jubilate Deo

Emily Crocker

SATB

English, Psalm 100.  Ranges fit Tenors and Basses with changing voices. Repetitive refrain.

African Noel

Victor C. Johnson

SSA

Traditional African Carol, a cappella with percussion

I Saw Three Ships

Arr. Michael Braz

SSA

English, traditional, exciting piano accompaniment

In The Bleak Midwinter

Holst, Arr. Laura Farnell

SSA

English. Homophonic SSA with unison sections.

Rise Up in Festive Song

Pierre Clereau, Ed. Patrick M. Liebergen

SSA

A French Renaissance piece arranged in English. A cappella but there are opportunities to add percussion, recorders, and other woodwinds.

Hava Nashira

Israeli Folk Song, arr. John Leavitt

SSA/3-PT any combination

Israeli with pronunciation guide. Opt. Bb Clarinet and percussion.

S’Vivon

Trad. Hebrew/arr. Betty Bertaux

SSAA

Hebrew, a cappella. Vocal lines depict a spinning dreydl.

Gloria

Mark Patterson

TB

Traditional Latin.  Could serve as a concert opener.

Shepherds! Sing Noel!

Arr. Ruth Elaine Schram

TB

Traditional French carols sung in English. Opt. tambourine.

Soldier’s Hallelujah

Vijay Singh

TB

A cappella with an exciting and driving vocal line. Opt. snare and tenor drum ostinato.

The Chariot Spiritual

Arr. Donald Moore

TB

American spiritual.  Ranges are good if you have Baritones or Basses with a limited lower register.

Bidi Bom

David Eddleman

TTB

English, minor tonality. Hanukah.

Cover Me with the Night

Andrea Ramsey

TTB

English text taken from a West African prayer. Accompanied with piano and djembe.  Opportunities for soloists.

 
 
Jennifer Alarcon can be reached at THIS email address.