Holiday Selections

SBO Staff • August 2010Repertoire Forum • August 17, 2010


Carol of the Russian Children (arr. Donald Moore) pub. BriLee

Here is a cross-cultural selection for beginning choirs. The text is in English, and is secular, though it hints at the traditional Christmas story, and so could be used in worship or parochial settings. Texturally, it is homophonic. The last chord splits to three parts, otherwise it is strictly two-part, with a few bars of unison to begin the work. It is in A-minor with an occasional raised seventh. If performed exactly as written, the work lasts only about one minute. However, I would be inclined to add a repeat from measure 24 back to the beginning, thus almost doubling the performance time of the piece without adding any rehearsal time. Though not marked, a crescendo in measure 20 would blossom nicely into the forte marked in the following bar. Visit for a free score sample, beginning-to-end recording, and part-predominant MP3s.

Bim Bam (Hassidic, arr. Shirley McRae) pub. Colla Voce

Nigguns are wordless songs associated with a sort of spiritual catharsis. As a genre, they are typically not associated with particular holidays, and this is true of this piece as well. It is included in this column because it could, in a pinch, represent Hanukkah on a December program. However, it is not a “Hanukkah song” by any means, and should be considered viable for any time of year. McRae’s arrangement of this tune uses clarinet, tambourine and piano, and is voiced for SA chorus. The vocal texture is mostly unison, but splits to two voices. The form is strophic, with the melody stated once in unison, again in homophony (the altos get the melody), then the singers get a prescribed rhythm to clap for 12 bars. The key changes from D-minor to E-minor for the final unison statement, with a fun accelerando to the end. This selection is part of Ruth Dwyer’s excellent series with Colla Voce that focuses on the development of part singing in young singers. However, this could be fun for older singers as well, and might be a good “early success” piece for slightly older treble groups.

Also consider#149;

#149; “While Shepherds Watched” by Victor Johnson (pub. Hal Leonard). This is a Caribbean-style original composition using this eighteenth-century hymn as the text. It is for SA, piano, and flute. Add guitar and simple percussion to spice it up. May be reviewed online at publisher’s website.


Ave Maria (Saint-Säens, ed. Robert Boyd)

This is a lovely little gem that is not programmed nearly enough. Several editions are available, both for sale and for free download. Each differs slightly, most notably in key (‘A’ vs. ‘A-flat’). Boyd’s edition is clean and easy to read. He has inserted some logical breaths that are respectful of both music and text. It is scored for SA voices and piano (or organ). While a capable chorus of younger singers might be able to do it justice, my preference has been to perform it with more advanced singers. Don’t let the quarter notes and half notes fool you, achieving a mature and expressive line on this piece may be a challenge. The form is simply ABA with a coda. Be careful to not rush the tempo; allow the sixteenth notes in the accompaniment to be airy, not rushed. Your singers will need to be ready to hit those first notes cleanly and healthfully, or the whole piece could end up plagued by vocal tension. The two things that will contribute to their success will be an open throat, and preceding this piece in performance with one that will set them up vocally.

What Child Is This (English, arr. Ruth Elaine Schram) pub. Heritage

Scored for SSA and piano, with two optional clarinets. A slightly new take on this familiar carol, but the recognizability and accessibility for singer and listener is augmented by Schram’s approach, not diminished. A safe bet.

Gloria (Vivaldi, ed. arr. Wm. Chin and Javier Jos

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