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Music for 3:1 ratio of women to men Mixed Choir

I am doing a huge repertoire assignment for my Choral Methods class where I make a full concert program for 3 choirs- each choir needs to have 25 minutes of music. This seems excessive to me, but that is neither here nor there. I have chosen my music for two of the choirs but need some suggestions on music that is good for a mixed choir of 70 students with a 3 to 1 ratio of men to women. Probably a lot of SSATB, SSAATB, SAATB pieces.
 
Thanks in advance for any help!
Replies (8): Threaded | Chronological
on April 1, 2013 3:30pm
Hi, Brittany.  I assume that you're concerned with balance, but balance depends on a lot more than just a body count.  You could have women with mostly light voices and men with voices that project and it would balance.  (Or of course you could have the opposite, and it would NOT balance!!)  It also depends on the ranges of the various parts, which is easier to control for because you can look for SATB music with the tenors and basses higher in their ranges than the sopranos and altos.
 
And of course the music still has to be selected to fit the level of musicianship and technique of the singers!  4-way divisi for the women might be challenging if they are very independent parts.  And in that case you might be much better off looking for very good SAB arrangements, especially if this theoretical choir is assumed to be the entry-level one.
 
I also agree that 25 minutes per choir may be excessive.  One would usually assume that the more advanced choirs would learn faster and could learn more music, while the less advanced choirs should not be pushed beyond their ability to learn and perform creditably.  Plus there is always time lost (which has to be added into the total) while changing from one choir to the next, and you might want to build that into your proposal since otherwise you'll be pushing 2 hours, which is much too long without an intermission for most audiences.
All the best,
John
on April 2, 2013 4:49am
Hi Brittany,
    I have a choir with approximately that ratio (8 men to 20 women). They are entry level, and I agree with John that SAB or SSAB seems to work the best. The men take much longer to learn their music and feel unsure when divided into TB. On the other hand they sing very well when they are all on one voice. Sopranos, which you will always have more of, seem to cope with division better than altos as well. I'm finding it more useful to challenge them and vary my concert in other ways, music with fun rhythms for example. The only catch is finding interesting music written for SAB. Much of what I find is aimed at junior high age, whereas I have a community choir. If you go SAB, I would be curious to see what programme you choose. 
Good luck,
Carol
on April 2, 2013 4:54am
Also have a look at tenor lines - if a tenor line doesn't go much lower than low F, women can sing it, and then all the men you have can sing a baritone part.
on April 2, 2013 8:19am
Hi Brittany,
You have received some good advice above.  There are many ways to balance a choir and one of the great ways to do that is to make the parts aware of how they sound together.  Mixing your parts in practice and performance is a great way to get that.  Circle practices, or standing so that you are not next to one singing your same part really helps with ear training, tuning and of course, balance. If parts are not strong, then separate sessions with each will help.  When you have a strong muscian in a part he or she can lead the part at those practices.  They don't have to have separate rooms. I have used stariwells (great accoustics) closets (not so great) and even bathrooms (back to great).  With electronic key boards and even smart phones that play music, that should be simple. 
The bottom line is that you enjoy that mix and not worry about it.  If the singers realize the challenges, they will rise to the occasion.  Have fun and don't sweat the small stuff "cause in the end, it is all small stuff. 
Kitty
on April 2, 2013 9:23am
I sometimes add 2nd altos to the tenors or B in SAB arrangements, asking them to sing in the lower octave if the tenor part is written in the treble staff, and have the 1st altos cover the alto part.  
 
The problem with many SAB arrangements is that some notes are too high for the basses and too low for the tenors -- I mention this ahead of time (before anyone complains) and ask them to sing what they can and fake the notes they can't...  
 
I ask sections to stand if they are singing a featured portion of the piece. One chorus of 80 voices between the ages of 50-90 tends to sit too much!  They do MUCH better on their feet!
 
on April 3, 2013 8:56am
I see similar imbalance issues throughout Choralnet. For the future of choirs everywhere:
 
Support your local boychoir!
 
Encourage a boy to join!
Our future tenors and basses are learning sight-reading, music theory, IPA, blending, ear-training. The list goes on...
 
 
on April 3, 2013 4:40pm
I teach a high school choir of 50, with 7 men.  I've had good success with these pieces:
 
Bonse Aba - Victor Johnson - SAB
Old American Songs - Aaron Copland, arr. Janet Levberg Day, SAB
Die Nachtigall - Mendelssohn, arr. Russell Robinson - SAB
Mon Couer Se Recommande Vous - Di Lasso, arr. Russel Robinson - SAB
Non Nobis Domine - Byrd - SAB
Danny Boy - arr. Brad Printz - SAB
How Can I Keep From Singing - arr. Gwenyth Walker SA(T)B
Hallelujah, Amen - Handel, arr. Russell Robinson - SAB
Sicut Cervus - Palestrina - arr. Russell Robinson - SAB
Durme, Durme - Audrey Snyder - SAB
Niska Banja - Nick Page - SA(T)B
Buffalo Gals - Bob Chilcott - SA(T)B
I Hear a Voice a Prayin' - arr. Greg Gilpin - SSAB
Gamelan - Murray Schafer - flexible 4-part voicing
 
Other strategies:
I don't hesitate to rescore things SAB.
I work hard to find SATB pieces that still work omiting the tenor part, ie. the tenor mostly has the 5th of the chord or doubles the root.
I don't always believe the publisher's voicing descriptions - sometimes I stumble across SATB pieces that barely have any divisi in the men's part.
Sometimes a viable baritone part can be created by cobbling together the best parts of the tenor and bass into one part, with occasional octave shifts, etc.
 
 
on April 3, 2013 5:58pm
David wrote:  "I don't hesitate to rescore things SAB."
 
Just for the record, if I recall correctly that is specifically permitted under Fair Use, as long as you have a set of legally-purchased copies.
 
There could be some purist argument about messing with the composer's original intention, of course, but personally I would never let that get in the way of practical necessity.  And as an arranger I would never object to someone making adjustments in my own arrangements as needed. 
 
For original compositions, the argument would be stronger unless you believe, as I do, that the creative process involves both composition (the original inspiration and concept) and arrangement (putting that inspiration and concept into a performable form).  Since Beethoven, we are much too used of thinking that a composer not only can but MUST do every part of the job him- or herself, but in the world of musical theater and movie music that has almost NEVER been the case.  Each step in the process has been handled by someone who specializes in that step and has proven the ability to bring in results on time and under budget!  Robert Rusell Bennett was a fine composer in his own right, but built a career on his ability to take the songs of Richard Rodgers or Cole Porter and orchestrate them to fill a complete 2 1/2 hour show! 
 
So there are definitely at LEAST two different processes and two different jobs involved.  (That's the traditional 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration!!!)
All the best,
John
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