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SAM-Klang: Accessible and Quality Choral Works for Small Choirs

Editorial note: This article on SAM-Klang by Morten Schuldt-Jensen originally appeared on 15th July 2022, and has been updated with new information.  

In this blog, Morten-Schuldt-Jensen recounts how he came up with the idea of creating arrangements of existing choral works that could resolve many choral directors’ problems:  

  • How do you program works when you have a small choir?  
  • What happens if your choir does not have enough low voices or male voices?
  • How do you program a large choral work with orchestra on a budget?  
  • Many choral directors also work in schools. Your favourite choral work doesn’t always suit your singer’s developing voices. 

 A decade of pondering on these challenges later, Morten found a solution to all these challenges: SAM-Klang.   

The Origins of SAM-Klang

As a teacher of conducting in Germany and Denmark, I often experience moments when my students look at me with empty eyes when I refer to choral highlights by Mendelssohn, Brahms and Schütz. “We have never sung that in high school or secondary school choirs. We generally had too few tenors or male voices, so we sang pop arrangements.” This alarming fact also meant that conducting students – and not only them but also incoming choristers – are and will be strangers to the language and philosophical world of poetry from the last centuries, which could have political implications. In some countries, it already has, I fear. This cultural and historical gap and lack of tenors in the classes, even at music universities, will impact how we teach the art of choral singing. This realisation led me to an experiment, which, ten years later, resulted in SAM-Klang.

SAM-Klang Collage
The SAM-Klang series includes large works such as the Mozart and Fauré Requiems and smaller secular works such as British Christmas and Anthems

“I do not have enough men or low voices in my choir”

A bit of reading and asking among colleagues made me realise that struggling to find low voices was not just “a local problem.” The final report of the pilot research project “Singing Europe,” published by the European Choral Association in 2017 showed that 4,5% of the European population actively participate in collective singing activities. This percentage represents 37 million collective singers on the European continent, in 1 million choirs or ensembles, or 625,000 choirs and ensembles in the twenty-eight EU-countries. The statistics however said rather precisely that two-thirds of the choristers were female.

Gender Distribution of Choral Singers Graph
Gender distribution of choral singers in Europe and United States of America (Singing Europe, 34. 2017.)

In the last couple of years, choral organisations have reported decreasing membership in addition to a narrowing recruitment base of male choristers, especially tenors, due to physical and musical stylistic developments in Europe. Age structure in choirs has also gradually changed, meaning that although choristers live longer, choirs tend to dissolve because “the old repertoire” becomes unsingable.

An Accessible Choral Series for Developing Voices

Concurrently to the challenge of finding repertoire for smaller choirs, newly formed youth choirs are also challenged repertoire-wise if (when) they wish to go further than singing pop music. Furthermore, the pandemic has put at perils many choirs who are now unsure if, when and how they can proceed – or even survive. In other words, many of cherished SATB repertoire will become increasingly difficult in their original version unless there are enough members, time and resources.

SAM-Klang Scoreplay
Listen and follow along SAM-Klang scores with the YouTube Scoreplay videos

My above-mentioned experiment was to make arrangements of the classic choral repertoire with just one male voice for choirs to start – and end – with. The resulting SAM-Klang series thus offers versions of many of the SATB-classics originally in 4-7 parts by works by Hensel, Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms to mention a few, but also Poulenc, Duruflé and even Fauré.

A Flexible Choral Series for Any Budget

With large orchestral productions often puts a spoke in the wheels for any choral director. SAM-Klang resolves this by being compatible with any existing orchestration published, as well as original SATB and divisi versions. Not only does this mean you don’t have to get rid of the scores you currently own, SAM-Klang makes it possible for two choirs to join forces for a concert, reach out to younger audience to share the love of singing, remain flexible in the face of cancellations, teach budding choral directors how to conduct from two different score, and much more.

SAM-Klang Sample Scores
Click on the cover to access the sample scores

Advantages of SAM-Klang Arrangements

  • All audible characteristics of the original are preserved
  • Seamless arrangements of original scores
  • Lower voices are livelier and very singable
  • Both vocally and harmonically educational
  • An easy piano reduction is provided for rehearsals
  • Compatible with any existing orchestration published
  • Compatible with SATB and divisi versions
  • Budget-friendly alternative to expensive productions

Concluding Thoughts on SAM-Klang

The SAM-Klang series aims to help preserve the availability of the treasures of choral music and their delicate, period typical and thus important poetry of the last centuries. Hopefully, this will also catch the interest of youth choirs and other formations, for which this repertoire has not been relevant till now. The series will also consider that every country has a treasure of nationally beloved songs, which might be of interest not least for amateur choirs. As the music in the arrangement is easier to grasp but still “the same,” SAM-Klang, I believe, will prove suitable as teaching material in conducting and choral classes, but also in any classroom where there is a wish to give students the gift of quality choral music.

By Morten Schuldt-Jensen

About Morten Schuldt-Jensen

Morten Schuldt-Jensen
Morten Schuldt-Jensen

Morten Schuldt-Jensen is a professor of choral and orchestral conducting at the Freiburg University of Music and former choral director of the Gewandhaus in Leipzig (1999–2007). In addition to his teaching activities, he has worked in Scandinavia and Germany with well-known European ensembles such as SWR Vocal Ensemble, RIAS Chamber Choir, the Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Akademie für Alte Musik. He performs regularly with his Danish choir Sokkelund Sangkor, with the Immortal Bach Ensemble and the Leipzig Chamber Orchestra, of which he is chief conductor and artistic director. 

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