Elementary School Christmas Choir
I love directing my children’s elementary school choir. I typically have 75-95 children in 4 – 6 grade. We stick with non-religious music…here are my favorites!! (not in any order, sung in unison unless noted)
First Footprints, Phyllis Wolfe-White and Karen Bodin, Heritage Choral Series, 2 part.
The Best Time of the Year, George L.O. Strid, Hal Leonard, 2 part. Jingle bells during chorus. 2 part measure 37 – 53 and 69 – 83 (did not do three parts).
Easy Songs with 2 Parts
Winter Fantasy, Jill Gallina, Shawnee Press. 2 part. Jingle bells on the second verse.
Housetop Carol (includes “Up On The Housetop”), Catherine Bennett, Alfred, 2 part. Used jingle bells at measure 25. Clapped on beat one on measure 33 and 35.
Happy Winter, (includes Frosty the Snowman), Jill Gallina, Hal Leonard, 2 part. Used jingle bells during “thumpity thump”
I’m So Glad It’s Christmas, Ruth Elaine Schram, BriLee Music Publishing. I had a soloist sing m. 5-8, another sing 9-12. We then went back to measure 5 and had the entire choir sing to the end.
Christmas Comes From the Heart, Teresa Jennings, Plank Road Publishing. Sign language and soloists (repeated the first verse, soloists sang the first time, whole choir sang the second time)
Heri Za Krismas, Jay Akthouse, Alfred Choral Designs. It is in Swahili, the translation and pronunciations are in the music. We sang in unison throughout. I used a combination of rhythm sticks, castanets and egg shakers (the rhythm sticks were the least favorite). We repeated the rhythm at measure 9 from the beginning until measure 22. At measure 25 we only played the downbeats (2 per measure). Measure 41 we returned to the original rhythm (and played/sang quietly!). At the end of measure 55 we cut to measure 79 and played instruments on the beat again (and sang loud). At measure 96 I had a small group (made of my top soloists) sing the descant.
Merry Christmas Bells, Teresa Jennings, Plank Road Publishing. Used hand bells and jingle bells.
Silver Bells: Soloists/small groups and handbells.
Deck the Halls, Silver Bells, Twas the Night Before Christmas, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire. All of them I used small groups and soloists during parts of the song.
Closers/All Time Kid Favorites
Mistletoe: Phyllis Aleta Wolfe, Heritage Music Press, 2 part. Used lots of planned facial expressions.
Hot Cup of Cocoa, Phyllis Aleta Wolfe, Heritage Music Press. 2 part. Hands down the favorite! We clap on beat 1 of measure 21, 23, 25…. I did not divide into two groups until the second verse. We combined again at measure 54 (and sang in unison)
Everybody’s Waitin’ for the Man with the Bag, arr. Roger Emerson, Hal Leonard, 2 part. (my husband is a jazz saxophone player he played a solo at measure 37 the kids loved it!)
Choc’late in my Stocking, arr. Carl Strommen, Shawnee Press, 2 part. (they made very “bored” facial expressions in the beginning then looked excited just before “C” “he’s about to hear from someone with good taste!”). All in unison although one group sang the second line at letter “f” while one sang the top line, they sang in unison on page 10 to the end (happy for the rest of the year).
Gonna Catch That Santa, Andy Beck and Brian Fisher, Alfred, 2 part. Snapped on beats 2 and 4 during piano parts. Had fun with dynamics.
We practice for an hour once a week after school starting at the end of September. We sing the very beginning of December.
We have three performances each year: a school assembly, an evening parent performance and an off site performance (at the mall).
I am required to have a permission slip for each student. Students check in each week at the door. I have a parent who mans that table and then makes sure only one student goes to the bathroom at a time.
I try to get as many parents to help as can! I need one to check kids in and make sure only one goes to the bathroom at a time. I have one that comes in and works with the soloists and one that helps with the speaking parts. I have one that works with the bell parts and steps in if I need a second conductor on a song. Last year my teenage daughter did this and loved it! It was great having her there! I also have a few parents decorate the auditorium for me!
I learned to have the parent performance before the off site performance, I reversed that one year and had low attendance at the parent performance.
The kids are most nervous for the school assembly! I always have to work hard to get them to sing loud at the beginning of the parent performance.
We are lucky to have had parents make red sequin show vests before I became involved with the choir. They look great! The students provide their own white buttoned shirt with a collar (boys dress shirt) and black bottoms, we provide the vests and bow ties. For the school assembly they wear jeans and either a red or white solid shirt, although this year I will have each student purchase a school choir shirt that they will wear!
Almost everything we sing is in unison
I typically do 8 songs each year. I reuse one favorite song from the previous year. At least one or two others are familiar traditional carols (for example Frosty the Snowman with an additional second part).
We perform in our school auditorium on the steps leading up to the stage. We have three rows. We start the program by having the kids run (in their lines) from the back of the room onto the steps during the introduction! The first song is always an energetic “I’m excited for Christmas” type song.
I try to do at least one 2 part song every year (ex: Happy Winter). I always have 1-2 slower songs for variety. I like to have at least one traditional non-children’s Christmas song (ex: Deck the Halls, Silver Bells). They always enjoy a sign-language song (ex: Christmas Comes From the Heart – I don’t do it enough but they love it!). I love to do a song where they can use a rhythm instrument (ex: Heri Za Kristmas, we used a combination of rhythm sticks, castanetts and egg shakers). I use hand bells in at least one song. The instruments definitely take a lot more work (as do they soloists) but I have a lot of fun with them and it breaks things up!
I try to involve as many kids as possible in extra ways: speaking parts, hand bells, jingle bells, solos and small groups. Only 5-6 graders are allowed to do this since I don’t have enough parts for everyone.
Handbells: I have two sets of hand bells that we use on 1-2 songs. The kids loooove it!!! I have the kids sign up and tell me how long they have played piano – these kids get the more complicated bell parts.
Speaking parts: I typically have a speaker welcome people to the concert and close at the end and a few inbetween (I never speak in the mic!). I usually have two at the mic every time there is a speaking part and each get one sentence.
Solos and small groups: I hate this part!!! But the kids love it so I continue on. I have the kids audition after we have had a few rehearsals. They sing a line from one of the songs they should know well. We do it quickly after one of the rehearsals. Every kid who tries out either gets a solo or is in a small group. I usually have 2-3 soloists, a couple of duets and then 1-3 small groups. I will sometime repeat the first verse of a song and have a soloist take a line and then have the whole choir repeat the verse (each soloist gets a line). Oftentimes the small groups will take a verse that we don’t have time to learn. The choir gets antsy during the solos so I try to spread them throughout the program!
Jingle Bells: I have about 20 good sets of wrist bracelets that get used a couple of times during the show (always when they run in!).
I love doing the school choir! I would love to hear what ideas you have to make it fun!
2015 Program (songs without information can be found above under “favorites”):
The Best Time of the Year
African Noel, Victor C. Johnson, Heritage Music Press, 2 part. (it was difficult to put together won’t do again). Used rhythm instruments.
Merry Christmas Bells
Deck the Hall (we used kazoos for all “falalalalas” on the 2nd and 3rd verse. My first year doing this it went great. Last year several parents complained about germs even though their child’s name was on the kazoo and they used sanitizing wipes to clean them and we only used them the last two rehearsals. It was such a pain I won’t do it again but it was fun!) Kids loved the song even without kazoos!!
Christmas Comes From the Heart
Gonna Catch That Santa
I’m So Glad It’s Christmas
Christmas Medley: Silver Bells (bell choir), Chestnut Roasting (used a few soloists), Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (too high). I loved using these songs but the song was way too long even though we only did one verse of each.
Heri Za Krismas
On the Roof, arr. Jay Althouse, Alfred (was not easy to put together won’t do again)
Hot Cup of Cocoa
The Man With the Bag
2013 Program (there were 2 others but I didn’t like them):
Need a Little Christmas (came running in during intro, cut it shorter, it was fairly high, do not have a good arrangement yet but we all really liked it)
Christmas Comes From the Heart
Chocolate In My Stocking –
Up On the Housetop: Used slide whistles (instead of “click click click”) but the cheap ones didn’t work very well, I ended up getting some better ones and having a small group use them with the mic, probably won’t do again unless they all had decent whistles
Gonna Catch That Santa
Ones I have purchased that look good but I haven’t yet tried:
Skateboardin’ Santa, Emily Crocker, Hal Leonard (2 part)
Christmas Wishes, Ruth Morris Gray, Heritage Music Press (2 part)
Mister Santa, Christma
s Version of Mister Sandman, Pat Ballard, Hal Leonard