by Darcy Morrissey, Chair of Youth Choral Music
On January 14 and 15, NKE, WA-ACDA, and 35 attendees kicked off the new year with an in-depth study, “American Folksongs Arrangements for Elementary Choirs,” guided by Dr. Andrew Seifert and Darcy Morrissey. We are delighted to announce that this was the 5th Annual Elementary Workshop and we look forward to continuing the tradition!
On Friday night we held a Conducting Lab where we explored conducting techniques through singing/conducting Harmonia Mundi and examined how we can challenge ourselves and our choristers through more intentional, parsimonious and clear gestures through differentiated levels. Then, attendees worked in small groups, conducting two versions of All the Pretty Little Horses. Finally, many brave volunteers got up and conducted the group. It always amazes me that the generosity of spirit and joy in learning at this workshop is always the primary undercurrent. This atmosphere allows for candid feedback and camaraderie, no matter where the conductor is in their experience and skill level- what a terrific group of colleagues.
On Saturday morning, we worked through activities and warm-ups that prepare choristers for part-singing development and independence, followed by a reading session of 20 American Folksong Arrangements. Unique to this packet, we explored octavos that shared the same folk song, but arranged in different ways which was a wonderful way to identify the many compositional devices that are employed for this level of repertoire and to unravel why or why not one arrangement would work better for certain groups.
We were delighted to feature Dr. Andrew Seifert, a local arranger and composer with an extensive background in choral conducting and pedagogy for young choristers. Andrew led us in singing four of his delightful arrangements (Bow Belinda, Deta Deta, Scrapin’ Up Sand, The Bluebird Song) commissioned for the 1st & 2nd grade choirs of Bellevue Youth Choirs. Darcy Morrissey also led the group in her arrangement of Bright Mornin’ Stars driving the point home that YES, even a non-arranger can create a piece by matching the compositional devices to the capabilities of your choristers! Essentially- we should all be brave and give arranging a try!
Next, Andrew did the BIG reveal: we sang through our commissioned arrangement, especially created for WA-ACDA & NKE titled: Chika-lai-lee-o featuring Eyes of Blue. Not only is it a delightful arrangement but, it is a cappella, which is a rare and wonderful occurrence in children’s choir repertoire. All attendees got to take this piece home and have permission to use it immediately with their choirs (up to 100 copies!)
Finally, Darcy walked through a list of pedagogically sequenced steps to Part-Singing, including the compositional devices that require these skills. These, along with Andrew’s many insightful suggestions ranging from story telling through the arrangement to engraving rules to what makes a successful arrangement were the foundation for the Arranging Workshop led by Dr. Seifert. The attendees were grouped into 4s and given a simple folk song to arrange. The results were beyond our expectations and sparked a great sense of achievement and creativity.
We do have extra octavo packets! If you would like to purchase one for $20.00, please contact Darcy Morrissey: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Andrew Seifert: email@example.com directly if you would like to peruse or purchase any of his arrangements or if you would like to commission him for your group or school district.