7th Grade Choir (25 students total: 10 sopranos, 10 altos, 5 baritones)
Winter Feels the Sword of Spring by John Parker & Ruth Elaine Schram (3-part mixed, piano)
This piece is a really good example of text painting. The song moves from minor to major as winter melts into spring. Some of the alto part has a rather wide range as alto parts go. I found this to be a good opportunity to teach my students how to move between registers and begin to develop their understanding of mixed voice. The writing is very melodic for all three voice parts, and there are several teachable moments with regard to dynamic and tempo changes.
Dragonfly by Cristy Cary Miller (3-part mixed, piano)
This selection ended up being more challenging for my students than I expected, but it has been an overall success. Cristy Cary Miller has turned out to be a very reliable composer/arranger for my classes over the past 3 years – this is the fourth work of hers that I have done. This particular selection is in a minor key with some difficult but doable chromaticism. It is also a good opportunity to work in mixed meter with a constant interchange of 6/8 and 3/4. It is also a very dramatic setting of Tennyson’s descriptive poem.
Going Over Home by Sonja Poorman (3-part mixed, piano)
This is a lovely medley/partner song of “Poor Wayfarin’ Stranger” and “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” The range is very appropriate for 7th grade boys with changing voices, and the writing is very melodic for all voice parts. My students have enjoyed all of their repertoire this year, but this one is clearly their favorite.
8th Grade Choir (50 students total: 20 sopranos, 23 altos, 7 baritones)
The Tiger by Sherri Porterfield (3-part mixed, piano)
This is a very dramatic setting of William Blake’s poem “The Tiger.” The lamb represents innocence, and the tiger represents experience – two halves of human nature. The piece is in a minor key with lots of great opportunities to work on dynamic and tempo changes. Even the “The Storm” (see below) has the greatest audience appeal, I think this song is actually the class’s favorite.
Where Go the Boats? by Phyllis Aleta Wolfe (3-part mixed, piano)
This piece is also a great opportunity to talk about text painting, and the accompaniment is very Schubertian in it’s role of portraying the river’s journey. The poem presents a metaphor for life and the fact that we don’t always get to see the full and final impact of our works. The song begins with a twinkle on the piano – the small ripple as you set your boat on the surface of the still water. The song ends with the words, “other little children will bring my boats ashore.”
The Storm is Passing Over by Charles Albert Tindley, arr. Barbara W. Baker
I avoided SATB music this year for balance reasons. The tenor part in this arrangement is unusually high, so even though I personally avoid this practice, I felt comfortable putting some of my low altos on the tenor line. The homophonic writing and closed harmonies proved to be a challenge for my students, but they really enjoyed the style and energy of the piece. There is a lot of room for improvisation on the repeated chorus – YouTube is a great place to look for ideas.