I think it can often be very difficult to find pieces that work well for 3 pt mixed/SAB–it really takes a lot of looking to find pieces that work for all of those changing voices! And what works well one year for a particular group, might not work the next time because of the unique voice change process, ensemble numbers and balance. However, here are a few pieces that I have successfully performed with my students in the past.
3 Part Mixed:
Glad We Be This Day by Phyllis A. Wolfe A colleague shared this piece with me almost 20 years ago! It is PERFECT for second semester 7th grade, because it gives everyone a chance to sing the melody, and the harmony parts are simple and in a limited range for the part III voices. If you have great cellists and flute players (you will have to transpose the recorder parts up an octave) in your program, they can play the accompaniment and it adds so much to this piece!
Zephyr by Amy F. Bernon I probably won’t let a rep list go by without a piece by Amy. She just 100 percent gets how to write for middle school voices. This piece is absolutely beautiful. It starts with a haunting unison melody, and then the treble voices continue the same rhythmic patterns while the part III voices sustain–I love this kind of writing where the changing voices sing a pedal tone like this– it adds interesting harmonic tension, while giving them something that is accessible.
She Sings by Amy F. Bernon Yes, I’m putting a second Amy Bernon piece on my list, because she is MAGIC for middle school. Every group I have done this with loves it. The ranges are perfection, students love singing her pieces, and her text gives kids the opportunity to really visualize and think about what they are singing. It is a great first 3 part mixed piece for middle school choirs.
Elijah Rock arr. Roger Emerson If you like Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel, this is written in the same style– slow beginning, then rocks out with a fun accompaniment part that kids love. This works so well because of the unison passage intermingled with simple harmonies.
Sto Mi e Milo arr. Daniel Hughes I have done another arrangement of this Macedonian piece from the Voiceworks book, and it starts in a lower key than this. If you start on middle C, the ranges in this are PERFECT for a 7th grade ensemble because the changers basically sing 2 notes for most of the song, and the upper voices carry the more challenging harmony. This is a great example of how an SSA piece can work well for a mixed choir!
Shine on Me, arr. Rollo Dilworth I’m sure everyone reading this knows this piece–a classic! The absolute perfect vehicle for teaching partwork to middle school voices. And the baritones get the main melody– it’s a winner!! There are some challenging elements in some of the transitions and rhythms that will take special attention.
John the Rabbit, arr. Robert I. Hugh Full disclosure– Rob wrote this for one of my ensembles a few years ago. If you haven’t done one of his tunes, this is a great one to start with. He puts a really unique spin on three folk songs, with a GREAT groove in the accompaniment. The call and response section works well for developing voices, and the most complex sounding part is really just a mash-up of all of the melodies and easy to teach.
I Dream a World by Andre Thomas I confess, I have never taught this piece, but plan on doing it this spring. My daughter was lucky enough to sing it in the Junior High Honor Choir at ACDA East last year, and I fell in love with it! The melody is so beautiful and gives great opportunities to really work on beautiful tone quality and blend. It is also a great opportunity to dive into the text by Langston Hughes and perhaps collaborate with your Language Arts teachers if they are working on poetry and/or the Harlem Renaissance.
Nine Hundred Miles arr. Philip Silvey This is a great piece for a group that needs a challenge. It is such a haunting arrangement, and the dissonance in the voices really evokes a train whistle! You can do a deep dive into history with this piece and the history of railroad workers. This also lends itself well to working on dynamics and musicality. It is one of my favorite pieces ever!
I Remember by Sarah Quartel I heard the SA version of this piece at a regional festival several years ago and fell in love with it. It is absolutely beautiful and my students loved it so much. There aren’t a lot of middle school pieces where you can work on rubato, and this lends itself well to that concept. Works very well to teach on solfege.
Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burnin’ arr. Greg Gilpin What I love most about this arrangement is that mostly it’s 2 part– the treble voices mostly sing in unison except for a few spots–that is what makes this so doable. The baritone part is in a perfect range and they also get a sweet little countermelody and the melody later in the piece.
Jazz Cantate by Andy Beck This is such a fun piece. Unison melody, canon, and some harmony mixed in, all in a jazz waltz style. With low C’s and D’s it would definitely be something I would tackle with 8th graders versus 7th, and even then, it might take a few note tweaks to make it work for all of the TB students.
Niska Banja arr. Nick Page (SAAB) Great for a group that needs a challenge, this SAAB voicing works so well for middle school. You can tweak who is singing what if it is helpful for various stages of changing voice, which is why I love it so much. It is very repetitive and also gives a chance for some soloists to shine if you choose. If you have never programmed this before, you need 2 piano players for this one. There is also an amazing clarinet part that was added in the newer addition, and is worth the purchase because it adds so much to the piece.