Assembling a Vocal Library

By Sally K. Albrecht

Growing up, I was always busy as an accompanist. I played for musicals, choirs, solo singers, and instrumentalists alike. When I was in middle school, I accompanied my two older high school sisters and their singing friends at vocal solo contests all over the state of Ohio. Generally, I was handed a vocal collection or some kind of book or piece of sheet music from which to play.

In my junior year of college, I began taking some voice lessons. My teacher always insisted I purchase the necessary books at the beginning of each semester, even if we were only going to study one or two songs from the collection.

My next voice teacher didn’t do that. She just made me photocopies of specific songs from her fabulous library of music. It saved me some money at the time, but a few years down the road, when I was teaching and wanted to perform those songs or see what else of interest might have been in those collections, I had no way of knowing where those treasures had come from! (And way back then, in the dark ages, I couldn’t just search a song title on the internet to find out!)

Maybe I didn’t know all of the rules about photocopying then, but I have a feeling my instructor did. And, to be honest, I did toss those illegal copies many years (and moves) ago. But I still really wish I had at least some of those songs/books in my vocal library.

So do your students a favor: work with them to purchase those wonderful and important tools called vocal anthologies. What a great investment it will be for their future. Teach your singers how to order music from a retailer. Help them start to assemble an appropriate, important, and wonderful vocal library, containing a variety of literature that will help them grow as performers.

Here’s my list of top “basic” books from Alfred Music that will stand the test of time in your vocal library. Most are available in Medium High and Medium Low voicings, with or without accompaniment CDs.

1. 26 Italian Songs and AriasEd. by John Glenn Paton. Contains the most important songs and arias, along with background information and translations. By far, the best edition on the market.

2. Singer’s Library of SongCompiled & Ed. by Patrick M. Liebergen. Features 37 songs from the Medieval era through the 20th Century, with historical information, IPA, and translations where needed. Includes a few songs in several different languages, plus a handful of folk songs and spirituals… something for everyone. An excellent potpourri for developing vocalists.

3. Folk Songs for Solo SingersCompiled & Ed. by Jay Althouse. Volume 1 contains 11 arrangements (including the favorite contest solo “Homeward Bound”). I also enjoy the variety of songs in Volume 2 (features 14 arrangements). You’ll also see another great choice, American Folk Songs for Solo Singers!

4. The Spirituals of Harry T. BurleighArr. by Harry T. Burleigh. An incredible anthology of 48 awesome spiritual settings. Did you know that we recorded accompaniment CDs (set of 2) for this collection? There’s a reason most of these arrangements have been in print continuously since around 1920. Did I mention that these arrangements are truly awesome?

5. Favorite Sacred Classics for Solo SingersCompiled & Ed. by Patrick M. Liebergen. Features 18 well-known sacred classics by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and others. You’ll be ready to sing in any church or recital hall.

6. Pathways of SongCompiled, arr., translated, and ed. Frank LaForge & Will Earhart. This comprehensive series offers concert songs in appropriate vocal ranges for the voice student, by composers such as Schubert, Brahms, Handel, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn. The series is available by volume or a compilation of the best songs from every volume!

7. Christmas for Solo SingersEd. Jay Althouse. This books compiles some of the most well-known and time-tested seasonal favorites. Great for seasonal recitals and concerts. Take this book with you to Grandma’s house on Christmas day, and you’ll get the whole family singing along!

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