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Middle School

choosing repertoire for middle school choirs

Look for:

  • Melodic Elements:

    • Upper voice parts especially should be given ample opportunities to exercise their full range.

    • Find moments that highlight male voices in the melody.

    • Altos: place the melody between C4 and C5. Full range: A3 to E5.

    • Sopranos: place the melody between E4 and D5. Full range: B3 to F5.

    • Be aware of your ensemble’s mix of changed and unchanged male voices:

      • Changed: can generally descend to Bb2. Full Range: A3 to F4.

      • Unchanged: full range may include notes as low as F3 or as high as C5 but generally resides in the A3 to A4 range comfortably.

      • Look for key phrases and measures that students can read at their level of notational literacy (Appendix Item 1). For example, having a key phrase composed of two or three basic note and rest values (sixteenth, eighth, quarter, or half notes) would provide students with the opportunity to put their rhythm reading into practice for the purpose of performance rather than an isolated “sight-singing” practice (Appendix Item 2). Stepwise phrases with skips and a few “challenge” leaps would be accessible to their melodic reading (Appendix Item 3).

  • Voicing:

    • One to three parts (depending on the level of your ensemble)

    • In “Problem Solving”, Judy Bowers offers suggestions for re-voicing SAB scores to suit the needs of a three-part middle school group due to the vast majority of scores in that voicing (Appendix Item 5). Pieces labeled “three-part” are often more suited to middle school voices than pieces labeled “SAB.”

  • Harmony:

    • Use of stinato, descant, and/or canon are still recommended. Opportunities to strengthen root singing will help develop chord recognition. Three-part pieces with canonic or descant-like parts help an ensemble to begin dividing in such a way successfully.

    • More advanced middle school choirs may benefit from exposure to some moments of parallel chordal motion (Appendix Item 4).

    • Elements such as countermelodies can be used to motivate the group with healthy competition, support, and responsibility.

  • Form: Students are beginning to understand more complex musical structures. Contrasting sections and textures provide good opportunities for analytic class discussion.

Avoid pieces that:

  • Require nuance above the current musical level of the students. Ex: belting, requiring expert navigation of head and chest voice, requesting straight tone.

  • Consistently place the alto line in the bottom of their range.

  • Separate altos and sopranos to the extremes of their ranges for the entirety of a piece.

  • Leave male voices out of the melody.

  • Contain polyrhythms in harmony. The students of the ensemble are developing skills to function as parts of a unit and may not be ready to divide in such a way.

  • Are written as though middle school music is merely less sophisticated high school music. Pieces should build on elementary skills and encourage musicality.

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