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Good (I mean really good!) music for church children's choir

It's taking some getting used to, not addressing everyone with "Dear Listers!"
So I'm into programming music for Fall now at my very large church, and I will be starting our children's choir around this time next month.  This is a children's choir that has performed a variety of music, under various directors that have had very different ideas about what a church children's choir should sing.  I have my own ideas, but being inexperienced in the world of sacred music for children, would appreciate some repertiore suggestions. 
I'm trying to satisfy as many of the following criteria as I can:
 - Should be accessible to children between the ages of 9 and 13.  Some of you will have different opinions on what that ability is, but I've gotten 13-year-olds to sing adult-level repertiore in the past.  Big jumps and large amounts of dissonance might not be the best stuff to start with.
 - Is not - I repeat, NOT - show-choir kitschy.  I'm not anti-fun, but my experience is that the cutsey stuff becomes a turn off for the older kids, and the younger ones will take their cues off the older ones regarding their attitudes.  I want something that has a level of maturity to it, and will give them the satisfaction of accomplishment.
 - Energetic music is fine, and in fact preferable, but again, keeping the kitsch in check.
 - Anything from unison to 3-part.  I suspect I'm going to have to start from scratch in teaching good multi-part singing.
 - Sacred texts, obviously, with English and Latin getting first pick, but feel free to suggest any language.
What I've witnessed in the past is that the kids have performed under the previous director, and the response has been, "Oh look, they're so cute, they're trying so hard not to sound bad," and the director was apparently okay with this (or clueless).  That's not going to happen under my watch; I want to show these folks what kids are really capable of.
Many thanks for your thoughtful replies as always.
Dan McGarvey
Replies (9): Threaded | Chronological
on August 7, 2009 11:17pm
This isn't really the answer you're looking for, but if you want to transcend what my wife calls "Music Man syndrome" (aren't they cute) you need to make sure they're really participating in the worship service the same way the adult choir would. That is, choose music which is not only good quality but matches the lessons and the season, and sing at a time in the service where there is normally music (such as offertory), rather than some special kids' time. This sense of mission is at least as important for escaping the Music Man Syndrome as repertoire or skill.
You'll need the kids (and their parents) (and the pastor) on your side in this effort. My experience is that kids WANT to be part of the worship service, not a cute sideshow. My wife's children's choir actually requested that the congregation not applaud after they sing, and you might want to chat with your singers about this also: in most churches there isn't applause after choir anthems, so it probably should be gently discouraged for the kids' music as well. Kids can smell condescension a mile away, especially older kids like yours.
on August 8, 2009 1:10am
Sound Music Publications has a number of wonderful selections that would be perfect for you children's choir. We have just published a series of selections that are positive and supportive. The text for each of the works center around specific qualities and values.
You can hear a number of these selections performed by elementary singers.
1. Compassion   2. Do You Have The Courage?   3. Generosity   4. Honesty Rocks    5. We are Family
Let me know if I can help you in any way.
on August 8, 2009 7:31am
 Dear Dan,
Much of the music published by Choristers Guild ( fills this bill.  They also offer membership, training resources, and other materials geared toward the ability-oriented children/youth choir director.
Donald Callen Freed
on August 8, 2009 7:34am
 Dear Dan,
The music published by Choristers Guild ( fills much of your criteria.  They also offer membership, workshops, training resources, etc., all geared toward quality church children/youth choirs.
Donald Callen Freed
on August 8, 2009 10:07am
Hi Dan,
I would agree with all that has been said by other responders but would also suggest you look into the Choral Music Experience, edited by my former teacher, Doreen Rao.  I believe the publisher for her series is Boosey and Hawkes.  The music is geared toward younger singers and you can find everything from unison, to SSAA and SATB, as well. I think, no matter what you choose from this series, you won't be disappointed. I have done music from Bernstein's "Mass" (A SImple Song, unison) to several Bach duets (SA, adapted from cantatas--German, but you could do the English singing translation if you needed to) to a wonderful Hebrew folk song (SSAA) to some really stirring African-American spirituals (SATB).  All of the music is good--really good--as fits your criteria.  Doreen always believed kids could do whatever we wanted them to do--her series is really proof of this belief. 
When I had my big church job, I had to fight the parents to bring the standards up tp my level.  After I proved the kids could do challenging, multi-part music, they were disappointed in anything less.  Your biggest "fight" may be with the parents and once you "have" them, you've got it made--they will be your bigest advocates!
Good luck,
on August 8, 2009 7:05pm
Go to and look at the state adopted repertoire lists for schools. The Texas UIL Grade One and Two list will help you find a lot of material that is "tried and true: for the age kids you will be dealing with. I also use sacred solo music and folk songs with my church children's choir - unison singing can be quite beautiful with children's voices and must be taught well before the part-singing ever sounds right. Good luck!
Mary Jane Phillips
North Ridge MS CHoir and First United Methodist Church Hurst Children's Choir
on August 9, 2009 8:06am
A pdf score and a live performance sound bite are available at your request.

143,     "Hear my prayer, O Lord!  Give ear to my supplications. 
In Thy faithfulness, answer me. And in Thy righteousness, Lord, hear my prayer,"

This psalm is for general use by any vocal combination of three parts. 

The vocal range is a–d2.  (1:50 to 2:22, with repeat.)

146,     "Praise ye the Lord, O my soul! While I live will I praise the Lord.
I will sing reverent praise unto my God.  Thanks be to the Lord, our God!"

    This psalm is in three voices and for general use or for Thanksgiving. 

The vocal range is:C1–e2.  (0:58)

149,     "Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise in the congregation of saints! Alleluia!"
This psalm is in three voices and is an excellent canon for All Saints Day. All three
    settings of these psalms are a cappella and written in consonant counterpoint.

The vocal range is: C1-f2. (0:37) EASY+
on August 9, 2009 7:29pm
Order the "Voice for Life" repertory books through GIA. These two volumes contain a wealth of good repertory that could help you transition your choir from cute to artistic. Doreen Rao's series, published through Boosey, is also excellent. I can't recommend much of the Chorister's Guild repertory anymore, I think much of it has dumbed down over the years: Lower, limited ranges, texts that are often superficial. 
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