I love programming concerts. It is certainly an aspect of teaching that I am going to miss, though I am also excited to be in the choir for a change! As an educator, it’s important to get carried away with programming for the sake of being impressive or crowd-pleasing, but to also take into account what each piece can help teach your choir.
While you can pull almost anything out of any piece you choose, I decided to give 4 pieces and concepts that I found particularly successful in case you have already begun brainstorming for the upcoming school year!
- Esto Les Digo – Kinley Lange. I have blogged about this piece before and thought I would mention it again. I used this piece to teach sight reading. It is so accessible that I never played pitches on the piano for my students, only to give starting pitches or set up the key. The piece is so simple and beautiful, that things like harmony and rhythm won’t get in your way. It’s also great for any Spanish speaking or studying students to help you translate and pronounce the text! I highly recommend using this piece and not using a piano. Rely on Solfege!
- How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place – Johannes Brahms – This is a challenging piece for sure, but if you want to teach fugal techniques than this is your guy. First, it’s a movement from a major requiem, and that always makes for great class conversations, especially this text since it is so light and uplifting for a requiem. Second, it’s Brahms! How many high schoolers get a chance to sing major works by major composers? Not many. This will boost their egos for sure, and help them rise to the challenge. (LINK) Harmonically, this piece can be really challenging, but in an accessible way. Breaking the piece into sections will help. The best part is watching kids struggle through the fugue, and boy they will struggle and complain and you will love every second, because they are going to get it, they just don’t believe it yet!
- Prayer of the Children – Arr. Andrea Klouse. I programmed this piece for one reason, and that was to teach my students to sing softly. Most choirs do loud great. Everyone loves to wail during a spiritual, but controlled singing can be so hard! This piece has great dynamic contrast, and will absolutely challenge students to convey the right emotion through the notated dynamics. And really, it’s just an awesome piece with a great message. It will be their favorite.
- Die Nachtigall – Felix Mendellsohn. This piece is what I deem “Intro to German.” It’s basically a short text repeated three times. If you want your kids to feel cool that they can sing in German and have fun over enunciating and making sounds they will immediately love, give them this piece. It doesn’t hurt that there are some beautiful harmonic moments, too.
These are just a few examples, but I have experienced the four pieces above firsthand. My students enjoyed performing them and learned valuable musicianship skills in the process. Give them a try, and program them in your concerts for the upcoming school year!
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What pieces are you loving to teach content? I’d love for you to share them! Leave a comment below, or continue the conversation on Twitter @LindsayBrazell.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kiera_chan/