Back to school: What to sing?????

This entry was posted in National Newsletter - 2014 - Issue 1. Bookmark the permalink.

Jenni Thom, Scotch College, VIC

Selecting suitable repertoire is one of the keys to a successful musical year in a school, particularly with a Primary School aged choir.  It is no mean feat to find new songs that:

  • Are vocally appropriate. (Check out the song’s range, number of parts, step wise melodies, harmonic writing, accompaniment).
  • Use rhythmic and melodic elements appropriate. (Have your singers already established some vocal and literacy basics in the classroom program?)
  • Capture the students’ interest! (Will the value of the song be immediately appreciated by the students or will this require careful guidance?)
  • Will inspire an audience. (Who is the audience: parents, peers, general public, an adjudicator? Are you trying to educate as well as entertain your audience?)
  • Will inspire you as the conductor/teacher! (To teach a song well, you have to like it too!)
  • Are of an appropriate genre? (Religious theme? Classical? Pop? Australian?)


With younger, more inexperienced singers, humorous lyrics are often a key to maintaining enthusiasm while more discerning older students may thrive on something that offers them a real challenge.  Occasionally, it can give a boost to your program if you select a piece that you know that the students’ parents will really enjoy. Often this will inspire a family to seek out a recording of the song  (YouTube is good) to enjoy together. If students have good feedback from home about what they are singing, this may spur them on further. One of the best ways to find new material is to listen to other choirs, attend repertoire-reading sessions at conferences or run by music publishers or speak to those involved in the industry (Mark O’Leary is always helpful). This is a list of fifteen tried and true treble choral repertoire that I have used for the past fifteen years successfully with primary aged boys who participate in a well-established Kodaly classroom music program. Some songs are oldies but still priceless! The YouTube suggestions are to give an idea of the song material, not necessarily as a good musical example!!

Click here for song listing and details


Jenni Thom has been Head of Junior School Music at Scotch College since 1999 (maternity leave 2013) and has also worked for the Australian Boys Choral Institute and Berwick Youth Choir. She has a particular interest in primary age boys’ singing and the Kodaly philosophy.

This entry was posted in National Newsletter - 2014 - Issue 1. Bookmark the permalink.