Choosing Choir Music for Children: Part III

“Perhaps the single most important factor in determining positive choral experiences for children is repertoire selection. Choral singing can start the beginning of a lifetime curiosity and desire to participate in the choral music experience.” — Angela Broeker, MENC member

Last week, Form and Part Singing were discussed.

This week, Broeker discusses Accompaniment and Pedagogical Implications.

Treble voices can be enhanced greatly by a beautiful accompaniment.

The continuous treble sounds during a children’s concert may be balanced through the use of a bass instrument such as cello or bassoon, in addition to other traditional accompanying instruments, such as piano, organ, or guitar.

Every time a new accompanying instrument is introduced, children expand their knowledge of timbre and refine their tuning skills.

The addition of a bass instrument gives a harmonic foundation, and prepares the unchanged treble voice to eventually sing within a mixed choir.

The use of different accompanying instruments can be a way of providing variety and contribute to a more successful performance outcome.

MENC Chorus Mentor Kathee Williams adds: “The addition of rhythmic instruments can enhance the children’s sense of beat, and using Orff instruments can add the same harmonic foundation as bass and cello. There are numerous arrangements that include “Orffestrations,” many of which use the foundations of Kodály and Orff, which lend themselves to educational standards with benchmarks.”


Choral music educators have an obligation, as part of their profession, to combine the long term development of the chorister with performance. Development is a combination of music skills and conceptual understanding. This makes for an educated musician.

Choir directors must consider what can be learned from a particular piece.

For example, are there specific melodic, rhythmic, and formal elements as well as societal and historical considerations to be gleaned from the performance of a particular work? What expressive elements are called for in the score? What expressive interpretations might be inferred by the conductor, or by the student?

MENC Choral mentor Susan Haugland, in response to Part III, exclaimed: “I think this is great! I really liked the section on accompaniment because I hadn’t really thought about those considerations at all (being a string/instrumental person by training) and I liked the section on pedagogical implications because I think that’s a crucial piece that’s often left out when directors choose music. I think a lot of directors tend to think only of performance concerns, and sometimes forget that they’re also educators. I could be wrong about that, but I have seen this happen quite a bit!”

MENC Choral mentor Mary Jennings opined: “This is very extensive and an excellent philosophical basis for why we should choose music for children. I especially like the section on the accompaniment. These are the ultimate artistic goals and criteria to which we as music educators should strive, understanding that sometimes the everyday realities of the classroom may not always make this possible.”

Angela Broeker, Associate Professor of Music, Director of Choral Activities, Women’s Choir, Chamber Singers, University of St. Thomas, Minnesota; used with permission of the author; from MENC’s Spotlight on Teaching Chorus

–Sue Rarus, May 14, 2008, © National Association for Music Education