Tried and True Middle School Gems: SSA

Karla McClain, Middle School/Junior High R & R Chair

I am very fortunate to have some treble-only choirs at my school. I love that for my treble singers, I can push them to more advanced levels of music than if we were working in SAB choirs. I have to confess – treble choir is my favorite type of ensemble to work with! Here are a few of my favorites for this voicing. 

Letter from a Girl to the World, by Andrea Ramsay. This is SSAA, but a lot of it is only in 2 parts– in fact, I combined the A1 and A2 parts for most of the piece to keep it more manageable when I have performed this. The message is so great for young women as well. 

Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around, arr. Rollo Dilworth. This piece is a fantastic arrangement of this important Civil Rights protest song and lends itself to cross-curricular work. It is a great chance for students to work not only on 3 part stacked harmony, but unison lines all in one piece.  My favorite part is the vamp section–it’s a bop!! I recommend doing an extra repeat of it without accompaniment for an added impact. 

Gerakina, Henry Leck. This is a wonderful piece to work on building capacity for part-singing. It starts in unison, goes to 2 parts, and adds a descant after a key change. You definitely need a good accompanist for this one because the piano part is a challenge. It is a great exercise in mixed meter for students. When my colleagues and I have taught this in the past, we start just working on mixed meter in our bodies before we start learning the song. 

Clear Water by  Robert I. Hugh. This lovely piece is another great one to build capacity for part singing– melody, 2 parts, and then builds to 3 parts at the end. There is a beautiful contrasting middle section and the text is beautifully set musically to capture the mood. Rob writes so well for treble voices. Students have loved every one of his pieces that I have programmed. 

The Joy I Feel arr. Tim Gregory. This is technically a medley, but I have only performed the second song of this set, “Muyo.” I actually learned this by rote from a colleague– we not only taught it to our students, but had our audience sing with us! You can easily teach the parts using solfege. It also features a “caller” part that gives students an opportunity to have solos. 

Sesere Eeye arr. Mark O’Leary. This Torres Strait Islands folk song is so fun for students to sing, and features movement, best learned by watching this video  posted by O’Leary. The hardest part is coordinating the dance with the singing, but it is a very effective piece. You can definitely use solfege to teach the parts, which helps students maintain the harmony. 

The Fog by Audrey Snyder. This is very simple–it is really just a 3 part canon, but it is effective and you can really work a lot on phrasing, expression, and vowels in this short tune. 

Wake Me Up arr. Deke Sharon. If you want to dive into contemporary a cappella, this might be a great starting point for your middle school treble singers. The students love that at some point in the piece, EVERYONE gets the melody. It is very repetitive and while there are challenging sections, it is very doable for middle school.

Karla McClain