- February 6, 2017 at 8:09 pm #534681
Laura B HuizengaParticipant
I’m sort of stymied right now. I was hired to build the high school choral program at my small private school from scratch. Last semester, I had 8 students in my choir class–3 international students who are actually trained musicians, and 5 sophomores, who were the only people who could fit choir into their schedules. This semester, the class schedule was completely re-worked, and I now have two sections of choir: one section has two students from last semester, a bass and a soprano. The other section has 4 students, including 3 girls who are reasonable musicians, and 1 of last semester’s boys, who can’t really match pitch, especially now that he’s the only male voice in the room.
I also have an After Hours group that meets during lunch and/or after school, which includes 5+ confident and independent musicians, plus my son, who is a Russian bass who only some of the time can match pitch and can’t find his head voice at all.
I am supposed to have a program of music ready for a late April Fine Arts Night. And I am honestly struggling to know what to do with this odd combination of choirs. The two classes are too small to be able to pull off much part-singing, and the gap between two of the boys and everybody else, in terms of independence and pitch-matching, is just huge.
I’d love to hear some suggestions for a)what do I do for Fine Arts night? and b)how do I help my two boys who can’t match pitch or sing above a d-3?
Also, thoughts for what I need to do moving ahead next year–my admins are responsive to what I need to succeed–they just didn’t anticipate all of the unintended consequences of things this year because they are both new.
Laura HuizengaFebruary 7, 2017 at 10:15 am #534723
your situation is reallly challenging but should require a bit of time and a lot of patience. I don’t know if I am able to give you a piece of advice because I don’t conduct such kind of choir. However I would like to offer you at least my opinion, maybe it is a starting discussion point.
A choir with few people is the best to work in our own voice. Each voice is different, all to them is able to suggest beaty. The first step to realize our own voice is to read poems, to act as actors when reading poems. There are a lot of music into the good poems, even not sounding.
Even being few people, if they realize their voices are able to generate feelings, music is sooner.
Next step is to sing easy songs, preferable accompanied by piano, or even a good soundtrack, or percussion. Only in the last case I would suggest to sing and play at the same time.
If reading as radio announcer, and singing one melodie all together, next step is THE CANON. Canons are a good choice for approaching to choral world.
For all above you will need, by force, repertoire. This is the key problem. So, if you havn’t you must compose it or…to request some composer for specific situations. A friend of mine wrote to me some months ago with similar question. At the end, afte a lot of coffes and e-mails, we decided to write something for them.
I you know exactly the type of music and the lyric they like (and they motivate). If you know exactly what is the interval they can sing, ….please look for a composer.
Let me send to you my e-mail if you would like to start to work in this point: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope it was usefull for you,
My best and warm regards,
César ZumelFebruary 7, 2017 at 1:41 pm #534734
Hi Laura —
You have my sympathy! I’ve had a fair amount of experience with small choirs with limited abilities, but nothing as drastic as what you’re facing. It’s beyond me how you can be expected to produce a program from a group split into
three sections (counting the after-hours group), one of which has only two students. It’s nice to have good individual voices in a chorus, but what really counts, as I’m sure you know, is the collective effort of all singers to make a unified sound, to “sing with one voice.” That’s when the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. The stronger singers will bring the weaker ones along.
I would concentrate on teaching good singing technique, especially breath control, and applying it to simple repertory, I wouldn’t worry about parts at this stage. Unison/octave singing can be very effective, accompanied or not. I certainly agree with Cesar about repertory. I’d explore folksongs, including such things as Early American hymn tunes. Many have simple but well-crafted melodies,which can be learned easily and performed beautifully. For that upcoming program, I’d concentrate on quality rather than quantity. Two or three (or even just one) well prepared and beautifully sung pieces is better than more songs under-prepared.
Finally, I’d want to have a conversation with the administration about the whole schedule problem. Sometimes school administrators understand sports better than the arts, so compare your situation to training a baseball team when you have the pitcher, 2nd baseman and right fielder at one practice, the shortstop and catcher at another — you get the idea. Maybe they will too.
My best wishes to you.
Anthony Doherty email@example.comFebruary 8, 2017 at 8:32 am #534747
Make recordings of your other sections singing together and use them to enhance each other. Have one recording playing while the other group is rehearsing. Maybe one of your guys could match pitch better if he hears the other singing. You might be able to learn repertoire that way.February 8, 2017 at 8:33 am #534748
My suggest would be, form an a cappella group. the male singer who can not match pitch can do vocal percussion, so that you can sing some classical ensemble pieces, may be madrigal of 16 centries and some contemporary a cappella pop/rock tunes…
Ray from Taiwan choral music center(TCMC)August 9, 2017 at 1:24 pm #540433
Hi Lauara, it looks like what they need is a magician and not a choir director. We are not trained to magically make things happen. This is so bad. I would just do small duos, trios, or solos singing, and if I have to put all of them together, then I will do one or two songs unison at a decent key that won’t get any part in trouble. All the best.
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