Pick Six By:
Repertoire and Resources Chair for Children’s Music
Plymouth Congregational Church
Vivre, Aimer, Partager – Live, Love, Share
Middle Eastern traditional and Laura Hawley
Rhythmic Trident RTWF-004
2-part chorus, piano, percussion
This piece is a 2016 release by Canadian composer Laura Hawley, although it is titled in some pre-publication Youtube videos as “Tala’ al-Badru ‘Alayna.” Hawley wrote it for the children’s choir Choralies a De La Salle and it has quickly become the national welcome anthem for refugees arriving in Canada. This piece incorporates Arabic and French text, but don’t let this put you off. Repeated words and phrases help young singers find their way through the piece. Part-singing is approached first through a partner song where two diatonic melodies could be taught using familiar solfege patterns. Later, the piece offers the opportunity to introduce singers to the hijaz scale, traditional in Middle Eastern music. Syncopated piano accompaniment complements and almost imitates a simple percussion part. Choose this piece to introduce Middle Eastern musical style, Arabic language, and a message of inclusion to your singers.
O, Colored Earth
Stone Circle Music
Mostly unison, with two 2-part splits, piano
O, Colored Earth is a “simple children’s carol for peace” from Minnesota composer Steve Heitzeg, originally composed for Elizabeth Shepley’s House of Hope Children’s Choir in 1993. The powerful text of “no more war, no more fear” and “all lives are equal” resonates quickly with young singers; both 3rd and 6th graders alike have success in performance. The tessitura is appropriate for young voices; unison moments sit low in the range while also highlighting a lovely ascending motive. I’ve found this piece great for coaching singers to have their head tone at the ready through all parts of their range. When I introduce this piece, I have had singers aurally identify the solfege for the ends of phrases in each verse (either MFS or S,L,S,), which gets them successfully through much of the A section with me. Lively mixed meter sections provide opportunities for movement and natural emphasis of text. Kids have no problem with this, by the way- I think sometimes it’s the counters in us that get in the way! Get a great pianist, and you’ll be set for an Earth Day celebration, to honor diversity, or to recognize peace.
An Acre of Land (Part III. No. 3)
English Folk Song, arr. R. Vaughan Williams
Oxford University Press 9780193853638
Unison choir, piano
Accompaniment found in the vocal score of the complete work, Folk Songs of the Four Seasons
This song is about a tiny farm given by a father to his child. It’s so small in fact that it can be plowed with a ram’s horn and its harvest sent home in a walnut shell. The strictly strophic structure is wonderful for young singers who can find variety in the creative expression of language. Early on, introduce each verse by asking them to join you for just the end of each- “and a bunch of green holly and Ivery.” Fun programming for second graders includes adding student-played auxiliary percussion for each of the farm verbs this song introduces. Get creative (and use Wikipedia) to match “harrow” and “winnow” with instruments you may already have. Favorite suggestions are to use a wood block for the walnut shell, a waving scarf to winnow the grain, and sleigh bells to announce the coming of a “team of great rats.” The vocal range of this piece is wonderful for developing choral tone in young voices and provides early opportunities to respond to a director. The long note that concludes each verse is on a nice focused [i] vowel, and the final verse has a grand pause that the students love practicing for dramatic performance.
A New Year Carol
Friday Afternoons, Boosey & Hawkes 171900
Unison choir, piano
If you don’t know this little gem, it hides in the pages of Benjamin Britten’s Friday Afternoons, which you may have in your library already! This collection is worth its weight in gold and worth a flip-through to find amusing text and great part-writing for children, often with canons and imitation. I have used A New Year Carol to equal success with advanced women’s choirs, church choirs, and elementary school choirs, and it works well for bringing students back together after winter break. The melodic line uses MRD and RMF motives in alternate, and sits in a tessitura with open vowels that is great for developing young voices. This year, my church choir requested to sing it at their final Youth Sunday service as an all-season favorite. The anonymous text could be tilted toward church use, to be sure, but I’ve also found it appropriate for school choirs.
Patricia McKernon Runkle
Boosey & Hawkes 48020880
2-part chorus, piano
Text by Susan Swanson in “Trouble, Fly” can be found in an anthology of night poems written for children affected by the 9/11 attacks of 2001. It directly addresses ‘trouble’ and asks it to “fly far away from…family mumbling in their sleep.” I consider the combination of this text and Runkle’s music a sort of modern day spiritual. The somewhat imitative parts create a mood that moves from dissonance to harmony, and that allows singers to access the part-singing. Although the pulsing piano part looks and sounds complex, it is repetitive. The first time my elementary singers got to sing with the accompaniment, the piece came alive for them. For many it was an early experience in part-singing, and they were able to find success because of the good part-writing and listening across parts that the piece requires.
Keinan Abdi Warsame (K’naan), arr. various
Available as printable sheet music from Sheetmusic.com, or in the children’s book mentioned below
Unison choir, piano, percussion
Coca-Cola Celebration Mix (with altered text) from Hal Leonard 90541323E
Somali-Canadian artist K’naan wrote this piece for his home country and its people’s aspirations for freedom. The text reflects some of the hardship he and others faced during rebellion and war. After release on his 2009 album Troubador and with success on Canadian charts, it was picked up as an anthem for Haitian earthquake relief and, later, the 2010 World Cup. This song and story were an immediate hit with my students; we book-ended our concert with it and the National Anthem, already part of my curricular teaching. Although some students were familiar with the altered text in the World Cup version (“about happiness and soccer balls,” they said), we discussed the importance of portraying the artist’s’ original intent and message. Adding student percussion is an option, but not necessary. Although not a choral arrangement, a little creativity in this piece will go a long way. Music and all text is printed in the back of K’nann’s children’s book “When I Get Older: The Story Behind Wavin’ Flag.” Reading this and listening to his words will get your singers hooked. Please contact me if you have any questions about the arrangement or how we performed this.