Tried and True Middle School Gems- Tenor Bass Voicing

Whether you have a dedicated middle school TB ensemble, or you do 1 song with those changing voices, there is so much great repertoire out there for these voice types. As with anything at this level, don’t be afraid to modify, simplify, or augment to make it work for your students. I do need to make a point to mention that some of these pieces and publications specifically do not use inclusive language (saying “men’s voices” instead of “tenor/bass” voices). It is worth it to have a conversation with your students, especially if you have students that are trans or non-binary in your ensembles. 

Two Unison Songs by Mark Patterson – I have only done the first song in this set, and it is one of pieces that not only works, but kids LOVE! It sticks with a range that is perfect, in that sweet spot of F-C. It is a beautiful melody, and there are a lot of teachable moments for phrasing and dynamics. I love using this at the beginning of the year as we work on finding our voices. 

Viva La Vida by Coldplay – My favorite TB “hack” is using Musicnotes for pop music. You can transpose to any key (hello, changing voices!) because they are usually solo lead sheets, they sound like what the kids know. When I did this last year, we actually ended up singing it with our orchestra, and it was such a fantastic experience for the students to collaborate. 

Eight Days a Week arr. Roger Emerson -You can’t have a middle school rep list without Roger Emerson! This is a great arrangement of this classic Beatles tune. Classic band+Roger= perfect song for middle school TB singers! 

Johnson Boys arr. Jay Broeker– This is an SSA arrangement, but works so well for TB at this age!! There are many times where I find an SA piece that works well– another great way to find repertoire! This one works in the written key, but sometimes a quick key modification is all you need to adjust. 

Let the Men Sing! A Cappella by Greg Gilpin- This is a great resource as it includes many pieces, and is reproducible. There are also audio rehearsal mixes included as well. I did “Wayfaring Stranger” from this book a few years ago, and it was a good challenge for my singers. That particular group included a great flute player who decided he wanted to compose a countermelody for it, and it was fun to work with him on that and it added another element to our performance. 

Bella Ciao arr. Christi Jones– I have not done this arrangement with one of my choirs, but have taught the folk song before and students enjoy singing it! It gives a translation and pronunciation guide. In addition, you can do a cross-curricular tie to WWII and how this song has been used as a song of resistance around the world. Musically, it gives each part the melody and an ostinato section,  and even throws a few 3 part spots in if you have a group that can handle that. 

Three Latin Songs by Laura Farnell– Don’t be afraid to just choose a portion of multipart work! I have done the first and last songs independently, and as a set of 2. This piece is a great study in changing meters– it is  great to work on rhythm reading skills! Options for adding a third part in sections if your students can do it. The ranges are perfect and each section gets a chance at singing melody. They are simple, but impressive sounding. 

The Chariot Spiritual, arr. Donald Moore – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve programmed multiple works by Donald on a program… he just intuitively knows how to write for middle school! I like to use this piece to get students singing alone– there are multiple call and response solo sections that are perfect for checking pitch matching! There is a great descant at the end for your upper voices as well. 
Fillimiooriay arr. Stuart P. O’Neil– Work songs are so enjoyable for students to sing, and this particular one gives you a chance to work in 6/8 meter. Some sections can be challenging for singers, but there is enough repetition that the arrangement is very doable. There is a short solo in the middle of the piece as well.  It is great to work on diction and storytelling through the verses. There is a great little descant at the end to make a 3 part split.