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The Accessibility of Mendelssohn

Hello all!
    I am working through a stack of Mendelssohn music for a course I am currently enrolled in.  Are there any pieces that you 1) love and would do 5 more times in your career if you could? if so, what age or level of choir would you reccomend these pieces and 2) What pieces have you found accessible for SSA, TTB or Middle school ensembles?  
My presentation will be for undergrads going into the music ed. field.  I hope to make Mendelssohn make sense and give them a place to look when needing a selection for whatever level they are working with in the future
thank you for any feedback!
Replies (12): Threaded | Chronological
on October 6, 2013 9:21am
Hi Claire,
I love Verleih' uns Frieden. Mendelssohn sets this in three sections - three settings of one verse. The first section is bass only (but I add all tenors who can sing it); second section has altos singing the same melody, with basses singing a counter melody (I have all women sing alto, all men sing bass); the third section is four part harmony with canonic entrances - melody in soprano. The relative simplicity of the first two sections, plus the repetition of the German text make this doable with limited and relatively inexperienced forces, but because of the nature of the melodic line, I would not recommend for Middle School. However, I would be interested in knowing if others have programmed this with Middle School choirs with success. I have done this successfully with piano, but you will have to hunt for a reduction.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on October 7, 2013 2:40am
'How lovely are the messengers' from 'Paul' is SATB but very accessible.
on October 7, 2013 7:25am
They're all great!  Mendelssohn had a wonderful knack for writing expressive choral music!  Many of his choruses have a basic ABA structure, but what makes his unique is that he often had a clever and almost unintrusive way of sneaking the A theme in during the conclusion of the B section, allowing a smoother and more subtle return to the second A section.
I hope your presentation goes well.  
Applauded by an audience of 1
on October 7, 2013 8:43am
In my humble opinion, I would question the accessibility of mixed choral works by Mendelssohn for middle school ensembles, mostly because of the range of the bass parts. However, if there are basses who can sing towards the bottom of the bass clef, go for it!
on October 8, 2013 10:31am
I once did a SAB arrangement of Lift Thine Eyes from Elijah that worked really well with my church choir.  I believe it is originally for SSA (or at least, I know there are SSA arrangements of the same piece), and it is quite beautiful.
on December 26, 2013 5:16am
The SSA version, which we sang in 7th grade girls' choir, was the reason I am in choral music. I recommend it!
on December 24, 2013 3:35am
One of the first pieces of choral music I sang in elementary school was Mendelssohn's Elijah.  I just remember doing the 'Baal' choruses.  But I was hooked.  I have seen somewhere, recently, can't remember where, a two-part version.  I would still do 2-part in middle school unless the students were super terrific musicians.  This 2-part builds such confidence.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on December 25, 2013 8:43am
Claire:  I can recall teaching what is called in Ontaro a "vocal music" class, aka choral music (secondary), and of all the repertoire we studied that semester which included Broadway, folk, classical, as broad a spectrum as I could muster, it was Mendelssohn's "He Watching Over Israel" that the kids voted as their favorite piece for the entire semester. Boy, did that ever open my eyes to the impoct of quality music from any genre. I firmly believe that the quality emerges from ALL genres, just needs to be identified as such and presented in such a way that the kids can appreciate and "tune" into---rather like Shakespeare. 
Gary Fisher
Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Applauded by an audience of 2
on December 26, 2013 10:51am
I agree with others that Mendelssohn is a wonderful choral composer and I regularly program his music.  As for repeating pieces, I have done Richte mich Gott many times with college groups and I never tire of it.  Most of the mixed pieces are probably not appropriate for most middle school groups.  Someone earlier referred to "How Lovely are the Messengers."  In addition to the original mixed version, there is a nice arrangement of "How Lovely are the Messengers" for three-part treble (I can't recall the arranger off the top of my head) that would be good for middle school.
Dennis Malfatti
University of Evansville
on December 27, 2013 9:28am
I have done several of his works with HS choirs and they have never disappointed.  Most recently we did "There Shall a Star Come Out of Jacob."  I wasn't sure how my students would respond.  They loved it and worked very hard at it.  They enjoyed the challenge, the various sections, the genius of the structure and how it all came together.  They seemed to sense that it was an honor to have the opportunity to sing such works.
On a smaller scale "Die Nachtigall" and "Lerkengesang" are equally beautiful and wonderfully crafted works. 
Norbert Rossi
Walla Walla, WA
on December 29, 2013 7:55pm
It may be too late for your presentation, but.... Mendelssohn's Laudate Pueri, Dominum for SSA was on the Texas All-State List several years ago. I think the repetitive, imitative nature would make it accessible for MS choirs. There is an edition on CPDL ( as well as an edition published by G. Schirmer.
Monte Garrett
Brownwood, TX
on December 30, 2014 6:29am
I am a high school choral director of 27 years.  In addition to the masterwork choruses of Mendelssohn that I have done numerous times (ie: Lift Thine Eyes, There Shall a Star, He Watching Over Israel, etc..) my high school choir has performed two full major works: Mendelssohn's Psalm 42 (Wir der hirsch) in 2008 - and will be performing in February "Lobgesang"  (Symphony No. 2) - both major works we performed with the Leipzig Youth Orchestra from Lepzig, Germany.  I have found the works to be highly successful with my high school choir (singers in grades 10-12)  and the students have enjoyed the experience of both works, especially singing them with the fine youth orchestra.
James D. Moyer
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