Choir Gems

I am happy to report that I am typing this post from my big, cozy orange chair at HOME, enjoying my first official day of summer!

Before I get to the "meat and potatoes" of my post, I want to take a quick moment to celebrate the work we do as Kodály educators. I have now had the chance to work in several buildings where I was the first teacher to use the Kodály method of instruction and the folk literature that accompanies it and, after finishing my first year in a new building, I can say with certainty that it is amazing! I heard parents comment all year with statements like, "Sarah won't stop singing at home" and "Drew can't wait to find out what the next rhythm you will be learning is!" I listened as students told me about how they taught their brothers and sisters at home the songs we learned in music. I saw kids playing music games on the playground and at girl scouts, watched as kids connected the dots of music literacy, and experienced the joy that comes from singing and playing together.  Aileen posted about the upcoming opportunities for taking your Levels classes here. If you haven't already completed your levels, I can't recommend it highly enough!

Okay...back to business.

After reading Karla's last post, I was inspired to take a minute (well, many minutes) and reflect on my school year.  As I tried to brainstorm what I could post about that would be helpful during this time of year, I decided to share some of my favorite choir pieces from this past year for you to consider as you plan for your concerts in the upcoming year!

I would describe myself as a "Children's Choir Fanatic." I just love the sound of children singing together! I have directed children's choirs for the Denver-based Young Voices for Peace, the Spokane Area Youth Choirs and currently serve as the Preparatory Choir Director for the Boulder Children's Chorale. When it comes time to choose repertoire, I spend hours and hours wading through piles of octavos and playing through piece after piece. I often find it helpful to keep a running list of possible song ideas and use a concert planner, because it can become overwhelming to keep track of all the music that is available! I have a sample concert planner that you can download for free here and I'm working on a new and improved one that will be available soon!

This year, I conducted a few of "tried and true" favorites and found some new gems, too! I hope you will find one or two new ideas or at least be reminded of an old favorite that you can use in the future! I have posted the links to the scores below, but I always encourage people to search YouTube if you want to hear a full recording!

For Unison Choirs

1. Path to the Moon by Eric Thiman
I consider this a must have for every children's choir library. Beautiful melodies, beautiful poetry, and great opportunities to teach breath control, phrasing, and dynamics.

2. The Little Birch Tree arr. Mary Goetze*
This is based on the traditional folk song, which is a great way to make a connection to your classroom teaching. I also love to draw the connection between this melody and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4. Great for teaching vowels (especially oo), dynamics, and phrasing.
*Mary Goetze has a wonderful collection of folk song octavos for children's choirs. Some of my other favorite titles by her are Piglet's Christmas and Fire. You can see some of her other titles here.

3. Wee Little Piute arr. Heirholzer
I taught this song for this first time this year and loved it. It is in a great register and has a lot of references to Native American traditions and language.  Plus, it has some amazing "ahs" to help your young singers open up their head voice.

4. A Great Big Sea arr. Lori-Anne Dolloff
A fiddle player and a spoons player are a must for this piece. The text painting in the piano is wonderful and opportunities to work on larger vocal leaps are great!

For Two or Three Part Treble

1. The President's Tea by Tom Benjamin
This is a piece by a modern composer filled with fun language like "sassafras silk" and "pillykin." It has several tempo and meter changes, making it a great piece to work on following the conductor!

2. Dodi Li arr. Doreen Rao (one of my favorite arrangers!)
This piece sits beautifully in the child's voice. The piano is energetic and rhythmic, and it is great for teaching form to your singers.

3. Skylark and Nightingale arr. Audrey Snyder (another one of my favorites!)
I already mentioned this piece in a previous post, but it is just so beautiful. It has an optional glockenspiel part which is pentatonic improvisation (perfect for tying in your classroom teaching) and the text is just lovely.

4. Kokoleoko arr. Donnelly and Strid
I taught this for the first time this year after hearing the folk song in my Orff Level 1 class. It has very approachable harmonies and a fun, upbeat feel. It is a little bit long (I ended up editing one section out), but it is very easy to teach! I added some drums and other percussion to my performance to make it an energetic opener!

5.  Fod! arr. Miller
I love the humor and nonsense in this song, and my kids had fun singing it, too!

6. Windy Nights arr. Cynthia Gray
Great poetry, 6/8 meter, and minor! My students really enjoyed this piece and it was a great way to break up the collection of major, duple meter pieces available for children's choirs!

I could go on forever! I intentionally left out my Winter/Christmas/Hanukkah songs to post later in the year, but these were definitely some keepers from the year! I am always on the hunt for a new and wonderful song, so I would love to hear some of your favorites, too!

And now...back to my summer book. I hope you have a great week!


  1. Great post, Kate! I've done a few of these pieces, but some of them I've never heard of. I will have to bookmark this and come back to it when I next order choir music! Thanks! :)

  2. Looking forward to your Christmas post!

  3. These look great! Thanks for sharing - I'm always looking for some gems for my choir. I can't wait to check them out. :-)


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