Pick Six By:

Carole Whitney

Carole Whitney

Repertoire and Resources Chair for Ethnic Music
St. Paul Como Park High School


All of these titles are “oldies but goodies.” If you are a seasoned director take them as a reminder, if you are a newer director they are yours to discover.

Colinda, Cajun French Folk Song

arr. Michael Scott

Alfred Publishing SV8924

Two-Part, accompanied

This piece is a fairly easy sing for any combination of voices and can be done unison or two part. The B section is a partner song with the opening melody. Teachable elements include clapping on the off-beats, reading the well-done transliteration, and Cajun culture. Students especially enjoy the text:

It so annoys the old ones to see us have so much fun, but it’s our time to be young.

Salaam Aleikum, Traditional African Folk Song

arr. Laura Farnell

Carl Fischer, CM9246

Unison, or TB, TT, TTB, a cappella with optional keyboard and/or percussion

Arbor Creek Middle School Men’s Choir


Douglas County H. S. Honor Chorus

I used this with an SATB choir comprised of all my ensembles as a closing piece in our concert. The Arabic “Salaam Aleikum” is generally met with the reply of “Aleikum Salaam” but in this piece the introduction to Arabic is very mild and only uses the song’s title. The rest of the words are wishing the audience love in their hearts, homes, land, and world. The percussion parts are not difficult and the arrangement is very flexible in voicing options.

Kwaheri, Traditional Kenya and Tanzania

arr. Brian Tate

Pavane Publishing, P1313

SATB, a cappella

Rosthern Junior College Chorale


Athens Drive High School Choral Department – All Choirs

Also a closing piece wishing your audience “Goodbye, dear friend; we will meet again if God wills” in Swahili, this is a piece that can be rearranged to meet any choir’s needs. There is a soprano/alto solo section that could be performed by a separate choir. I’ve also done this, raising the key and re-voicing the sopranos to the tenor line, with only women.

From This House

By Ben Allaway

Santa Barbara Music Publishing, SBMP 225

Double choir: SATB, a cappella, percussion

Messiah College Chamber Singers

We did this piece in a Habitat for Humanity concert and it worked really well, but what is really special about this piece is the text. Ben Allaway choose really meaningful texts and From This House continues that tradition using the themes and flavor of South African freedom songs with East African rhythms and percussion. There are multiple performance notes and ideas from Mr. Allaway along with a translation and pronunciation for the Swahili. Solo opportunities, small ensemble as choir 1, choreography – the only limit is your imagination!

Gate Gate, a setting of a Buddhist mantra

By Brian Tate


SATB and piano

2012 Western Illinois University Summer High School Camp Choir

A second title from Brian Tate, Gate Gate is a rhythm setting in 6/8•3/4 time with a 7/8 section, and it opens with a choral recitative giving you a chance to work on rubato. The text is challenging to interpret and allows for some deep conversation and analysis. While this text is regarded as the essence of Buddhist teaching, it is non-religious in nature.

Congori Shangó, Calipso from Limón, Costa Rica

arr Ronaldo Brenes

Twin Elm Publishing

SATB, a cappella

College of St. Scholastica Concert Choir

Another rhythmic piece, in Congori Shangó everyone has a melody. Woven together, the effect is delightful and it makes a complex sound for less advanced groups. There are lots of great concepts to work on.