How to Choose Concert Music

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Photo by Becky Weber

Britney Chen, Online Editor

With every musical performance, whether it be the choir, band, or orchestra, there are always hidden hours that go into making every song sound great but there is just as much consideration put into the song choice for those groups.

There are several criteria that the Bingham music teachers use to choose their music. One of the main requirements is that the song must have “teaching value.” A song should be able to challenge the students but not be so difficult that they won’t try. Ryan North, Bingham’s choir teacher, said the music should “stretch them a little but not too much.” Darin Graber, Bingham’s band teacher, also chooses music based on their teaching value, sometimes to train a specific technique or skill like triplets or tone.

While it is necessary that the music teach the students, often the end goal of practicing is to perform, so the music should appeal to what I call the music trifecta: the players, the conductor, and the audience. Graber said a tip he got was to “pick a piece the kids like, you [the conductor] like and the audience will like.” North also thinks about how the song will sound with the others in the set. He said he wants to make sure that it fits with the other pieces “in terms of mood, character and certain key relationships.”

With everything to consider, it’s not surprising choosing the right song can take forever. North said he spends “hours and hours and hours picking music.” Even so, both North and Graber try not to repeat songs every year and even if they do, it’s at least four to five years apart. This is not that difficult considering Bingham’s extensive and growing sheet music collection. North even once had a song commissioned for the Madrigals.

While things like song choice don’t seem incredibly important, this attention to detail is what helps with a great performance. If you are going to spend weeks, sometimes months practicing the same song, it’s a lot easier if it’s a good one.