Between the brick and mortar publishing companies, the online publishing companies, and the online self-publishers, there is more music to search through than time in the day. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of music that we search through doesn’t fit the bill of what we need.
As I mentioned in another post, brick and mortar publishing companies have a limited amount of music each year that they can afford to publish while online publishers have way too much music; that’s not to say the quality level of online publishers is of a lesser level. Some of these online publishing companies work hard to only allow skilled composers on their site; the issue isn’t about quality, it’s about skill accessibility for our ensembles and how to find the right pieces.
High School repertoire, itself, is a unique art form. Many select high schools choose to perform college repertoire while self-selected choirs are torn between this same challenging repertoire or going down the hokey road of show tunes and taped accompaniment.
In conjunction with my strong belief that all high school singers should primarily sing in a self-selected choir, I also believe more composers should be writing highly artistic, well-constructed music that specifically suits high schoolers. Essentially fine high school writing is rooted in the basics of understanding proper vocal ranges of high schoolers, limiting divisi (especially with male singers), utilizing proper voice-leading, writing leaps that are easily singable, and inserting tonal and rhythm patterns that minimize petty errors. Sifting though endless websites, I’ve come forth with a plan that I believe can be helpful in finding great repertoire that your high school will sing well.
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Here are 9 ways to FIND High School Choral Repertoire:
1. Don’t wait until the end of the year to look for new music
Every time you hear a piece of music that you MAY like or consider, put it on a preliminary list. We tend to forget the pieces we hear and like randomly, whether live, or on social media. After compiling a year-long list, take a closer look at each piece to ensure the piece properly meets the parameters of a high school choir.
2. Join Facebook choral groups
There are several popular choral groups where colleagues freely and openly answer questions. If you ask a question such as, “I’m looking for a great SSAA a-cappella opener that connects with the theme of peace,” you will most likely find dozens of choral directors offering suggestions, links to the sheet music, and recordings on youtube, The groups I would recommend joining are: choral music, I’m a choir director, and Choral Repertoire Hub.
3. Find High School Choral YouTube Channels
Don’t reinvent the wheel. When you find like-minded directors with similar programs, you can find repertoire quite easily. Here is my high school choir’s youtube channel.
4. Follow the YouTube Lead
Most pieces that you initially find in a publisher’s catalog can be searched on YouTube. If you can find a decent recording of the piece that is sung by an age-appropriate ensemble, you will most likely find related selections to hear as well; related selections could be from the same composer, or same performing ensemble.
5. Visit jwpepper‘s online site and search editor’s choice
The choices the editors make, while not always on the mark, at least sift through many of the traditional publishing companies; this website has improved this many new features. It’s also important to keep in mind that jwpepper should not be your only stop; they do not carry every publisher and their editor’s choice misses many great pieces.
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6. Bookmark great composers and go directly to their personal sites
If you’ve performed a piece by a composer that really fit your ensemble, consider going straight to the composer’s site first. They may have self-published pieces as well as published pieces that span multiple sites. Here are six composers that I am a huge fan of for great self-selected high school ensembles:
Michael John Trotta, Kim Andre Arnesen, Jake Runestad, Ola Gjeilo, Jonny Priano, Elaine Hagenberg. Just note that not every piece they compose suits high school, but their fine skills and intent on general access-ability frequently lends their works to fine self-selected ensembles.
7. Visit Santa Barbara Music Publishing Company’s website
This company deserves immense credit for the quality of their music and the total website experience. I could not in good conscience lump this company together with any other site because they are head and shoulders above all other publishing companies. Not only is sorting within the “high school” parameter easy (voicing, style, etc), the quality of the recordings and visibility of the sheet music along with the ease of quickly moving from piece to piece make this website a total joy to use. I do not have any affiliation with this company, but plan on ordering several pieces for my high school ensemble this coming week.
8. Visit Graphite Publishing Website
They are the one online-only publishing company that I believe does a fantastic job. I have found myself navigating through their site in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep; they have quality music and great search-ability for high school repertoire. They are also working hard to make their music and their website high quality and cutting-edge.
This is my way of contributing to the solution of finding Choral Music aimed at High School singers. Every piece I write has been tested and/or performed by my high school self-selected ensembles. I can attest to the sing-ability of my pieces. There are recordings and/or videos of real high school choirs singing just about every piece for sale.