Beginner Choral Literature

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    Hello Choral Teachers!

    I am struggling to find good pieces for my 6th grade choir, which includes many students that have never been in a choir before this school year. I feel that to be effective and enjoyable for both me and the students, the music they learn needs to be/have:

    1. In a comfortable range (usually from B below the treble staff to D on the third line), without large leaps
    2. Simple rhythm content; on the beat, repeated from verse to verse (imitative/canons are probably a good thing)
    3. Easy to hear tonal patterns and key center – definitely no modulations
    4. Interesting, meaningful, and engaging words – I find that many pieces that are attainable for my 6th graders have text that is probably more suited to elementary school. My students find some of these songs to be boring or sappy; I view them as simply not being a good match for their personality at this age.

    What are some of your favorite sources for beginner choral music? What are some pieces that were rewarding for you and your students?

    Oh and by the way, I found myself in this job after teaching Band for four years, so I am glad to hear any tips you have for someone new to the subject. I love choral music and I want to give these young singers a solid foundation.



    I’m going to refer you to my colleague Dr. John Wayman. He is a specialist in this area and has presented workshops and clinics on the subject. His e-mail is He plans to answer via the forum tomorrow but if you have specific questions you might use that e-mail address.

    Jeff Bauman
    Choral Chair, NAfME


    Thank you, Jeff!


    Here are a few ideas for you to investigate. Let me know if you use any of them and if you recommend them to others based on your criteria. THANKS! Chris Peterson

    Al Shloshah & Hinei Ma Tov – Naplan
    Galop from Solfe Suite – Berg
    Under the Calico Tree – Thompson
    Cantar! – Althouse
    Fairest Lady – Nick Page
    Play for Me A Simple Melody – Berlin/Shaw
    Circle Round the Moon – Hierholzer
    This Shall Be For Music – Mark Patterson
    My Lord – Joyce Eilers
    Promised Land – Natalie Sleeth
    Hush! Somebody’s Callin My Name – arr. Dennard
    Route 66 – arr. Emerson
    Where’er You Walk – Handel/Rentz
    American Folk Song Rhapsody – arr. Spevacek
    I’se the B’y
    Zol Zain Sholem – arr. Josh Jacobson
    Seize the Day from Newsies
    Double Trouble – John williams (from Harry Potter)
    Path to the Moon – Thiman
    Cameroon – arr. Michael Scott
    Glory Train – arr. Grier/Everson
    Great Big Sea – arr. Dolloff (Newfoundland Sea Shanty)
    Children, Go Where I Send Thee – arr. Schram
    Pick a Bale of Cotton – arr. Edwin Childs
    Scales and Arpeggios (from “The Aristocats”) – arr. Audrey Snyder
    A La Media Noche – arr. Greg Gilpin (Puerto Rican Folk Song)
    Oh, Dear! What Can the Matter Be? – arr. Ruth Artman


    Wow, that’s a good list Chris! It would have taken me a week to put that together. I recognize several of the titles from judging LGPE, though.



    Also a good beginner piece is Tom Shelton’s arr. of Pie Jesu; unison in Latin- good for working on intonation, blend, and pure vowels.


    I love Grab A Partner and Grab Another Partner books of partner songs by Sally Albrecht and Jay Althouse. My upper-elementary choir eat up the arrangements. My only complaint is that they’re short – avg 2 minutes each – so I would have my pianist vamp and repeat a section on “la” – typical fillers. I would also recommend folk songs – Sail Away is one anthology. Also grab MENC’s books of Get America Singing and Get America Singing… Again! Have the kids sing ostinati, sing once through then clap on 2 and 4, sing sections on “la” and other such extenders. Folk songs are important for kids to learn because they are historical. Good Luck!

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