By Jay Althouse, Composer
In 1993, I compiled my first collection of vocal solos: Folk Songs for Solo Singers, Vol. 1. To be honest, my only motivation, at that time, was to find something to do as a break from writing and arranging choral music. Little did I know that Folk Songs for Solo Singers, Vol. 1 would go on to become Alfred Music’s all-time top selling vocal solo collection, and that I would compile 17 more vocal books over the next 20 years.
Some of the collections I simply compiled and edited, and for others I did all of the arrangements. Some were comprised of folk song arrangements, spirituals, or Christmas carols, and some were collections of arrangements of great American pop standards from the 1920s through the 1950s. One was a duet book and one a collection of sacred solos. And three, the Ready to Sing… series, are specifically designed for young and developing soloists.
As I look back on those 18 vocal solo collections over the past 20 years, I am proud of what we have put together at Alfred Music. I remember, when I was a high school senior, the difficulty my choral director and I had in finding vocal solos appropriate for my college audition. Today, vocal teachers have an abundance of books from Alfred Music to use with their students, not just by me, but also by other writers and arrangers such as Andy Beck, Mark Hayes, and Sally Albrecht.
My most recent collection, Songs of the British Isles for Solo Singers, includes some of the most beautiful and enchanting songs from the great vocal tradition of the British Isles. One of the most difficult things about putting this book together was deciding which songs to include; there are so many great ones.
Included are folk songs from England (“Scarborough Fair”), Wales (“The Ash Grove”), Ireland (“Danny Boy”), and Scotland (“The Water Is Wide”). Many of the titles have wonderful lyrics by fine poets, such as Robert Burns (“Flow Gently, Sweet Afton”) and Robert Louis Stevenson (“Skye Boat Song”). Two songs are appropriate for Christmas: “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” and “The Snow Lay on the Ground.” And a third, “Greensleeves” can be sung at holiday time or year round.
All of the songs in Songs of the British Isles for Solo Singers are what I call “singer’s songs.” That is, they sing beautifully, and almost effortlessly, allowing the vocalist to really make music.
I should say, however, that the final song in the collection, “The Blaydon Races,” is not what I would call beautiful. It’s a rousing, boisterous song, which tells the story of the horse races at Blaydon, a town near Newcastle in England, in 1862. It rained, and there was a horse-drawn bus crash and . . . well, you’ll just have to sing it to find out the rest of the story. “The Blaydon Races” is just plain fun to sing, and I’ve included a glossary of terms and phrases from the lyrics to help you follow the bus on its ride to the race track.
Whether you’re looking for audition material, study repertoire, or music that’s simply a pleasure for students to sing, you’re sure to find it with Alfred Music’s vocal solo collections.
Alfred Music’s Vocal Collections Arranged and/or Edited by Jay Althouse:
American Folk Songs for Solo Singers
Christmas for Solo Singers
Encores for Solo Singers
Folk Songs for Solo Singers, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
Folk Songs for Two
Great American Songwriters for Solo Singers
International Folk Songs for Solo Singers
Love Songs for Solo Singers
Ready to Sing . . . Christmas
Ready to Sing . . . Folk Songs
Ready to Sing . . . Spirituals
Sacred Solos for All Seasons
Songs of Peace and Patriotism for Solo Singers
Songs of the British Isles for Solo Singers
Spirituals for Solo Singers
Standards for Solo Singers
Ye Shall Have a Song