Choir, More Than Just Pretty Songs

The choir director and students examine the importance of various types of music


On Feb. 8, Alynna Matox, 11, Layla Smith, 12, and Mckenna Daugherty, 10, prepare for their upcoming masterworks concert where they will be performing “Song of Wisdom” by Joseph Martin. The song is based on the childrens’ book “The Old Turtle” and deals with the importance of respecting others’ views (photo by T. Dent).

Hannah Smith, Copy Editor

This year the choir is only having two formal concerts – a masterworks and a pops concert – as compared to their normal five. The first is a long, usually classical – though sometimes contemporary – piece of music literature that pushes the choir out of their comfort zone and incorporates instrumentals; the second is popular music that while centered around one theme, is largely picked by the students. The latter has yet to be started on, but the choir is singing “Song of Wisdom” by Joseph Martin for their masterworks concert on April 5 at 7:30. 

“It’s based on a children’s book called ‘the Old Turtle’…what happens is there is a narrator and he reads the story…basically the story is how nature views God and how how different animals view God and how man views God and how man screws up the environment and basically the choir and the instruments is the background to the narration,” explained Georann Whitman, choir director. 

It would be easy to assume that because the masterworks is the more challenging and classical that it is the less popular of the two concerts, but that’s not entirely true.

“In choir, I like doing more classical songs. I think they come together more nicely” said Layla Smith, four year choir member, 12. 

Additionally, she sees a broad value in the masterworks concert as a whole. 

“[The Masterworks Concert is valuable because] it always portrays some kind of lesson and it’s also fun to see all the choirs come together. And it’s usually a difficult piece of music so it can really help you progress in your singing style and it helps the newcomers in choir know what they can get up to and the levels they can reach,” said Smith. 

The lesson that Layla talked about is something Whitman considers when choosing the masterwork the choir will perform. 

“I always want to make sure..the lyrics speak to our kids so that they will perform it better. [This year’s piece] talks about [how] if you get so caught up in yourselves that you don’t think about other people and other people’s perspectives on life and the world then you can destroy the thing that you are passionate about. I always try to pick things that have a broad meaning for kids,” Whitman said.

And the students have picked up on this year’s theme and even applied it to their own lives. 

“[I think Mrs. Whitman chose this song because] there is a lot of conflict in our world right now and this song is about everyone finding peace and coming together and I think that’s really what we need in our society these days,” said Smith.

However, that doesn’t mean that the students don’t like singing more popular music as well. 

“On my free time I like singing the more pop songs,” said Smith. 

Whitman sees this and even values formally singing popular music in the choir’s second formal concert of the year. 

“We can show them the musical value of the [songs that they picked]. And then that helps [them] be informed consumers when they go out to buy songs or buy tickets to concerts, or [when] they listen to things on the radio they’ll know what they are listening to,” said Whitman. 

But overall, Whitman just wants her students exposed to as much as she can. 

“We try to have choir be more than just singing fun pretty songs, we don’t just sing songs off the radio” said Whitman. “I try to open up a wide variety of music, to give them an opportunity to be exposed to that. I think it’s important there is classical music that my kids should be exposed to, just like they should be exposed to the music of other cultures, just like they should know about our American history and should know about spirituals and things, I think that’s a very important part of what we do.”