Directors' Toolbox

Repertoire – Choosing Quality Choral Music, Part 2

February 12, 2014

In Part 1 we discussed practical considerations in choosing repertoire, such as the makeup of your performing group and the your intended audience.  Now we’ll look at how to find appropriate literature:

Where do you look?

  • Existing library of music where you teach  If the titles in your own library are not already listed on a spreadsheet, this would be a helpful project to complete. Enlist the help of student aides and perhaps some parent volunteers. Set up the fields you want, including title, composer/arranger, publisher, voicing, number of copies on hand, the date the piece was performed and even the style. This will make it easier to search for repertoire in the future.
  • Programs from previous concerts  This is especially helpful for teachers beginning a new job. Take a good look at what’s been done successfully in the past, particularly what was done four and five years before. It might give you a good idea of where to start.
  • Go online  jwpepper.com  has more resources and search capabilities than ever before. You can customize your search, hear quality recordings, see samples of the music, and search for Editors’ Choice, Pepper’s exclusive evaluation of the best new titles each year. Take a look at the Basic Library as well, where you’ll find a selection of chorals that have stood the test of time. Pepper also carries all state and festival lists.
  • More online resources  Other websites include:
  • Attend choral concerts  This is still a great way to find music. Go to as many as you can. Keep your program and make notes on it as to what songs are worth considering (or not!)
  • Conventions and conferences  Perhaps the most exciting, conventions and conferences can afford you the opportunity to hear many concerts, attend workshops, mingle and talk with colleagues, and even pick up free music packets.
  • Publications:  The Choral Journal, ACDA; Teaching Music, NAfME; Teaching Music through Performance in Choir, GIA Publications; Choral Repertoire, Oxford University Press; The School Choral Program, GIA Publications.
  • Build a library of recordings  Go to iTunes.com, amazon.com, and barnesandnoble.com to begin listening to and collecting recordings of professional choirs singing great music.
  • Build a repertoire file  When I began my career in education, I started a file labeled “ideas” into which I was constantly dropping notes during the school year. These were reminders to myself of things that I would change or implement for the following year. I quickly set up a file labeled “Repertoire Ideas,” to which I loaded pieces of music, programs, notes from students, and any and all ideas for music that I wanted to consider in the future.

Next post, the conclusion of Repertoire – Choosing Quality Choral Music

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