Dividing children's choirs for 2 part music
  • daniel
    Posts: 75
    How does one divide a children's choir for two part treble music? My first instinct is boys vs girls, but the boys have unchanged voices, so their range is the same as the girls. Mix boys and girls with strong leaders in each group?
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    You could have those that read well and keep their part sing the "harmony," while those who do not read music sing the melody, until they catch up.

    Or you could split them us\p, as you suggested with strong leaders in each group - which would make most sense for polyphony. I think boys voices sound different than girls, so, mixing them up may give you a more homogenous sound.

    You could also try different combinations until you achieve the sound and the working style you like best.
    Thanked by 2Salieri JulieColl
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    "Everybody line up! Okay. 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2...."
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • I go with strong voices and confident singers in each group, otherwise you can lose an entire group. Also trying to encourage them to listen to each other as they sing, no use if everyone in the group is lost.
  • I agree with canadash abd bonniebede on how to set up the groups.

    When I was teaching junior-high choir, I had the choir pre-divided (privately, after hearing them sing for two-three days) into teams named for the two school colors, with strong singers in each group. (They also worked in trios that they chose on singing various solfege exercises for a grade on Fridays, point of pride for them; I had them four days a week, which we certainly don't have the luxury of having in most churches.)

    I told them that they would take turns singing the top and bottom parts in our pieces, and I did rotate them, so no one got bored. After a few weeks, there were some gentlemen who were really showing signs of their voices changing, so I instituted a third group, the cambiate, and they would 'huddle' with me once a week and map out notes in whatever part, wherever, that were working. ("Dr. Warren, Sean and I have that G now--can we put it in the part?') Eventually, I also would have the 'descant team' whom I would pick for each piece that involved a yet-higher third part, usually three-to-five singers.

    By second semester, they all had an idea of whether they preferred high or low and melody or harmony, and I asked them to give me a slip of paper with their preference in those two categories plus the name of one person whose voice 'meshed' with theirs or helped them to be a better singer. (I'd done a lot of work with them on listening for intonation and timbre, and played around with seating arrangements according to what voices seemed to mesh best. They would be pretty honest with me privately if they were sitting near someone whose voice made them feel like they were working really hard for a good tone instead of singing with confidence.) Then I did split them into soprano and alto plus the descant team, with the cambiate in the alto section and also with 'personalized parts'. They didn't do competitions, so creating a new harmony part for them wasn't a choral sin.

    Part of the trick with 2-part treble music is to find music that's not all parallel thirds or similarly-shaped parts. Call and response is good; definitely different parts is good; melody with descant is good. Often, harmony above the melody is easier than below.

    And get the guys singing harmony as soon as you can, since that's where they're headed anyway :-)
    Thanked by 2tomboysuze canadash
  • 1. Pick your two strongest singers that are confident enough to lead a section (for their age) They are the kids with the best ears and strong ability to match pitch and sing back exactly what you've sung to them.
    2. Arrange the other kids by level of weakness, just like you would for a sports team. Keep kids that talk to each other away from each other - they will frustrate you because they won't stop talking....and that spreads like a disease.
    3. Work with each group to achieve a blend within their group - get them to listen to each other and tell them to match each other's voices. This forces them to listen to each other. One thing that works really well is to organize them into two circles and separate the circles by about 5-10 feet when you are rehearsing them. When they are facing each other in a circle, they are able to see each other's mouths and this helps them to achieve a good unison which leads to a good blend. I would do this in the classroom but not in the choir loft.
    4. Always, always, always rehearse them a cappella. NEVER play accompaniment for them. This reaps incredible benefits but you have to work with them phrase by phrase. I usually sing a phrase and then have them sing it back till it gets "in their bones" then add the next phrase. Once they have two phrases "in their bones" put them together. Then add the next phrase, etc. (Yes...it's a lot of work, but the kids I trained this way could sing polyphony (PALESTRINA) when they were in 8th and 9th grade.
    5. Work them till you can't stand it anymore....and neither can they ...BUT - and this is important - allow them to hear hints of the beauty they are about to create during this tough rehearsal.
    6. PICK THE BEST, MOST BEAUTIFUL MUSIC YOU CAN FIND. I almost always just used things that I would teach adults but chose carefully and modified them. American folk hymns are nicely suited to treble voices....FYI. So are a lot of things in the St. Gregory hymnal (Jesus, Jesus Come to Me).
    7. TEACH THEM CHANT AS YOUNG AS 2nd or 3rd grade. Emphasize the arsis and thesis in the chant. This is an very good way to achieve a kind of "choral wave" that allows them to feel the surge and repose of chant in their bodies...which gives them a powerful tool to intuiting rhythm and coordination because it's so subtle, but they can feel it.

    I'll shut up now. GOOD LUCK!