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11 Annual Alumni Choir Songs OTHER than “Hallelujah”

I hope you are reading this blog after my previous BLOG about why we must retire the Hallelujah Chorus. Prefacing my choices below, I want to explain that I have observed three general purposes that most high school choral directors use Handel’s masterpiece: ending the concert with a bang, exposing the students to a famous, high-quality piece of literature, and bringing the alumni back.

As a stand-alone piece, I am completely in support of a high school choir performing the Hallelujah Chorus. I would consider performing it on a given year, but I would not consider it as the type of people that should be sung year-after-year, or sung with alumni.

An annual traditional piece of choral repertoire, especially one intended for alumni to join, needs to be easy to lyrically and note-wise remember, easy to balance the varying voicing, and easy for alumni who may not have sung in years to be able to jump in and sing. In addition, these pieces should be a staple of our choral repertoire, not just a piece that we throw together last minute. Choir traditionals can be a tremendous teaching tool; it can become the core of the program, and how the new members of the choir learn the developed sound-culture of our ensemble.

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Some of the pieces on my list present a touching way to end a program. Should we choose to close with one of the “slower” songs, it would be suggested to program a closer beforehand. Our alumni would then join and share a moment of spiritual connection with the concluding traditional piece.

Also included on the list are several pieces below that are full of energy and strong closers to end the entire concert.  All of these pieces are great for building tone within the choir. If these pieces are taught to begin the year, the new members will fit into pre-established sound of the ensemble. By experiencing early success as a result of these pieces, the new singers in the ensemble will quickly become vested, and the traditions will continue to grow year after year.

(All of the titles link directly to a place where you can purchase the music. I have also linked varying YouTube recordings to demonstrate effective performances.)

Here are 11 Annual Alumni Choir Songs OTHER than the “Hallelujah Chorus”:

11. Carol of the Bells – arr. Peter Wilhousky

This piece is definitely an audience favorite, is easy to learn and memorize, and alumni will be able to remember from year to year. I would suggest taking a slower tempo when used as an alumni piece in order to engage a focus on unifying consonants and vowels.  While this piece is lyrically connected to Christmas, this piece has a backstory that preceded it’s famous lyrics and it’s affiliation to the Winter season. Here is a link for an article I found that explains the original intent of Carol of the Bells. While I cannot validate it’s accuracy, I can only begin the process of exploration into a deeper meaning.

Here is a YouTube recording of the Dale Warland Singers performing

10. The Lord Bless You and Keep You – Peter Lutkin

This piece is beautiful, touching, and can be used for many other occasions and be forever ingrained in the hearts of singers.

Here is a YouTube recording of the brilliant Westminster Choir College under the direction of Dr. Joe Miller.

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9. When Rooks Fly Homeward – Arthur Baynon

Similar to the previous choice, this is touching and a great choice to surround the audience with the alumni as a closer. There are two very simple verses, that can be learned quite quickly.  I suggest repeating verse two on “oo”. The final chords will create stillness throughout the entire auditorium. Several high schools in the area where I teach have used this piece as both an annual training and alumni piece.

Here is a YouTube recording of the Central Islip High School Choir under the director of Mr. John Anthony.

Dreidel (SATB); Concert Version

Dreidel (SATB) – arr. Adam Paltrowitz by Choral Clarity


8. Night of Silence (many voicings available) – Daniel Kanter

This original piece contains a beautiful melody with three verses. Silent Night can be sung as a counter-melody. There are so many different unique ways to frame this piece. There are also several arrangements that Daniel Kanter has written. My choir performs the unison arrangement of this piece. We sing the 3rd verse twice: the first time the female alumni sing Silent Night against the melody. The second time, all women sing the melody and the men stand up quietly from the back of the auditorium and sing silent night. There are orchestral parts or it can be accompanied on the piano. I’ve included two different performances that demonstrate the flexibility on the piece.

Here is a YouTube recording of the St Olaf Choir with Dr. Anton Armstrong conducting.

Here is a YouTube recording of the University Singers & Concert Chorale in the University of Minnesota Duluth. The arrangement on this link is for SATB. While it is beautiful, the unison arrangement is equally effective and takes way less time to learn.

7. Hallelujah, Amen (from “Judas Maccabaeus”) – Handel

If we are set on a classical closer, this is a much more attainable choice than the Hallelujah Chorus; it is short and sweet and has the a similarly strong cadence to it’s famous brother. Our alumni will remember the pitches from year to year and it is not that vocally challenging. It may couple with a second traditional that is more free-flowing to create a beautiful ending to a concert program.

Here is a YouTube recording link from The 2014 Mars Hill University Festival Choir under the direction of Dr. Christopher Aspaas of St.Olaf College.

Oh Hanukkah (SATB) – add this to your caroling packet!

Oh Hanukkah (SATB) by Choral Clarity

6. Every Time I Feel The Spirit (SATB or SSA) – William Dawson

Great, well-crafted spiritual that can be easily memorized, is very singable, logical in form, and is an upbeat closer.  It is a-cappella and has a solid closing cadence.

Here is a YouTube recording link of YCCM’s 2013 Finale Concert on April 13, 2013. Garrett Lathe, director. Soloists John Piekarski and Anthony Hommerding

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5. Praise His Holy Name (SSA or SATB) – Keith Hampton

This song should be taught by rote. If we teach this to start off every year, our ensemble will have this locked in and it will wow the audience. It has a great accompaniment and allows for riffing, clapping, and endless variations. The SATB arrangement is equally fantastic, and virtually the same with some added low parts.

Here is a YouTube recording link of the SSA arrangement at it’s premiere with my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Marian Dolan.

Your Star-Spangled Banner Arrangement Is Too Difficult!

4. One Voice (SATB) – by Joseph M. Martin

This piece was written as part of Sing For the Cure, a beautiful and inspiring work that raises awareness and money for Breast Cancer Research. “One Voice” is the final movement of the work. I suggest using the opening unison section for individual soloists. The alumni will comfortably remember the choral part year after year, and the climax is so powerful and will inspire an audience.

Here is a YouTube recording link of the Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School’s entire high school self-selected choral program singing it last year.

Alternative Concert Assignment – what to do when they miss the concert

3. The Storm Is Passing Over (SSA or SATB) – Barbara Baker

This Gospel piece should be taught by rote. It is simple and can be embellished with riffing, percussion, etc.  It has a simple gospel piano accompaniment. Similar to Praise His Holy Name, the SATB arrangement is basically the SSA arrangement with some added low notes.

Here is a YouTube recording link of Wheaton College Women’s Chorale, Mary Hopper performing it in a traditional way.

Here is a YouTube recording link of an absolutely link of this piece performed by the Detroit Mass Choir.  Many, many liberties were taken on this recording, which again demonstrates the joy and power of this traditional.

2. Stand Together (Women’s Choir or SSAB) – Jim Papoulis

This is a total winner.  It is high energy, has a great piano part with optional percussion.  It is mainly melody with some simple harmonies.  Alumni will look forward to singing this every year as it will bring joy to the audience and promote unity.

Here is a YouTube recording link of the Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School self-selected 9th-12th grade women high school women singing with alumni (conducted by a graduating senior).

1. Siyahamba​ (SSA or SATB) traditional

This piece is a winner because it can be taught by rote and learned in 5 minutes. I suggest singing it in Swahili, English, humming, and then Swahili and English with clapping. It is a perfect song for embracing Kwanzaa. I also prefer teaching this by rote and having everyone learn all parts.  

Here is a YouTube recording link of the Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School’s entire high school self-selected choral program with alumni singing it last year.

(All of the titles link directly to a place where you can purchase the music. I have also linked varying YouTube recordings to demonstrate effective performances.)

Oh Hanukkah – exciting 3 part uptempo with piano – easy to learn!


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