Pick Six By:
Repertoire & Resources Chair for Contemporary Commercial
Director of Choral Activities, Minnesota State University Moorhead
Arr. Deke Sharon
Hal Leonard, 00138160
This arrangement of a popular song is one that lends itself well to a transfer to the choral idiom. A pop a cappella arrangement, Royals is keyed in a range that allows first and second sopranos to use their head voices without the temptation to belt. The parallel harmonies give each vocal line the same general shape, which may be helpful to those singers who gravitate toward the melody.
In this arrangement, the second sopranos and the altos have an opportunity to have the melody, which is a great opportunity for them to be in the spotlight. Consequently, the first sopranos then have the opportunity to sing harmony.
VIDEO — Publisher’s sample recording & viewable sheet music
VIDEO — High school vocal ensemble
VIDEO — Middle school ensemble
Arr. Mac Huff
Hal Leonard, 10561326
SATB (also SAB , SSA , and ePrint)
Piano with optional instrumental accompaniment by digital download (155486 [synth, guitar, bass, drums]) or ShowTrax CD (155486)
The song opens with a solo in a rather low range. While it is low, the benefit is potentially that the belting that is tempting in mid-range is avoided. However, the title lyrics in the chorus are presented in unison octaves; all sections sing the melody before the writing breaks into parts.
“Hello” presents a great opportunity to talk about the healthy use of the voice in different ranges and genres. The vocal range encompasses a very low solo section, where a teacher might discuss strategies for singing in this range. (As someone with a very weak lower range, I often think of almost speaking such notes rather than trying to sing them). Additionally, the original artist’s voice has a more unique timbre in relation to other contemporary artists, providing an opportunity to talk about highlighting the strengths of each student’s unique vocal qualities.
VIDEO — Publisher studio-recorded example & viewable score
VIDEO — High school choir performance with less traditional (more of a lyrical) show choir look
Arr. Mark Brymer
Hal Leonard, 10489580
Piano accompaniment or ShowTrax CD (00131226)
This song has a scripted accompaniment, but the prerecorded CD has some very commercial effects. If you are inclined to use a prerecorded accompaniment, this might be one to consider. This is another selection that makes the transition from its commercial version to the choral arena without losing its original essence and style.
This selection moves between registers, giving several opportunities to access the head voice. With this writing present, teachers have occasion to discuss consistency between registers, which may be especially helpful for those students who “dig in” to their chest voice in a way that will be inconsistent with the strength of their head voice.
VIDEO — Publisher’s studio recording with a visible octavo
My Shot (from Hamilton)
Arr. Roger Emerson
Hal Leonard, 10629591
Piano accompaniment with combo parts available as a digital download (00160836)
Hamilton is possibly the most popular show on Broadway at the moment, notable for its color blind casting and wide range of musical genres. For teachers that would consider a rap selection in their repertoire, “My Shot” provides an opportunity to incorporate both rap and current Broadway.
Any selection from Hamilton provides choral directors with an opportunity to make a transfer from the social studies curriculum, or perhaps design a unit to be taught simultaneously. The text is motivational and uplifting, providing a point of departure for many conversations to invest the singers in the piece.
VIDEO — Publisher’s demo accompanied by a video of the octavo
VIDEO — Montage from the original musical
VIDEO — High school ensemble with simple choreography
Writing’s On the Wall (from Spectre)
Arr. Mac Huff
Hal Leonard Corporation, 1060692
Piano accompaniment with combo parts as digital download (00155302)
Originally recorded by Sam Smith for the James Bond film Spectre, this power ballad is effective in the SATB choral setting. The rhythmic and harmonic profiles are accessible for many levels of choral advancement. This octavo is available in SAB and two-part voicing.
This song is an effective tool to address dynamics and interpretation. It has a dramatic feel about the opening fanfare and chorus, but there are also quieter, more intimate moments for contrast. The pitches and rhythms sing easily, but this ballad provides a setting to explore drastic differences in dynamics.
VIDEO — Publisher’s studio demo with octavo
You Can’t Stop the Beat (from Hairspray)
Arr. Ed Lojeski
Hal Leonard Corporation, 3297855
With the recently popularity of live musicals made for television, “Hairspray” has been the most recent musical to get a television make over. The infectious energy of the main character is evident in this high energy closer. The song does present two inherent challenges. First, it has a strophic structure, and memorization can be difficult. Second, this song is affectionately knows as “You Can’t Stop to Breathe,” so phrasing can be a challenge.
Any song from Hairspray provides a moment in our lesson to talk about social justice and equality. The current social climate makes it difficult to have productive discussions about our differences; the context of a fun, upbeat musical juxtaposed with serious social matters may provide a window for an appropriate discussion. And on a technical note, these rapidly delivered lyrics are definitely a diction challenge. In addition to addressing closing consonants, front-loaded (beginning) consonants can also use attention for clarity. Even without choreography, this big closer requires vocal and interpretive stamina.
VIDEO — Mac Huff arrangement with a large high school choir with basic choreography
VIDEO — The most recent iteration with the live TV cast