//The 5 “ROUNDS” I Use in my Choral Program Every Year – and WHY!

The 5 “ROUNDS” I Use in my Choral Program Every Year – and WHY!

Rounds are an excellent learning tool and performance vehicle for choirs of all levels. Even refined high school choirs can gain a great deal from singing simple rounds.

While there are many different rounds I’ve shared with my choirs over the years, there are 5 specific rounds that I choose to repeat each and every year. Each chosen round serves it’s own unique purpose and offers my singers tremendous value.

These 5 rounds have become traditions of our choir, the same way an alumni piece would be at a Winter or Spring Concert; some rounds are concert traditions while others have become in-class traditions.

Here are the 5 “ROUNDS” I Use in my High School Choral Program – and WHY:

(and one more for honorable mention!)

1. Dona Nobis Pacem

This round is standard repertoire for both my self-selected treble, self-selected mixed choir, and at our annual summer choral clinic for grades 6-12. It is beautiful, has a universal message of peace, and can fit into virtually any concert program or community event. I’ve used it for community concerts and events, summer clinic concerts, early-year concerts, and many peace-themed concert.

This is an outstanding round to use for teaching vowels. It only uses four vowel sounds “oh, ah, ee, eh”, and allows for intense focus, especially when first teaching the round only on vowels. Consonants can be added later one at a time in order to give each one the intense clarity. I’d first add the “D”, following by the “P” the next time around, etc.

An example would be first learning the round in unison as: Oh-ah Oh-ee Ah-em. Once it is sung beautifully in unison, add the ‘D’ so it becomes: Doh-ah Oh-ee Ah-em, followed be ‘P’ so it becomes: Doh-ah Oh-ee Pa-eh. Then adding the ‘N’ so it becomes Doh-nah No-ee Pah-eh, etc. This unison repetition of singing on the vowels mixed in with special attention to each new consonant will make for beautiful, expressive singing. After focusing on vowels and consonants, I suggest then singing the song as a round.

In performance, I frequently have my choir circle the audience. I recommend when sung by mixed voices, giving the men the middle entrance: (1) sopranos, (2) men, (3) altos. I suggest all parts finish at the same time, when the 3rd part (the altos) reach the end of the round. As all parts end at the same time, I recommend creating a 3 part chord, with the men on their natural pitch “do” , altos on “sol”, which is their second-to-last pitch, and sopranos on “mi”, which is step-wise from their second-to-last pitch.

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2. Jubilate Deo

This is the processional I use with my 9th-10th grade self-selected Treble Choir for their annual winter concert. Our choir enters the auditorium in two lines and circles the audience. As they enter, the two lines take turns singing the melody in unison until they join as a circle. This is the first sound our audience hears at the concert! Once they are surrounding the audience, they break up into 4-parts and sing through the round twice, fading out as the final part finishes.

This is an easy piece to learn as it is 6 measures long and allows for attention to pure vowels. Similar to “Dona Nobis Pacem”, I recommend focusing on the vowels first before adding one consonant at a time. Each consonant will be vibrant when given this kind of attention! “Oo-ee-ah-eh Eh-oh Ah-eh-oo-ah” then becomes “Yoo-ee-ah-eh Eh-oh Ah-eh-oo-ah” and then “Yoo-Bee-ah-eh Eh-oh Ah-eh-oo-ah”.

Here is video of my 9th-10th grade self-selected treble choir performing the Jubilate Deo processional.

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3. Trick of Treat Halloween Round

I composed this fun Halloween round for the purpose of creating holiday spirit within my choir while focusing on a specific articulation issue.

One of the most commonly mispronounced connecting consonants in America seem to be “Tr” and “Dr”. Most Americans pronounce TR as CH. Chrick or Chreat is what it sounds like. Tuh-rick or Tuh-reat is the correct way.  Use Trick or Treat as a way to teach them the proper Tr and Dr sound. For “tr” and “dr” the lips should not move; only the tongue moves. It also helps to put an “uh” between the T/R and D/R. Here is a fun exercise to practice with:

Trick or Treating on the Train Track, Trust Me, Trouble!

(we Americans say: Chrick or Chreating on the Chrain Chracks, Chrust Me, Chrouble!)

(proper singing/speaking is: Tuh-Rick or Tuh-Reating on the Tuh-rain Tuh-rack, Tuh-rust me, Tuh-rouble)

Apply that T-R and D-R to all the lyrics in the songs with those connected consonants: drive, dry, drain, draw, try, trail, travel, trial, etc)

Here is my Trick of Treat Halloween Round that focuses on this most common singing and speaking issue:

It can be sung in 2 parts, 4 parts, or even 8 parts!

We sing this piece for the week leading up to Halloween every year and on Halloween have a tradition of making recordings of our choir singing in unison, followed by 2, 4, and 8 parts with beat-box!

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4. Thanksgiving/Fall Gratitude Round

Thanksgiving is our final stretch before Winter concert season. On the day before Thanksgiving we invite our alumni back to join us, as we begin to sing our holiday carols (Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa). But leading up to this day, I do not want to move into December’s holiday season. In fact, I have a goal to never sing Winter holiday music before this day.

With that said, Thanksgiving is an often overlooked holiday, and yet many of us have 2 days off from school and a world-famous parade. I created the Thanksgiving/Gratitude Round as a means to teach the two “th” sounds (voiced and unvoiced), both of which require a very forward tongue position. Thrown into the lyrics is the reinforcement of the “tr/ch” consonants from the Trick or Treat round.

This four-part round was created to focus on the “th” consonant and both its voiced and unvoiced sound. By making students hyper-aware of the “th” each time and teaching them how to position their tongue, students will improve their diction. When I initially teach this piece, I have the students sight-sing it, as it is major and diatonic, but still quite challenging.

This round can be sung throughout the fall season as it makes no direct mention of Thanksgiving. Also, it is a great choice for a performance and it is written with a beautiful ending chord, naturally infused into the round.

Thanksgiving/Fall Gratitude Round

If sung in a mixed choir it is recommended to be sung first in unison. Next, the suggest entrance order would be: Bass, Soprano, Alto, Tenor. This will allow for the best ending chord. All parts should sing until the last entry reaches the very end.

There are tons of things to be thankful for.

Things that we’re grateful for, we should give thanks for all.

Think of ththings that we treasure and cherish

Those are ththings we should thank every fall!

This is also a great piece to hand out for unison sight-singing since it is diatonic but not particularly easy.

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5. Valentine’s Day Round

I wrote this piece for my choir as a transition into the second half of the year. We spend the entire month of January on solo repertoire and begin our choral repertoire for the Spring in February. What better way to ease back in than a learning a round that begins in unison and moves into harmony?

In addition to the traditional purposes of a round (great for sight-singing, learning how to sing independent parts, etc.), this round is designed to focus on consonants that are frequently mispronounced or omitted as well as ones that frequently sound the same, even though they shouldn’t.

V (voiced) and F (unvoiced)
Tr and Ch (Trick or Treat Round)
P and B

Friendly Valentine!

Here are the lyrics with the highlighted consonants to focus on:

Will you please be my Valentine?

friendly Valentine, be mine.

I value, trust, and cherish you

Valentine’s a friend so true.

(honorable mention)

6. Music Alone Shall Live

This piece was the processional I used for 10 years when I conducted a senior citizen’s choir. We would begin every rehearsal by singing this piece and sing it to open every concert. Similar to Dona Nobis Pacem, it is in 3 parts, which allows for the men to enter second, surrounded by the soprano and alto entrances. My senior citizens would enter the room singing in unison and break up into harmony once they had reached the risers.

I believe it is more challenging that Dona Nobis Pacem or Jubilate Deo to create beautiful tone due to the English vowels, but it is a certainly a valuable round that can be used for virtually any occasion.

By | 2019-10-20T20:12:30-04:00 October 16th, 2019|Rounds|

About the Author:

Adam Paltrowitz is a master educator, composer, conductor, and clinician. During his 21-year tenure as the Director of Choral Activities at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in New York, his groups have toured throughout Europe, Canada, and the United States. He also has pioneered a philosophy that every student is a soloist. Adam's choral program has also gained great acclaim for the cultivation of eight student-run a-cappella ensembles; some of these ensembles have performed on national and local television programs. His compositions and arrangements have been performed by choirs around the world. Adam earned his B.S. in music education from New York University, M.A. in vocal pedagogy from Columbia University - Teacher's College, and Ed.M. choral conducting from Columbia University - Teacher's College. ​Adam resides in Manhattan with his wife, Blair Goldberg, a professional Broadway actress, and their daughter, Lyla, and son, Nolan.

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