Week 9: Friday, May 18, 2018
“I Started Out Singing” by Jocelyn Hagen
Text by Naomi Shihab Nye
3pt Treble, piano (or piano & string orchestra)
This selection by Jocelyn Hagen, with text by Naomi Shihab Nye, is an excellent choice for your beginner and intermediate treble/women’s ensembles. It can also be a great option for district pyramid concerts as a way to involve your elementary and upper voice feeder choirs, or as a collaboration with your string-orchestra counterparts. With my college students, it was part of a themed concert titled “Stories, Songs, and Dreams,” and was a tutti selection that successfully combined my beginner, intermediate, and advanced ensembles.
Naomi Shihab Nye’s text begins simply, then evolves into a deeper look at the growth we experience, and the journeys we take. Given the title and subject matter, it is perfect for Music In Our Schools Month MIOSM, or any concert sequence/theme where you want to pointedly share the joy and beauty of song with your audience, while still giving your students something with depth to discuss in rehearsal.
Jocelyn Hagen’s musical setting is lean, yet powerful. There is movement and energy in the accompaniment, which underscores the initial unison vocal line with life and joy. The opening unison later blossoms into two parts, with the lower divisi being an echo of the melody line. It then continues expanding into three parts for the end of the selection. The closing line emphatically restates the first line, in each voice – “oh yes, oh yes, I Started Out Singing,” bringing everything full circle. The text setting is clear and clean, with plenty of chances for good diction and concise phrasing, even with a large festival ensemble or massed group of different ages. Ample opportunities exist for evocative changes in tempo and dynamics, continuing to support the character of the text.
Voicing is listed as “3pt treble,” but don’t let that scare you off for a beginner group – the song is primarily unison or 2pt/echo, with one limited section of 3pt at the end. If you are involving younger or less experienced choirs (i.e. for a pyramid concert), they can sing the melody line of the 2pt, while your older singers take the echo. For a more experienced group, this could be a quick read in terms of pitches and rhythms – primarily quarters and eighths, some syncopation, all diatonic and perfect for solfege (except for one fi). There are a few 7/8 measures, but everything else is 4/4 with the occasional 2/4 or 3/4. Ranges are the same for all, save for two F5s at the end for those splitting to the highest of the 3pt split. Tessitura stays within the staff for all voices.
In terms of accompaniment, this song has two versions – choir + piano (in Db Major), or choir + piano & string orchestra (C Major). Choristers use the same scores for either version and sing down a half-step if with orchestra.
This selection can fill many needs in a program – a “more than unison, but less than full 3pt” option for your younger group, an energetic opener or closer for your pyramid concert, a celebratory “song about singing” piece for your MIOSM program, or a collaborative experience with the string students at your school. It’s also a work by both a living woman composer and living woman author, with a distinct yet relatable text that could certainly be an opportunity for cross-pollination with creative writing, and a “let’s talk about what these words mean as a poem” opportunity in the rehearsal room.
|Title:||I Started Out Singing|
|Composer:||Jocelyn Hagen |
|Date of Composition:||2008 (piano), 2013 (orchestration)|
|Text Source/Author:||Naomi Shihab Nye|
|Subject(s):||singing, song, music, journeys, growth|
|Listed Voicing:||3pt treble|
|Voicing Details:||Primarily unison and 2pt, with limited measures of 3pt at the end|
Ranges are the same for all parts, except for some F5s in the top divisi at the end.
|Accompaniment:||Piano, or piano & string orchestra|
|Tempo:||MM=116 (Exuberant), 80 (Freely), 144 (Faster)|
|Commissioning Ensemble:||In honor of Teresa Benjamin, for the Robbinsdale All-District Elementary Choir, Patti Arntz, conductor, 2008;|
Orchestrated for the Robbinsdale Armstrong and Cooper High School Women’s Choirs & Orchestras, 2013
|Publisher:||Graphite Press GP H011|
|Further descriptions and details, including notes, audio, perusal score, and purchasing:|
Until next week!
Dr. Shelbie Wahl-Fouts is associate professor of music, Director of Choral Activities, and music department chair at Hollins University, a women’s college in Roanoke, Virginia.
Email: Bio: https://www.hollins.edu/directory/shelbie-wahl-fouts/