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Programming Thematic Concerts
by Beth Klemm, Repertoire & Standards Chair – Children’s Choir – California Chapter ACDA
(repinted by permission, CA ACDA's "Cantate" newsletter, Fall, 2008, Douglas Lynn, Editor)

klemmHave you been playing through your piles and files of music searching for just the right songs for your programs? One way to help with your decision-making is to pick a theme for your concert. With the theme in mind, you can decide between several favorite songs easier just because of their connection or lack thereof with your chosen theme.

Having incorporated thematic concerts for the last several years, I find there are even more benefits than just the help in choosing music. It inspires the cover art and my director's message. Rather than once again saying how "glad I am that they came to the concert, enjoy," I am able to set the mood of what the audience is about to hear. It makes the experience for both singer and listener much more cohesive.

I first started with thematic spring programs, and now am doing the same for my December concert. My board requested I rename my Christmas concert, so it morphed into the "Holiday" concert which was very unsatisfactory to me. My retort was, "Which holiday?" If we are referring to one, why can't we name it? Then it became "Songs of the Season." Better, but which season? Winter Concert would have been more acceptable since at least it is referring to something tangible. So, last year a theme! "Songs of Peace" allowed me to program many Christmas songs, but also music that conveyed the message of peace (Dona Nobis Pacem, Ma Navu, A Shlosha D'Varim). It was delightful.

This year, my title is "Rejoice," and any song about joy or celebration seems to fit (Il est Ne, Deck the Hall in 7/8, I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In, How Beautiful Are the Feet, Sing We Now of Christmas, Here We Come a Wassailing, Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, Pat-A-Pan).
Spring concerts have many more possibilities. "Sail Away" featured songs that had some connection to water (Shenandoah, Blue Waters of the North, Bring a Little Water, Sylvie, Candle on the Water, Down by the Riverside, The Trout, Dome Epais, Skye Boat Song, The Water Is Wide). We even added Enya's "Sail Away" as exit music to walk off the risers.

"The World Is Full of Poetry" allowed me a chance to use many pieces by famous poets, and in addition, our singers had the opportunity to submit their own original poems, which we published as an insert to our program. Examples of repertoire included When Cats Run Home (Alfred Lord Tennyson), Ca' the Yowes (Robert Burns), Three Rhymes (Robert Louis Stevenson), Two Poems of Emily Dickinson, Dirait-on, Dreams (Langston Hughes), and the Irish Blessing.

Other themes have included, "The Song that Nature Sings" (Linden Lea, Down in the Red River Valley, The Sunny Side of the Street, Wade in the Water, The Swallow, The Storm Is Passing Over), "Musical Journeys" (Path to the Moon, Velvet Shoes, Erie Canal, Reflections of a Lad at Sea, J'entends le Moulin, Where Go the Boats, I'm Goin' Up a Yonder), and "All Creatures, Great and Small" (Badgers and Hedgehogs, All the Pretty Little Horses, Don Gato, The Birds, Were I a Tiny Bird, All Things Bright and Beautiful, and YES, Rossini's Duetto Buffo Di Due Gatti).

I'd be glad to send you the full program and publisher info of any of the songs we used in each concert. Send me any concert themes you have used successfully. I'd love to be inspired by your choices. Happy programming! ♦


Books on Beth’s Desk
Beth Klemm
Repertoire & Standards Chair – Children’s Choir – California Chapter ACDA

As a young girl, my family and I would visit the library regularly, and we’d all sit with a book and read in the evening. Now, it seems the only time I read “for pleasure” is on vacation or on the airplane. I am happy to say that several “study” books I have read recently have also given me great pleasure. Let me recommend some materials that inspired me this past year.

The Perfect Blend

Timothy Seelig – Shawnee Press
Iseelig-perfect-blend-book  enjoyed Tim’s style of writing (especially appreciating his short segments of readable chunks). It was very practical, usable, and entertaining (Learning can be fun!).

I put several of his rehearsal suggestions and warmups to use right away. One thing that CHANGED my rehearsal planning was his five-minute schedule. He broke his rehearsal into five-minute slots and planned what would happen in each. Believe it or not, I didn’t feel regimented or overwhelmed, but instead, more efficient. During rehearsal, as I glanced at my five-minute plan, if I found myself getting late, I felt free to push ahead to the next thing on my agenda. Rather than feeling like I ran out of time ONCE AGAIN, I found I completed what I had set out to do. I plan to purchase his sequel book, The Perfect Rehearsal.

Creating Artistry through Movement in the Choral Rehearsal
Henry Leck – Hal Leonard
OK, this isn’t a book...but I sure wish there was one to accompany this splendid DVD. This summer, many of us have had the privilege to work with Henry at the Summer Conference at ECCO and have been inspired by his presentation about Dalcoze Eurythmics.

Having attended one of his workshops about two years ago, I have been regularly reviewing this DVD and my notes. If you didn’t get to attend the conference, get this! I am including in my rehearsals many of the beat, rhythm, and phrasing activities I first was trained to use in my primary general music classes...stepping the beat, clapping the rhythm, turning on the phrase, stepping the macro beat while clapping the rhythm, etc. Incorporating these activities will keep your kids involved, and their singing will be much more alive. Plus, you’ll have fun!

Inninnocent soundsocent Sounds

Marie Stultz – Morningstar Publications
Perhaps some of you were able to attend the session at the national convention where Marie worked with the Miami Children’s Choir. Her passion for picking appropriate literature with the purpose of developing correct singing techniques for children was right on, and the kids responded beautifully.

In her book, she presents specific lesson plans for teaching vocal technique as well as presentation plans for literature. I felt she gave me tangible tools to help children understand they have control of their voice and they are able to manipulate it. Marie is developing a subscription membership service where you can access lesson plans for more octavos. I plan to check it out.

A Young Singer’s Journey

Jyoung-singers-journeyean Ashworth Bartle, Eileen Baldwin, and Linda Beaupre – Hinshaw
Lastly, a great musical literacy series has just been published by Hinshaw (Volumes I and II are available, with volumes III and IV in manuscript form). A Young Singer’s Journey was presented by Jean Ashworth Bartle at the Miami convention.

Having searched for years to find a musicianship book that fits the needs of my choirs, and having tried several semi-successfully, I can say I am purchasing this for my kids this fall. I spent several hours talking with the other two authors, Eileen Baldwin and Linda Beaupre. They were most gracious to share how they have piloted this series, along with Jean Bartle, with ALL of their choirs. Finally, a resource that teaches concepts through singing and the keyboard, and a CD so the kids have guidance and can practice/study at home!

I “piloted” a couple of the pages with my school choir to see their response. I couldn’t believe how EASY it was to connect with my kids. They were “playing” their pianos while singing the chromatic scale right before my eyes. They were asking questions. They were saying, “Oh! that why?” (That was from my smart 8th grade piano player who loves to challenge me.) Highly recommended for any age choir. Call me and I can fill you in on more details I learned from the three B’s.