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Resources I Can’t Live Without
Angela Hampton
ICDA High School R&S Chair
(reprint from Indiana Choral Directors Association newsletter "Notations," Christopher Brush, Editor)
August 2008

hamptonThroughout my sixteen years of teaching secondary public school choral music, I have accumulated a small library of resources in hopes of finding aids for choosing repertoire, preparing for rehearsals, teaching vocal technique, meeting state and national standards, and communicating with parents and community members. 

The titles included in this article are not intended to be a comprehensive review of all the materials currently in publication for choral directors.  They are my most frequently “pulled off the shelf” books and media that I would not want to do my job without.  Their covers are worn, and sticky notes and flags are marking their pages.  They are indispensable to me, and I would like to take this opportunity to share them with you.

My newest and most favorite resource is Teaching Music through Performance in Choir, Volumes 1 and 2, compiled and edited by Heather J. Buchanan and Matthew W. Mehaffey.  Each of these books is organized into two sections.  Part I contains articles written by prominent choral directors including Anton Armstrong, Weston Noble, James Jordan, Joseph Flummerfelt and Ann Howard Jones, just to name a few. 

As wonderful as these articles are, the repertoire resource guides found in Part II are why I love these books so much.  In each book, over 100 significant choral pieces are described, graded and analyzed, and organized by level and voicing.  When I am preparing a piece that is included in this text, my rehearsal preparation begins here.  The historical information, style considerations, translations and formal analysis that I need are all right here in one place.  Additionally, there are CD sets for each volume which contain recordings by reputable choirs of many of the pieces discussed in the books.

Another useful source for repertoire is a monograph by ACDA entitled The Foundation of Artistry:  An Annotated Bibliography of Distinctive Choral Literature for High School Mixed Choirs.  Annotations of over 300 selections are included in this book and are briefly described.  The last 75 pages are indexes of the 300+ pieces of music by title, composer, arranger, voicing, accompaniment, level of difficulty, historical period/style, text designation, geographical origin and language.

For just about anything regarding Latin texts, I consult Translations and Annotations of Choral Repertoire, Volume I:  Sacred Latin Texts by Ron Jeffers.  If you want to program a particular Latin text (“Hodie Christus Natus Est” for example), you could consult the appendix of this book to find 22 settings of the text, with the voicing for each.  You could then turn to the pages about this text and find the original chant incipit, the complete text and translation, the Biblical source for the text and liturgical usage.  Information about the liturgical year, the Roman Mass and the Requiem Mass is included as well as a detailed Latin pronunciation guide.  Jeffers has published two additional volumes — Volume II includes German text and Volume III includes French and Italian texts.

When I am looking for a new warm-up, or exercise to fix a particular problem, I reach for Voice Builders for Better Choirs by Emily Crocker.  This book is easy to use and contains over 140 exercises organized by topic, ranging from basic vocal technique to problem solving.  Some of my favorites are the multi-part exercises that focus on choral blend.  Piano accompaniments for most of the exercises (including  modulations) are notated in a separate section of the book, and a CD of the accompaniments comes with the book.  The best part is that all the exercises are reproducible for your singers.   This is very useful for teaching and evaluating sight-reading.

A similar resource is Building Beautiful Voices by Paul Nesheim and Weston Noble.  Like the Crocker book, this text has many vocalises and exercises organized by topic for developing vocal technique, and piano accompaniments for the vocalises are written out.  The authors have included excellent instructional strategies in each chapter with common problems or misconceptions.  I have found this book to be quite helpful when I need to fix a particular problem with my singers.  The easy-to-use format and organization put solutions at my fingertips.

In attempting to meet state and national standards, finding or creating meaningful written activities that enhance rather than take away from rehearsal is very important to me.  However, it is not an area in which I am particularly gifted.  Michael Jothen’s Master Strategies for Choir is the answer.  This is a book of reproducible activity sheets that really make kids think about what they are doing in rehearsal.  There are excellent writing prompts, theory and composition exercises, evaluation and assessment tools, as well as worksheets on text interpretation, diction, dynamics, vocal health, stage presence, music history and style.  It is a book designed to supplement the high school choral rehearsal, and challenge the singers to become better overall musicians through the process.

Finally, for my communication needs, the Choir Director’s Communication Kit by Tim Lautzenheiser and Brad White allows me to quickly customize letters to parents, community members and administrators.  Topics cover a wide range, including the benefits of choir as a class, fundraising efforts, recruitment, and recommendations for private lessons.  The templates are presented in CD-ROM format compatible with most word processing programs to be edited as needed.  For choral directors in the unfortunate situation of having to defend their choral program or justifying its links to student success, the templates in the music advocacy section could be a huge help.  For me, the templates provide an efficient way to inform others of the opportunities and activities my program offers.

As your ICDA High School Choir Repertoire and Standards Chair, I hope that I can be of service to you.  If you have a favorite resource, musical selection or rehearsal strategy that you would like to share with other High School Choral Directors, please send it my way. 

Bibliography

Buchanan, Heather, Matthew W. Mehaffey, eds., comps.  Teaching Music Through           Performance in Choir.  Vol. 1.  Chicago:  GIA Publications, 2005.

_______.  Teaching Music Through Performance in Choir.  Vol. 2.  Chicago:  GIA           Publications, 2007.

Crocker, Emily.  Voice Builders for Better Choirs, A Complete Resource for Choral            Directors.  Edited by Janet Day and Linda Rann.  Milwaukee, WI:  Hal Leonard,             2002.

Jeffers, Ron, compiler and annotator.  Translations and Annotations of Choral        Repertoire.  Corvallis, OR:  Earthsongs, 1988.

Jothen, Michael.  Master Strategies for Choir.  Edited by Sharon Stosur.  Milwaukee, WI:  Hal Leonard, 2005.

Lautzenheiser, Tim, and Brad White.  Choir Director’s Communication Kit.  Milwaukee, WI:  Hal Leonard, 2000.

Nesheim, Paul, and Weston Noble.  Building Beautiful Voices.  Dayton:  Roger Dean, 1995.

Silantien, John, ed.  The Foundation of Artistry: An Annotated Bibliography of        Distinctive Choral Literature for High School Mixed Choirs.  Annotated by Linda      Allen Anderson.  Monograph No. 11.  Lawton, OK:  American Choral Directors     Association, 2002. 

 

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