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TYPES of repertoire to choose

I'm more of an instrumental person, but right now I'm pulling triple duty with band, choir, and elementary.  When choosing band repertoire, I've always heard that one should include on each concert an exciting opener, a march, a chorale, and another concert style selection.  Now that I'm doing choir, I don't really know what types of pieces to include on a concert.  Is there a pattern or general rule of thumb that I can follow to make music selection easier?  In addition to that, I'm trying to rebuild this program after it fell apart with the previous director, and they want to sing nothing but pop tunes.  While I don't mind a good pop song now and then, I want to get them singing some good concert pieces again.  Other than just easing them into it, how do I make that transition?  Hope all that made sense.  Any help would be very much appreciated!
Blake Long
on May 15, 2014 8:10am
I ran three concerts a year.  The first had classical music that was taken from the Medieval & Renaissance Eras, the second was Baroque & Classical, the third was Romantic & Modern.  The second half of every concert was given over to folk music and pop although I avoided things that were well known.  On this site’s Resources tap, you’ll find lots suggestions for the best classical pieces for your age group but, really, they’ll love it if you show that you do.  As to what to start & end with, you should first pick out what’s best for their education and then arrange the order as you see fit.  What you have first will suggest what you need next.  The kids will always give you some ideas, too.  Don’t ever criticize your predecessor but don’t be afraid to make those changes.  Hope this helps.
Michael A. Gray
on May 16, 2014 4:21am
It's important that the choir experiences a wide variety. Is this for middle school, high school, or both? My middle school choir only has one concert at the end of each semester. But my high school choir had a lot more options. It also depends on how much class time you have. Do you want to craft one or two perfect concerts a year or have multiple concerts where you are exposing them to as much as possible?
In a full concert, here is what I like to have:
Exciting concert opener/World Music (Gaudete/Bonse Aba)
Early Music/Renaissance/Baroque/Classical (Sumer is a cumin in/Berchem O Jesu Christe/Boyce Alleluia/Mozart Ave Verum)
Upbeat American Folk/Spiritual (Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal/This Little Light of Mine)
Jazz/Popular (Three Jazz Christmas Carols/Sixteen Tons)
The slow Pretty one (Celtic Christmas/Dirait-on)
The Funny one (Grandma's Feather Bed/Counterpoint of the Animals)
And the big epic finale (Galuppi Magnificat/The Awakening)
High Schoolers should also be exposed to some more accessible choral major works such as: Schubert Mass in G or the Faure Requiem, especially if their isn't a musical in the Spring.
And you can also do themed concerts: Music Around the World, American Music, Music Through Time, etc. (I just keep: Opener/Fast and Upbeat/Slow and Pretty/Funny/Epic End)
These are just my personal templates. Hope they help!
on May 17, 2014 3:44am
Blake - You will find other threads on ChoralNet about the "pop song only" phenomenon which seems to be all-pervasive (and probably has been for generations - "We don't want to sing any of that OLD stuff; we just want new/exciting
/up-to-date/what we hear on the radio or iTunes or wherever") without those who demand this realizing that what they hear in one place, doesn't work (for lack of computerization, instrumentation, etc.) for choral works.  This is where Andrew's suggestions are definitely worthy.  We, whether school music directors or community chorus directors or church directors, are charged to not pander to current fads in our music, and to provide music (especially in the scholastic environment) which will give the young singers worthwhile music FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.  What makes a "classic" a "classic?"  It endures the test of time.  So much of today's music is here today, gone today.
Chantez bien!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 19, 2014 6:31am
Hi. Here is my philosphy on what to program. We have 4 concerts a year, one of which is our Large Group Contest. In the Fall, we do things a bit more simply, just to get us into the year. I try to do some patriotic things on this concert, as we will also perform for a Veteran's Day program, so we have things to do for that program. I will use a spiritual on most of my concerts, just because I think they are an important genre for the students to learn about. We do some classical pieces, some more folksy type pieces, etc. A fairly traditional concert. Christmas is of course, Christmas music. We do some familiar carol type pieces as well as some new things, and even one or two more "pop style" pieces like "Baby it's Cold Outside". Our Large Group Contest in March is usually our hardest music, and it is pretty classical. I do one spiritual usually, then other pieces like "The Seal Lullaby" which we did last year. Then we have one additional piece which is often in a foreign language to expose them to other types of music.
Here's where I think some people may disagree with me. Our Spring Concert is quite a blend of music. We will repeat at least one of the Contest pieces on this concert, but I usually have this concert more "pop" oriented. We do medleys from Disney, or from Broadway Musicals, etc. This year I arranged a "Prince of Egypt" medley, we did "Misty Mountains Cold" from The Hobbitt, a "Frozen" medley, and others. However, we also did "Glorificamus Te" by Ruth Elaine Schram, and "The Awakening" by Joseph Martin. I like to end the year with an exciting fun concert, but make sure to pick music that is well written, and we do them well. My students love to do things that are a bit more familiar, the parents enjoy it, and it is a big recruiter for students coming into my class. I know not everyone would agree with this type of concert, but it works for our school.
Hope that helps. I try to theme concerts, if possible. One year for Christmas we did all bell songs. Carol of the Bells, The Bells, Christmas Bells are Ringing, etc. I usually open with something more upbeat and exciting, as well as try to end that way, too. I also try to incorporate a cappella music and languages in there as well, to give them a balanced musical education. Good luck on doing all three things. That is a big task, but alas, the way of the future.
Geneva Whitmire
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