Pick Six By:

Sarah Cohen

Repertoire and Resources Chair for SSAA Choirs
The College of St. Scholastica


High Flight

Karen Linford Robinson

Santa Barbara Music Publishing SBMP 704

SSA or TTB, Piano


From the opening rotation of the aircraft propeller to the depicted suspension in air, Robinson’s setting of Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee’s poem is pure magic. Soaring melodic lines add tension in the most perfect moments, breaking from unison into dramatic harmonies complimented by shifting meters, truly honor the poetic intent. Preparing the 5/8 and 7/8 out of context (ie. start with the rhythm first) is essential for singer success. Intermediate to advanced groups will love the pseudo-Romantic era expressiveness of the through-composition, which provides ample opportunity for singer discussion/input of artistic interpretation. Note: The recording provided adds and extends the piano solo section.

From Behind the Caravan: Songs of Hâfez
II. Suffer No Grief

Abbie Betinis

Abbie Betinis Music Co. AB-049-23

SSAA, viola or cello, Persian hand drum, and optional Oud


Translation (from Persian):

Lost Joseph shall return to Canaan. Suffer no grief. This house of sorrows shall, one day, become a rose garden. Suffer no grief.

Betinis’s song set, From Behind the Caravan: Songs of Hâfezan, is an incredibly moving setting of the 14th century mystic Khwâja Hâfez-e Shirazi’s poetry. This second movement is most easily excerpted and accessible for advanced treble choirs, with optional solo introduction if you have an exceptional singer. Singers will readily relate to the hauntingly stark moments contrasting with lush harmonies approached from familiar chords and chromatic motion. Introducing the close harmonies can be integrated into warm ups as a study in whole and half-step motion. The canon in the center of the piece is a bit of a stretch for the alto range, but can easily be solved by equally dividing the sopranos and altos across all four parts.

And Suddenly

Michael Engelhardt

Walton Music WLG144

SSA, piano, horns, rhythm section
Instrumental Parts Available WLG144A


Look no further for a showstopper to close your holiday concert. Seriously. Engelhardt has taken the gospel style to an entirely new level, further enhanced with instrumentation that can be adapted to your ensemble and personal sense of adventure. Chordal voicing throughout allows singers to pick up the piece at a rapid pace and focus on style and tone right away. Opportunities for introducing/reinforcing concepts of root position, first, and second inversion chords and vertical tuning abound. The variety of sections, from ‘funk groove’ to ‘double time’ are a continuous engagement for audience and singers alike.

Lullaby (from Three Nocturnes)

Daniel Elder

GIA Publications G-8759

SSA, piano
Available SATB G-8368



Stunning in its simplicity, Elder’s Lullaby from Three Nocturnes will leave singers from ‘day-one rehearsal’ connecting immediately to the musicality of the piece. Strictly diatonic, this piece is an excellent reinforcement of solfege skills, using common intervallic leaps and stepwise motion to approach less familiar chord tones. The piano accompaniment, independent of singers, supports and allows for the voices to reach ownership of their role throughout the piece. Melodically driven, this is a perfect piece to work on vocal technique, providing an intrinsic understanding of ‘pull’ in the line from singers.

Camino Caminante

Stephen Hatfield

Boosey & Hawkes M051470716

SA (divisi), piano, percussion


Translation (from Spanish): Ay traveler, there is no path, the path is made by walking.

Primarily two-part, with three part divisi in the reflective opening and closing, this Afro-Cuban piece provides an approachable and satisfyingly upbeat way of increasing part independence. Passing back and forth segments of the primary melody, singers will easily feel accomplished by learning the entire melody first and discovering the manner in which Hatfield weaves it throughout the piece. The 6/8 rhythms are best felt with movement by using physical activity, especially to feel the pick-ups into macro beats one and two. Transitioning into the middle section needs careful preparation at a slow tempo, where the quarter note is felt as the new pulse. Once understood at the slow tempo, the felt ‘new meter’ section falls in place at tempo. The call and response and polyrhythms will be enhanced if your performance space allows for the choir to be divided and placed across from each other.

Will The Circle Be Unbroken

arr. J. David Moore

Fresh Ayre Music FAM-1072-02

SSAA, unaccompanied
Available SATB FAM-1072-01


This Appalachian tune on its own is full of melodic interest, and Moore has created a setting that feels like it has always been a part of the tradition. The rhythmic intricacies are more varied than they first appear, so careful consideration of warm ups and exercises using on- and off-beat preps will avoid having to backtrack to correct rhythmic inconsistencies. For introducing the piece, have all singers start with the alto line melody for full understanding of balance when in parts, then add the bass line for harmonic context. If you have a capable solo trio, utilize their talents (as in the video). Additions of traditional bluegrass instruments and offbeat claps on the final refrain are an added bonus to a rousing performance.