DEVELOPING VOICE SCORES
Writing music for developing voices is a special passion of mine, which began when I started teaching middle school. While I write music for mixed and treble choirs as (which you'll find on this page), I have a special passion for music designed for developing tenor and bass voices. I find the challenge of writing quality music, based on substantial texts, which fits into the range required for changing ranges, to be exciting and important work. As Andrea Ramsey, a composer, educator, and person who I greatly admire once said, "their ranges may be smaller, but their souls are not." I hope, as you browse these selections, you find something that you and your students enjoy.
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This song, which has my own text, was designed specifically for middle school men’s voices (a niche which I have dedicated myself to writing for quite seriously in the past year). It opens and closes with a mournful lilt, but has a more driving and hopeful midsection. From the forward: "This is a song of encouragement and empowerment. It speaks to the universal story of hardship, but also talks about overcoming those challenges to become the best version of one's self. Keep striving, young men." Premiered in November 2015 as part of the Florida ACDA Men's Honor Choir.
This melody by James Gordon is so absolutely haunting, I knew it had to be set for MS voices. The original song is structured fairly predictably, so I varied the accompaniment and chord structure with most repetitions of each section to create some more interest. The slow rocking of the 3/4 time signature mimics the feel of a barge trudging through icy waters, and the Gordon's lyrics are deeply sad. The piece also features a unison refrain, which will give some wonderful teaching moments. Premiered Oct 2015 as part of the inaugural Symposium on Singing and Song in Newfoundland, CA (Patrick K. Freer, conductor).
A classic text by Shelley. There is, of course, a famous setting for solo voice by Roger Quilter, but I wanted to write something different. This piece is a mid-tempo waltz written in mixolydian mode (with the exception of the bridge) with a lot of added-note and lightly chromatic chords, which gives it a sort of “floaty” feel. There is a lot of opportunity for tone-building here, with many extended vowels and long phrasing.
With the combination of the "Dies Irae" chant and a "double-double, toil and trouble" text that your students will certainly recognize, this would make a perfect piece for a fall (or Halloween) concert. Alternatively, there are plenty of "teachable moments" in here to make it a perfectly satisfying festival piece. The optional middle part makes this accessible even to changing voices, but fair warning: the piano part is fast and tricky. Also available S(S)A (Click Here).
With a desolate and despairing opening, this piece is a "winter song" that is anything from bright. The minimalist piano part creates a wash of color and blurs into a sort of soundscape. "Toku-toku" is a Japanese onomatopoeia roughly equivalent to "drip-drop" in English, and the rest of the extremely evocative text for this piece will appeal to young singers. In addition, I have ensured that the piece contains "flexible voicings," so that is may be performed effectively with either middle school singers or upper-level groups. This piece is part of an (in-progress) choral song cycle featuring several haiku by renowned poet Matsuo Basho, including "Aki No Kaze."
All is Well
A thoughtful examination of life in America in the early twenty-first century, where confusion and division abound, this piece was written in response to the tragic shooting at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, and finished after yet another shooting in Parkland, Florida. Ultimately hopeful, the text of this piece challenges the singer and listener alike to make the world a better place.
The Curse is written for two-part men's chorus. After a slow mysterious opening, it opens up into a fast hemiola rhythm. Don't let that time signature scare you—this piece is incredibly singable and catchy, and the percussive piano part is fully supportive throughout. The text explores the "weight of potential," that is, the burden carried by people who realize that they can make a difference in the world around them. With lines designed for developing male voices, your young men will love this piece that doesn't talk down to them or insult their intelligence.
Beochaoineadh (The Stars Stand Up in the Air)
Beochaoineadh (a Gaelic word meaning "elegy for the living," pronounced "bay-o-keen-yoo") is a simple two-part setting of Thomas MacDonagh's "The Stars Stand Up in the Air" for developing men's chorus. This moderate-tempo work employs a folk-esque melody atop a fully supportive, impressionistic piano. Accessible for beginning groups, the piece would also work well as a simpler selection for a high school men's chorus.
"Fairy Song" was written when I stumbled across this lovely text by Louisa May Alcott-- who is most well-known for authoring the classic book, "Little Women." I loved the imagery in the poem, and was also interested in the archaic interchange between "fairies" and "elves." Interestingly, I learned that the two were originally considered very much the same thing up until the mid-twentieth century! As a result, though, the piece could work just as well on a winter concert as any other event throughout the year. "Fairy Song" works equally well as a 2-Part or Unison piece.