What I’ve written for children’s choirs and youth choirs

Anyone who directs a children’s choir or youth choir will know the struggle of finding suitable pieces to sing. You want something that doesn’t use extreme ranges, which can be learned by ear for non-readers, but gives the more experienced singers in your choir something to get their teeth into, with appropriate lyrics for a younger group but that doesn’t patronise the older members and isn’t twee… it’s tough! I’ve tried to write pieces which I think I would have enjoyed as a young singer, and which I can see myself directing with choirs ranging from 7-year-old beginners to cynical 17-year-olds. I hope some of them will work for you. All of the links below include full scores of each piece, not just a few sample pages.

If you’ve only got time to look at a couple, my personal favourites at the moment are “Why We Sing” and “All My Friends Live In My Pocket”.

Easiest pieces are at the top, harder ones at the bottom.

Welcome Carol – for piano and unison choir. Range is C4 to C5 (transposed versions available on request). Ideal for groups with a social justice focus or who include refugees. It’s a Christmas carol so it includes references to Jesus, but it isn’t ‘preachy’ at all and could be sung for a multicultural audience. Free under a Creative Commons license. Donations to anti-racism causes appreciated.

Under The Wide And Starry Sky – for piano and unison choir. Range includes only 4 notes (D4, E4, G4, A4) as this was written to be used in Kodaly-based work, and has been sung by several groups from the National Youth Choir of Scotland. A bit more solemn and thoughtful than the average children’s choir piece, this would suit a memorial service, Remembrance Day, etc. Transposed versions on request. $2/copy from MusicSpoke.

It’s Raining – for piano and unison choir. Range includes only 5 notes (D4, E4, G4, A4, B4), again written for Kodaly-based work. This is a rather more playful piece, ideal for introducing your choir to extended melismas! The first three verses are about how depressed adults get by rain, with crunchy chromatic harmonies from the piano, before breaking out into a gleeful celebration of puddles. $2/copy from MusicSpoke.

The Camel Round – works in up to 5 parts, range C4-D5, uses Mixolydian mode. Free for educational purposes. “A Bactrian camel has two humps, a Dromedary has just one, but if you bought a camel with no humps, that’s a llama, and now your money’s gone.” The words follow the shape of each animal’s back and neck, with helpful illustrations!

My Wish – for guitar and unison choir, range A3-B4 (but could be transposed up easily with a capo). With words by 4-year-old poet Nadim S., this was written in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic for an online performance “On Hope”. You can see the online premiere from Lom Smith here. Free if you can record it.

There Is A Green Hill Far Away – for 2-part upper voices a cappella, a new setting of these well-known words. Lower part Bb3-C5, upper part C4-F5. Free if you can record it.

A Bicycle Wheel – another round! This one uses a maximum of 3 parts, and has rather more different harmonies in it than the average round does. Range is A3-D5. Price: pay-what-you-want! Free if you can record it.

Why We Sing – for 2-part choir and piano, about why we think singing can change the world. Upper part range C4-E5, lower part A3-D5. The third verse can be rewritten to suit whatever cause you are singing about. Free under Creative Commons. “Just one voice can start the singing, Stories grow with every word, No-one is too small to matter: Raise your voice, you will be heard.”

All My Friends Live In My Pocket – for piano and unison voices (with optional 2-part harmonies). Range Bb3-Eb5, with lower harmonies briefly going to G3 and upper harmonies occasionally going to F5. It’s about phones, social media, connections, and having friends all around the world. Watch the video from the premiere here, and I’ve also made a scrolling score video. Now available from MusicSpoke.

We Are One Voice – for piano and unison, 2-part or 3-part choir. Written for a choral festival, the request was for something that all choirs at the festival could perform together, or sing separately in their own concerts – so there are versions of this for unison choir (range A3-E5), 2-part choir (which can be SA, TB, or mixed – lower part A3-E5, upper part B3-F#5) and 3-part choir (SSA, SABar or TBarB) and SATB, with an optional middle section for the 3- and 4-part groups, all of which have the same accompaniment parts and can be sung at the same time. If you run more than one choir and want a piece where they can join together, this would be ideal. The words are by Euan Tait, who’s also written for Kim Andre Arnesen, Paul Spicer and Carson Cooman. $2/copy from MusicSpoke.

The Water Cycle – for piano and SA choir, occasional divisi to SSAA. Alto range A3-D5, sopranos Bb3-G5. Click here to see the full score. A song about nature, but also educational! With lyrics by Julia Laylander, this tells the story of the water cycle through rain, rivers, glaciers, snowmelt, and oceans. The choir subdivides into several small groups, each led by an instrumentalist. Percussion needed: 1 metallophone (or vibraphone with motors off) or glockenspiel; 2 xylophones or marimbas; several rainsticks. The mallet percussion parts should be playable by older schoolchildren with some music reading ability. Rainsticks can be played by a group of choir members in addition to singing. $2-$3 per copy from SheetMusicPlus.

Also see my compositions for upper voices, some of which have been performed by youth choirs (Farnham Youth Choir have sung “Thou Knowest Lord” and NYCoS have sung “God To Enfold Me”, among many others), and a massive spreadsheet of all my choral works and arrangements.

If you like the music but nothing here is quite what you want, email me and let’s talk about what I could write for your choir! I’m always happy to discuss new commissions.