My summer is usually filled with searching for that perfect piece for teaching at the beginning of the year. It needs to have plenty of unison singing, accessible ranges, an easy buy-in for the students, and great text to dive into the meaning and poetry. I hit the jackpot this year, and I wanted to share them with you. These four pieces are great if you are looking for something that sounds complex, but is easy to put together and get kids singing in parts quickly.
1. Blessed Be- Melanie DeMore- Graphite Publishing
- This piece was just perfect in every way. It starts with an ostinato in the bass that is such a great range for developing tenors and basses. It is available for PDF purchase on Graphite’s website. Highly recommend it!
2. Shady Grove- Robert I. Hugh- Hal Leonard
- Available as an SSAB voicing so if you don’t have enough tenors and basses this works well to get a four part texture. This arrangement incorporates several different American folk songs and is great for teaching ostinato and minor keys. There’s an optional banjo and cajon part as well.
3. Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around- Rollo Dillworth- Hal Leonard
- Plenty of great unison singing throughout and incorporates Langston Hughes text between each iteration of the chorus. This can be done with piano or a capella, and is a great vehicle for discussions about social justice
4. Be Like the Bird- Abbie Betinis- Abbie Betinis Publishing Co.
- If you don’t know this beautiful round, you are in for a real treat. Some great lessons in vocal technique through some tricky leaps through legato phrasing. Available in English or the original French. She also gives some interesting variations of the round if you buy directly from her website.
William Gunn is the director of music at Plymouth Regional High School where he conducts the Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, and teaches a year long guitar elective. He is also the music director of the Pemigewasset Choral Society in Plymouth, NH and a teaching lecturer in music education at Plymouth State University. You may contact him at email@example.com.