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Choir with very unbalanced numbers

I will be in my second year at my high school this coming school year. The current enrollment for my beginning, non-auditioned group is 37 girls and 8 boys. I had similar numbers this last year and I made it work, but it was a struggle. I will be working hard to be very visible for the 8th graders next year so that I can boost the number of boys when they enter the 9th grade, but in the meantime I need to make this work.
 
My question is, what are your thoughts on splitting up rehearsal time for some music, so that maybe 8 or 10 of the girls are performing a piece with the boys on our first concert while the rest of the girls do a 3 part women's piece? Another thought I had was to do a TB or TTB piece for the boys and an SSA piece for the girls. We are on a block-4 schedule so I see each choir for 84 minutes every day of the week. I of course will have them performing much of their music together, but I don't want to subject my boys to singing the awkward SAB music that is not meant for their voices, simply because there aren't many of them. I'm not sure, based on their past experience in the 8th grade, that these particular boys will be able to dive right into SATB music, especially since the girls far outnumber them. I want to ease them in. Does anyone have a similar experience to share? Any ideas are welcome!
on June 5, 2014 10:14pm
Your numbers won’t ever hold you hostage as long as you have options and you have already identified several good ones.  Which option you select will, of course, depend on the characteristics of your singers.  You’ll know what to do. 
 
Back in the day, I often split the group as you described and taught the guys something special to take down to the Middle School.  If the voices were good enough, I even split the girls’ sections to form an SSAATB choir with wonderful results (you’d be surprised how much music is available).  If the tenors were very immature, I’d select music that had a very high tenor part and supplement them with some altos (an option I ended up using a lot).  I agree that most SAB music doesn’t really fit the voices very well so I’ve set out to study the problem with an ongoing setting of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.  The current results are free and on line at http://graymichael.com  Please check it out.
 
Hope that helps!
Michael A. Gray
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 6, 2014 3:21am
Are the boys able to sing as a single section, or do they have a mixture of high and low voices?
 
Your idea of splitting the choir in two sounds promising if you want to do SATB works - have two chamber choirs, one SSA or SSAA, and one SATB, which would give you at least 4 singers per part, maybe more if you have a few female tenors.
on June 7, 2014 9:13am
Leigh,  I agree with Michael Gray: you have excellent ideas already.  I would add that you should absolutely look at Three-Part Mixed music.  SAB is basically designed for adult choirs in which tenors are not found.  The male part in Three-Part Mixed music is for neither tenor nor bass, but for cambiata.  Eighth grade boys, for the most part are cambiata.  Three-Part Mixed music pitches range from fourth space G to second space ledger D.  The range can extend upwardly to E-flat and downwardly to an F-natural, but not so much.  These notes are also attainable by tenors and basses.  Always perform at least one male composition.  If possible make that work a cappella.  No matter what the gender is, do not be timid in having the choir(s) perform off the risers and, to a degree, into the audience especially when performing a cappella. Consider compositions that cause excitement and smiles on your choir members' faces.  In a middle school concert, this will help cause an attracting effect.  First consideration: music that matches your choir's components.  Second consideration: music that is of good quality.  Third consideration: music that achieves one of your purposes.  I hope this helps you.  God's best blessings on your practice, Leigh. 
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