#34: Friday, November 16, 2018
“Winter Lullaby” by PINKZEBRA
2-part, piano (optional strings)
Sometimes we are searching for repertoire for our 8-part divisi advanced ensemble, capable of polyphony and mixed meter and atonal harmonies. Sometimes we are looking for a song for our beginner ensemble, who is just at the start of their musical journey. “Winter Lullaby” is for the latter, and it does an amazing job of being exactly what my singers needed.
Beginners come in all shapes and sizes, and ages. Not all college (or high school or community) choirs are auditioned ensembles, for experienced singers only. My 100-level group is truly a beginner choir. We start from scratch with breathing, vocal mechanics, and introductory music literacy. No experience required or expected. They may be adults in age, but they are closer in initial level to a preparatory children’s choir than what we think of as a traditional college choir.
As an educator, I love the fact that I have a space for beginners to feel safe and confident in exploring their musicianship, in addition to having ensembles where experienced students can thrive. However, finding palatable rep for an older beginner group can be a definite challenge. While I’m speaking of a college choir here, you may also have this beginner group at a different level. They may be high school students or community/church adults – eager but unknown. No matter the age though, they are true beginners. To that end, repertoire selection is absolutely crucial to their success.
For my winter concert, it is key that I choose a piece that my beginners can work up to. Ideally, this is something that incorporates the literacy components they have learned in class, (and only those components), but doesn’t feel childish. “Winter Lullaby” fits this bill. It is also a general winter-themed selection good for all December/holiday/January concerts, without being attached to any actual holiday (secular, sacred, or otherwise).
Tonally, the piece is entirely diatonic – every single note is part of the major scale. I aurally introduced the solfege patterns in the selection first, making sure the students understood the sound of the intervals and the pitch relationships within the key. Then we did writing, listening, dictation, and reading exercises to solidify their understanding of that particular key. Once at that point, I gave students the actual sheet music and we worked through the piece section by section.
Rhythmically, the approach was very similar. “Winter Lullaby” is made up of quarter, eighth, and half notes, plus a few ties. Once I knew the students were proficient at all the rhythms (via pattern flash cards, rhythm composition cards, and dictation), we read through the whole piece on takadimi syllables.
Watching these students work through a new piece step-by-step is a humbling and rewarding moment. The look on their faces when they realize that yes, they can do this is without equal.
The song itself moves between unison and 2pt, and is primarily three similar stanzas/verses with a bridge in the middle. The first entrance begins in unison, then moves to 2pt and back to unison. The second entrance is melody + ooh descant, ending with the same 2pt&unison sequence. The bridge is next, and is a series of small descending 8thnote phrases, in harmonic thirds. The beginning of the third entrance starts with oohs, on a slightly altered melody line. Part I sings first, then Part II responds, then I/II again. The song ends with the same 2pt&unison patterns as the first and second sections.
If your ensemble is small, or tentative, or, just isn’t quite ready for 2pt yet, the harmony can transfer quite nicely to a flute or similar timbre instrument. Singers then have the strength in numbers that is afforded by singing all together, but the performance can still have the musical nuance of 2-part harmony. Both parts of the third entrance can be sung by everyone. Basic dynamics are present throughout, giving your singers a chance to add musical depth with only minimal new terminology/symbols.
Often, partner songs and other two-part or unison music can come off feeling childish or young, as they are often geared towards children’s or elementary choirs. While this song is a lullaby, meant to be sung to a baby or small child, the song itself does not feel juvenile. “This tender lullaby combines snapshots of winter scenes with the sentimentality of life’s fleeting moments.” (Composer’s website) And, from experience, I can say the song works well as an actual, functional lullaby too, having sung it after more than one rehearsal to my 6-month old son!
My college-age singers are 100% emotionally invested in this selection, and I know they are looking forward to singing it for friends and family. Not only do they like it, they are succeeding at it. “Winter Lullaby” is exactly what these students needed this term, for this concert, and I cannot wait to watch them shine in their first performance.
|Date of Composition:||2016|
|Voicing Details:||2-part and unison|
|Ranges:|| I: Bb3-Eb5|
|Tempo:||MM=84, Sweetly and tenderly, stretching phrases expressively|
| Further descriptions and details, including program 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.