Ahead of the Back to School season, Musicroom has rounded up some new and exciting arrangements for school choirs from Hal Leonard. Our choral contributor, BP, has highlighted their favourite new releases from the Discovery, SAM-Klang, Pop Choral, and Voices in Harmony series as well as the latest Disney arrangements to mark Disney’s 100th Anniversary. Our recommendations will fit any choir director’s and schoolteacher’s tastes, budget, class size and vocal abilities, and cover secular, sacred, and popular music. A link is included after each section to browse other arrangements in each series.
Discovery Series for the Developing Choir
Hal Leonard’s Discovery Series offers arrangements of chart hits, jazz and rock & pop works into three levels of difficulty. With arrangements for 2-Part, 3-Part, SSA, TTBB, SAB and Mixed Choirs, there’s plenty of options for vocal ranges. With age-appropriate texts, rhythmic complexity and exciting musical content for young people, the Discovery Series is perfect for classroom settings and special musical occasions.
Audrey Snyder’s “Make a Difference” (available for 2-Part and 3-Part Choir) is an easy to learn and upbeat concert song written to instil school choirs with confidence and aspirations. We love the sustained chords in the refrain and how easy the melody is. Another piece by Audrey is “Winter Lights”, a serene composition available for 2-Part and 3-Part Choir. The piece paints the tranquil spirit of a winter nights and is easy to learn and excellent for teaching the art of expressive singing. We also really enjoy “It’s The Season”, a light-hearted and groovy concert opener. Whether you say, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” the piece makes a perfect musical holiday card for choirs of all ages.
Programming the great choral classics can tear you apart, especially when you don’t have the necessary forces or budget to put these great works together. Hal Leonard’s SAM-Klang is looking to change that and make classic works more accessible to all. A revolutionary new series of choral masterworks arranged for three voices, this series was specially made for choirs with a lack of lower voices, and incredibly so, SAM-Klang arrangements can be combined with any existing orchestration published, as well as original SATB and divisi versions – meaning younger voices and mature voices can join forces together to blow away your audience. These reduced forces arrangements are perfect for small choral budgets, and for developing voices where high and low registers may be unreliable.
SAM-Klang‘s Duruflé Motets represent 80 per cent of Duruflé’s entire a cappella works, with three from the four Quatre Motets sur des thèmes grégoriens Op. 10 (1960) alongside Notre Père Op. 14 (1977/1978). While the motets can be performed all year long, Notre Père is suitable for the Christmas period, which pairs perfectly with Poulenc’s Quatre Motets pour le temps de Noël. Another top two contenders for a Christmas concert are An English Christmas, a simplified spin on beloved classics, and, German Carols for our Christmas market enthusiasts and Germanophones. For more standard evensong services, Classic British Anthems, Tudor Anthems and English Madrigals are perfect for choirs in a pinch!
Pop Choral Series
As the name alludes to, Hal Leonard’s Pop Series focuses on single-voice song arrangements for choirs. This bestselling choral series has been in many directors and schoolteacher’s hands, as the series covers not only pop songs but also musical theatre, Disney, and film music. Students are bound to be watching or listening to these soundtracks on streaming platforms and social media!
The character Matilda, after debuting with humble beginnings in Roald Dahl’s 1988 children’s novel, has seen an audio adaptation, a feature film, a radio program, a West End/Broadway musical, and finally a film adaptation of the musical. Mark Brymer’s arrangement of Tim Minchin’s “Still Holding My Hand” from the Netflix film Matilda is sure to be a hit in the classroom. This fantastic new closing song starts small and builds into an enormous and positively extraordinarily cathartic explosion of choral voices. Available for SATB, this fantastic new closing song starts small and builds into an enormous and positively extraordinarily cathartic explosion of choral voices.
Another piece we know for sure will be a hit with your classroom is Roger Emerson’s arrangement of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”. The song rose in popularity as a meme: rickrolling or a rickroll is the unexpected appearance of the music video for the 1987 song. Racking up over 1.4 billion views on YouTube, the meme is a type of bait-and-switch, using a disguised hyperlink that leads to the music video. If you’re asking us, we think this would be a great concert encore. Available for SATB, SAB and 2-Part Choir.
Disney, Disney, Disney
Yes, yes, we know this means having the soundtrack to Encanto and Frozen stuck in your head, but your choir will never forgive you for not seizing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate Disney’s 100th anniversary. Why not program a new Disney medley, or the most recent arrangements of the Little Mermaid, Coco or Encanto?
The adaptation of 1989’s Disney Renaissance-classic The Little Mermaid was released in May 2023, with Halle Bailey the latest to wear the flippers in the 2023 live-action remake of the beloved original. Alan Menken’s brilliant song for Ariel is fluidly arranged for SATB, SAB, and SSA.
Alan Billingsley’s choral Disney medleys are legendary, and he’s come up with another one! Disney Dreams to Share places a special emphasis placed on the dreamers that are featured so often in animated movies, this new collection of songs reaches for the stars! This particular medley begins with “A Dream Is a Wish…” and “A Whole New World”, before launching in a more cheerful “I’ve Got a Dream”, “Into the Unknown” and “When You Wish Upon a Star”. Looking for a more Broadway-style medley? Mark Brymer also has arranged Disney on Broadway, a whooping 11-songs cavalcade!
For our more advanced mixed choir (or if you’d like to sneak in a Disney arrangement into evensong), the King’s Singers Disney arrangements will bring a flair of sophistication to your musical program. Four Disney arrangements featured in the King’s Singers latest record, 100 Years of Disney Songs are now available from Hal Leonard: the gorgeous renditions of “Remember Me” from Coco, “On My Way” from Brother Bear, “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2, and “You’re Welcome” from Moana.
Voices in Harmony Series
The Hal Leonard’s Voices in Harmony series focuses on age-appropriate Social Emotional Learning in the choral music classroom. The benefits of SEL are well-known from self-awareness to improved academic achievement, positive behaviours, and self-image both in and out of the classroom. Each title in the series is an original song with age-appropriate lyrics and musical language.
Each score in the Voices in Harmony series contains a QR code that provides access to videos and teaching resources – perfect for schoolteachers! The videos are specifically created by the composer for the students who will perform the piece; and the PDF of teaching strategies provides valuable tools and directions for educators and the “words from the composer” section is designed to motivate both teachers and students.
Rollo Dilworth’s 2-Part Never Give Up reminds us that by maintaining a positive attitude and believing in oneself (and in one another), we can triumph over any obstacles or challenges that arise. The rhythmic and supportive piano part will help singers develop a sense of energy while they uncover the joy of syncopations and suspensions.
We also really enjoyed listening to Cristi Cary Miller’s Give Yourself to a Dream, scored for 3-Part choir with optional Baritone. This inspirational ballad with lyrics by John Jacobson is perfect for developing voices, with a flowing and independent piano accompaniment supporting your singers. This song was written to remind us to keep walking forward and that the ‘key to success is to learn from negative situations and look beyond the dark clouds, realising that the sun shines on the other side’ (from the foreword).