Recommended by Rachel Steele, School Choral Specialist
The concert schedule for lots of schools is the same year-in and year-out. Consider shaking things up this year with a “combo” concert! Combine your groups across levels (imagine how big your band will be with students grades 5-12!) or across genres (your 6th grade choir would love to sing a piece or a medley with your high school jazz band!).
Whether it is a holiday performance, patriotic salute, or end of the year celebration, there is no more powerful statement to your community than a performance that features both your instrumental and vocal performing ensembles. Show your parents, administrators, and school board members how many lives you and your colleagues touch, and give your students an experience that they will remember for years to come.
This arrangement from the moving 1997 movie Amistad features poetry by Bernard Dadie in the Mende language, and music by arguably the greatest film composer of all time, John Williams. Since the choral is available in a variety of versions, this can be done with children’s choir, middle school choir, high school choir or any combination. In addition, the available String Pak means that your orchestra and/or band could play. Present this with sensitive program notes, appropriate readings or even excerpts of the film – your students will gain a new perspective on the history involved in this amazing music.
***For more advanced orchestral/choral groups, consider the John Williams Signature Edition of this piece for orchestra, SATB Choir and Children’s Choir.
I love this carol medley specifically because it uses carols that are not overdone, but still common enough that your audience will recognize the tunes. Included are “Suogan,” “I Saw Three Ships,” “Good People All, This Christmastime,” and “The Seven Joys of Mary.” Since the band arrangement and choral arrangement(s) can be done as stand alone pieces, take some time to analyze where you may want to eliminate the melody in the instrumental (so as to feature the choir), or eliminate the chorals for a section to feature your instrumentalists. The variety of voicings available for the choirs make this piece very do-able for most middle school or high school groups. The Grade 3 band arrangement should be a cinch for your high school students, and could be playable by a strong middle school group as well. Students will need the ability to play and sing in 6/8 time, while rhythms and ranges are moderate.
Armed Forces: Pride of America – arr. Larry Clark and Greg Gilpin
4th of July, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day – we get calls each year for service medleys that can be performed at all of these occasions. Our instrumental staff is a fan of this arrangement; it has some great quotations of Sousa marches in between the songs for each branch of the service. Though written primarily for concert band, there are reproducible string parts that come with the concert band arrangement. At just under 7 minutes, it can be a bit of chop buster but this is the ONLY arrangement that features the songs of all 5 service branches. It also encourages audience participation by including a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem. A solid piece for all organizations to have in their music libraries.
If you feel your group is ready for a traditional classical experience, try Schubert’s “Mass in G” or Vivaldi’s “Gloria.” Both are about 20-30 minutes in length, although doing just the “Gloria in Excelsis” movement of the “Gloria” is an option. One of the representatives in our choral department will be happy to help you if you’d like more information on pursuing either of these large works.
For more recommendations, give us a call at 1-800-42-MUSIC or email us at email@example.com Previous posts in this series : Men’s Combo Concerts; Women’s Combo Concerts; High School Choir w/ Children’s Choir
Rachel Steele has been working in the choral department at Stanton’s since 2013. She previously taught middle school and high school band and choir for 13 years, and holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in music education from The Ohio State University. Currently a member of the Heisey Wind Ensemble and a musician at Epiphany Lutheran Church (Pickerington, OH,) Rachel also enjoys reading, sewing, baking and the Pittsburgh Steelers!