Choir Songs for Christmas and the Holidays

Happy December everyone! Some of you are still teaching and others (like me) have been off since Friday. This year it was a "push to the end" as my choir concert and first grade concert were on December 1 but then my tonechime choir had a performance on December 10th and my choir had a field trip to sing at the Senior Holiday Lunch on the 15th.  My friend, Aileen Miracle, and I were talking about choir music and we thought it would be fun to bring you some of our favorite choral pieces that we've done as well as some we're excited about for next year.

Before we start, my choir is made up of 4th and 5th graders. I have 93 in choir this year.  Before I was at my current school my choir was 3rd, 4th and 5th grade and it was at a title I school. It was quite a different demographic but I had rehearsals structured the same.

We start choir in September with 4th graders coming one morning and 5th graders coming a different morning.  We keep this rehearsal schedule until the 1st week in November. This allows me to thoroughly teach each grade a different part. As we approach the end of October/beginning of November I start to sing the other grade's part so they start to get use to hearing it (and it's not that strong yet as it's me "vs" them" so they can really hear each other still.

Once we hit the second week of November we start combining. We usually have 3-4 practices before Thanksgiving week and then the concert is traditionally the week after we get back.

This year we had a fun and full program with 10 different octavos, here are my "Favorite Five"

1.  Sleigh Ride by Cristi Cary Miller

This song is non-holiday specific, it's not Christmas, not Hanukkah so if you're in a situation where you can't sing about holidays this song is wonderful!  There are some tricky spots where the kids are singing in thirds but there's a beautiful section towards the end where they break into partner-like parts. Here's my choir singing it at rehearsal last week:

2.  My Favorite Things by Rodgers & Hammerstein/arr. Mac Huff

We're having an "Erie Choir Festival" this year and I knew I needed to pick something that would work on a holiday concert and we could sing again in February.  This arrangement is lovely: there's a part where the first part sings on an open vowel "ahh" above the melody line. Later, there is an echo part where the first part sings and sustains a pitch which part two echos it.

3.  Ring Bells arranged by Susan Brumfield

I LOVE this arrangement. It's two parts and very obtainable for young singers. Additionally, there's a bell part which my tonechimes learned how to play. The kids loved it and it was nice because it's a traditional German Folk song.

4. Mary Had a Baby (forgive me, my music is at school and I can't find the arranger- I will update in January)
THIS was the kids' favorite this year.  The majority of the song is in unison (it was our only unison piece this year actually) but there was a part where 4th grade sang a 5th lower.

5.  I Saw Three Ships arr. by Ruth Morris Gray
This one was MY favorite this year. I LOVE this song and it's really pretty simple with most of the part singing in echo.  There is a section in which their is singing in parts that is not echo and its' lovely- it also has a descant that was very obtainable and I had a small group sing.

When I select concert repertoire I try to get a variety- we have Christmas songs, Hanukkah songs (this year with did Bim Bom and Shine Hanukkah), winter songs and one non-holiday or winter song. I also try to pick some pieces that are more serious in nature and then at least one or two that the kids will really like, despite their cheesiness.  This year we did We Are Santa's Elves, which was pretty darn cute.

Next year I know that I'd like to include these pieces:

1.  You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch.  This is a "kids'" choice piece and I'm picking it because I promised my son that we would add it next year. Lame reason I know, but it's important for kids to have a say in the music selected as well!

2.  Old Man Winter by Lois Brownsey and Marti Lunn Lantz
We sang this one a few years ago and the kids LOVED it. It's an easier two part song with body percussion. It's non-holiday specific so if you are looking for that kind of a piece it's wonderful!

3.  Linus and Lucy by Vince Guaraldi (Arr. Roger Emerson)
We did this one in 2015 and it's SO hard but next years group I think will be able to handle it. There's no text, just nonsense syllables. The kids LOVE it and it's challenging.

4.  Peace on Earth/Silent Night by Peggy Lee & Sonny Burke/Snyder
I haven't done this one for a few years and it's one of my all time favorites. I was telling Aileen about it a couple weeks ago: it meshes up "Peace on Earth," the song from Lady and the Tramp with Silent Night and it's just lovely.

I know Aileen and I are bringing you this blog post towards the end of December but we hope that it helps in your planning for next year!  I would love for you to comment below with some of your favorites! I am really on the look out for some authentic, tried and true octavos for Hanukkah, if you have any!

Happy holidays everyone!!! And Happy New Year!

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