This spring, Sheet Music Plus held a school choral program contest, in which choir directors at the elementary, middle, high school and college levels were encouraged to submit the repertoire list for their schools’ spring choral concerts. The choral programs were judged based on originality, thematic content and age appropriateness. The winners received a $200 gift certificate to Sheet Music Plus. They shared the inspiration behind their creative programming with us. Congratulations, winners!
Iron Forge Elementary School
Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania
Theme: “The Iron Forge Construction . . . Through Music of Course!”
“I was working down the hall one day last spring when I heard a very loud “bang, bang” [caused by construction from the school’s renovation project] and I immediately thought of the song “Chitty, Chitty Bang, Bang” and the rest just started to fall into place! When I ran the “rough draft” of the program by my singers, I have 134 5th grade students in the chorus, they seemed quite excited. I’ve purchased yellow plastic construction hats for the boys and pink for the girls. They can’t wait to wear them when they perform! We are planning on inviting all the workmen to our concert to “musically honor” their efforts!”
Middle School Winner
Mount Nittany Middle School
State College, Pennsylvania
Theme: “Finding Peace”
“This is a program for my auditioned chamber choir (The Clef Hangers), which is comprised of students in grades 6 through 8; this is a group of advanced singers who perform only a cappella repertoire.
The idea for the program actually first started last spring and stemmed from the piece “Earth Song” (Frank Ticheli). If you’re unfamiliar with the piece, it’s full of many 20th century dissonant chords and harmonies, something my middle school students hadn’t yet been exposed to. The text is also written by Ticheli himself but isn’t cliche or contrived; it discusses how despite the violence and negativity in today’s world, music and singing always overcome. The last held out chord is on the word “peace,” which sparked the idea for my entire program. In regards to my other selections, my students love the Beatles arrangements by Deke Sharon; they were easy to teach and fit perfectly with the peace theme (Hey Jude–finding peace within yourself in times of sadness/negativity, and Blackbird–about civil rights and finding peace amongst people). Finally, my students have really been enjoying the SAB arrangement of Palestrina’s “Sicut cervus.” I love using Russell Robinson’s arrangements, as it allows me to do high quality choral literature with my middle school voices; I use at least one of his arrangements on every concert! The points of imitation in Palestrina’s writing almost perfectly simulate the idea of finding peace within any given situation, and the text translation fit well with the peace/nature theme of our program.
I believe that regardless of “themes,” it is so important to choose quality repertoire for singers of any age, particularly middle school. As one of my mentors Dr. Tony Leach would say, “Your repertoire is your textbook.” Make it count!”
High School Winner
Rosati-Kain High School
St. Louis, Missouri
Theme: “Music of Life”
Eastern New Mexico University – Ruidoso
Ruidoso, New Mexico
Theme: “A Tribute to Scotland”
From there, the search was on for Scottish composers in the classical tradition. The women of the choir will sing “Night” by the Romantic composer Hamish MacCunn.
James MacMillan is arguably Scotland’s most famous contemporary classical composer. The sacred a capella piece “O Radiant Dawn,” serves as an introduction to his style.
In the more popular vein, we will be performing “For Your Eyes Only,” as made famous by Scottish singer Sheena Easton, as well as “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the duo The Proclaimers.
The program is rounded out with the traditional “Skye Boat Song,” “Auld Lang Syne” as a sing-along, and a song devoted to the famous mythical monster of Loch Ness.”