Those of us who teach school have been back now for a little over a month, which means that it is almost time for that most frightening of endeavors—the FALL CONCERT. I do not know about other teachers, but the fall concert gives me more sleepless nights and gray hair than anything else I do. I NEVER know what my choirs will be like until the first few days of school, which makes planning and programming next to impossible. I thought this week’s post might be a good occasion for something different: I will share what my choirs are doing for this first concert back, and I hope that many of you with programs like mine will share as well in the comments section.
I will briefly tell you about my program. I graduated 30 of the strongest students I have ever had last spring, and, luckily, I have been able to replace them with singing bodies. Those singing bodies, though, are very young and very green, and we have lots of work to do. My top choir is an auditioned SATB choir with students ranging from freshmen to seniors this year. Their ability and experience levels are all over the place! So we are singing some of my old favorites that are enjoyable to sing, pleasing to audiences, and full of teaching and ensemble building opportunities—“Bashana Haba’ah” (arr. John Leavitt), “Verleih uns Frieden” (Mendelsson; discussed earlier in this blog), and Ezekiel Saw the Wheel (arr. Donald Moore). They are also going to process with the di Lasso canon, “Musica est Dei donum optima” (also discussed in an earlier post).
My unauditioned freshman choir has 28 women and 4 men in it, so I teach the gentlemen in my small Men’s Chorus classes their songs, and we put the pieces together on concert night (beforehand!). At this point in the year, we are still working on SAB music. So far, they are progressing very nicely on “By the Waters” (arr. Dave and Jean Perry), which passes the melody between all three voices, features some accessible counterpoint, and contains a few moments of chordal singing; Mozart’s “Due Pupillae Amabili” (also featured in an earlier post); and “A Gospel Alleluia” by Greg Gilpin, which is extremely fun and repetitive enough to teach much more than just note-learning.
Finally, my Women’s Chorus—which meets in two small, separate sections during half of their lunch period while the band plays LOUDLY all around us—is working on just two pieces for this early concert. The first piece is “Hope is the Thing With Feathers” (by Susan LaBarr—discussed earlier in this blog), which is mostly in two parts. I am teaching both parts in each class, and they will put it all together on concert night. The other piece, however, which is Michael Haydn’s “Benedictus and Alleluia” (arr. Liebergen for SSA), is in three parts. Neither of these classes is big enough to yet divide into three, so I am dividing the larger section into two parts, teaching them Soprano I and Alto. The smaller section is all learning Soprano II. It is not perfect, but it is a great way for them to feel successful at the beginning of the year, and they will be flexible and open to more complex divisions as we progress.
Do you have a program not unlike mine and wish to share your repertoire for the dreaded “fall concert”? Please post in the comments what repertoire you have chosen, how it fits your choirs, and what you plan to teach with it. As always, feel free to e-mail me ideas for other pieces you would like to see featured in “Music Within Reach” at .
Brandon Moss is a choir director, teacher, and composer/arranger living and working in Central Ohio. He teaches at Central Crossing High School, directs the Chalice Choir at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, and serves in leadership roles with the Ohio Choral Directors Association and the Ohio Music Education Association. He is currently working on the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Conducting at The Ohio State University.