Friday, September 29, 2023

The Twelve Days of Christmas


I saw a colored leaf last week, and it finally hit me in the best sort of way that the long, hot summer is coming to an end! Hallelujah! It couldn't arrive soon enough. In choral director lingo, it means something else: "It's time to order holiday music." 

One of my favorite music octavos has an interesting story:  The Twelve Days of Christmas was published by Colla Voce Music in 2007. Unfortunately, when promotions began, my name was spelled incorrectly for some reason, and only those to whom I had sent music ordered it for their choirs. The Lexington (KY) Chamber Chorale sings it annually, and they do a great job of making every day of the twelve come alive!

The arrangement is written in Baroque style, and some days have an interpretive uniqueness: the French hens sing in French (mon amour), the calling birds actually call, geese are squawking, eight maids sing the major scale, nine ladies are dancing, lords are leaping (intervals), pipers pipe when the choir whistles for a few measures, and basses and tenors provide some cool drumming as the 12 drummers. Then....the Baroque factor takes over, and the choir "fa, la, la"s to the end, with a powerful My Love!

This arrangement might be sung by a moderately skilled choir and the most advanced choir. The 12 Days come alive, and my goal was to write an arrangement that didn't seem to last an eternity....though there are 12 days! So...I tried to write something humorous, yet musically challenging.

I have included the notation in this blog, but I regret to say that so far, there is no recording. I am happy to hear your choir sing this octavo. Visit my website, and send an mp3 of your choir entertaining an audience with The Twelve Days of Christmas. It is available for purchase with several distributors:

J. W. Pepper


Take a look at the notation:

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Patriotic Octavos for Veterans Day and Other Holidays


The most popular choral octavos being ordered these days are in the categories of "Patriotic" and "Holiday." People are getting a head start on both, and when you look at how quickly time seems to fly, it really is not too early to consider both holidays. You will find octavos below that others have selected for their choirs recently, and I hope you will give them a try.

1)    America the Beautiful - Can be sung a cappella or with the provided optional accompaniment. There is a solo for a special singer, and the piece moves to a powerful ending. SATBSAB, and SSA. Also available from J. W. Pepper.

2)    In Flanders Fields - The famous words of Lt. Col John McCrae (WWI) are set to an original tune. A French Horn solo provides the haunting mood for this legendary emotional poem.  SATBSABTTBB3-Part MixedUnison. Also available from J. W. Pepper.

3)    The Rising of the Moon- Though actually an Irish folk song, the style is robust and the emphasis is on unityTTBBTTBTB. Also available from J. W. Pepper

4)    The Star-Spangled Banner - Our National Anthem, telling the story of that perilous night in Baltimore Harbor. It begins with the second verse, then wends its way back to the first verse (Audience participation optional). SATBSAB. Also available from J. W. Pepper.

Other EROP Patriotic Octavos:

1)     When Johnny Comes Marching Home - The popular American folk song teaches us to celebrate the commitment, sacrifice, and loyalty of our soldiers in the armed forces. SATBSAB3-Part MixedSSATTB

2)     Son of Liberty - Takes us through significant events and battles fought by the USA at home and abroad, beginning with the Continental Congress. A great history lesson. TTBBTTBTB. Also available from J. W. Pepper.

3)     Let Freedom Ring - (My Country 'Tis of Thee), arranged with Optional Audience Participation and Optional Orchestration. SATB Also available from J. W. Pepper.

4)     Loud the Bells for Johnny Toll - The pain of losing a child to war is depicted, complete with Optional tolling bells. SATBSAB3-Part MixedSSA2-Part. Also available from J. W. Pepper.

5)     The Skies Remember - The sacrifice of military families who wait for the return of deployed loved ones is the theme of this original setting. They wait, they agonize over the danger and domestic challenges. Then they remember that they share the same sun, moon, and stars with their deployed spouses. The skies remember them. SATBSABSSA. Also available from J. W. Pepper.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Another Year! What now?

Earlene Rentz

It's that time of year! Music teachers of all sorts are gearing up for another "go" at it. As I listen more and more, it seems that this year is different. I might be wrong, but it seems like many music teachers are leaving the profession in droves. I'm not pulling that statement out of the air; I'm looking at the huge increase in the "non-existent" email designations in my professional contacts. No one need ask, "Why?" The truth? It's difficult out there during "these days." How many times a day do we hear the word  "unprecedented?" I truly think I've heard it every day for at least six years, and it has also crept into the music world. 

Life goes on, and goes on as well. Where does that leave us? The art of music is what we teach; music is what we love; music is the "it" that is becoming almost impossible for some. It might be a bit disappointing to know that some are disconnecting, but the delight of that idea is that we can change the negative into possibility! So....what do we do?

First, please know that I have all the respect, admiration, and praise in the world for all of our music teachers (also church/synagogue/community choir musicians) in any musical organization anywhere! No one knows the challenges you face these days, as our culture, climate, and demographics have changed and intensified. I think of my days in the classroom (70s through 2000), and I just stay quiet. There is no comparison...except that we are teaching other humans something we love, and the subject matter's value has remained (though there are now some restrictions).

So...if you have decided that a change was necessary in your life, let's think about how you can continue to be involved in music on some level. There are numerous ways we can keep that element of "soul-nurturing" going on in our lives as we ponder our futures. Why would we want music in our lives? For some weary souls, the need for music might not be "on the radar" at the moment. That's how difficult the profession has become for some. I understand the need for a period of rest.

For most of us who have continued to be in the profession in some way, we find community and satisfaction in the music culture of our lives. We have found "that thing" has defined us as a worthy, contributing member of society, and we have found some ways to use it productively to create beauty in our lives with and for others. We have found something we are "good at." We might be a different "lot" as compared to most folks, but one identifying element in our lives is that most of us enjoy creating beauty with other people in a team effort. This "choir thing" is a necessary component in order for us to do so. By participating, we create beauty that feeds our emotions, delights, love, and accomplishments. Those "pay-offs" from musical participation have propelled us forward for years and years. Unless we have determined that those pay-offs are no longer enjoyed or necessary, we will likely continue to seek them out in our lives.

So....what do we do with our life-changes? 

1) Become acquainted with the music culture in your area

Who are the people in your area who are respected leaders of choral music? Where are their concerts taking place? What is the general focus of the music genres for each choral group? Will you enjoy being supportive with your presence at concerts and with positive there something inside you that must be involved in the making of music?

2) Find a choral group to join

Most groups are kind, accepting members, and would be delighted to have others join. Is the group auditioned? You might want to sign up for choral newsletters and websites that might assist you in finding the right time for whatever involvement you choose. If choir members are not chosen via auditions, would you still like to be involved as a volunteer in some way (turning pages for the accompanist? setting up the room for rehearsal? record keeping? - All are so necessary in the workings of the "choral machine," and any choir director would love you for offering your services).

3) Sing in a church choir

There really aren't too many church choirs that require auditions. There is a closeness in church choirs that is usually the result of ministry to those with whom they sing. For so many choirs in churches, the involvement level is high, as "Sunday comes so very weekly," and there must be music! Therefore, the church choir is the place where we minister to others as we pray, send food, forge relationships, and show our care for others. It has been my experience (and comes as no surprise) that there is an additional focus for a church choir that is a bit different from a community choral organization. They are ministers to each other....together.

4) Create your own choral group

If you relish organizational and administrative challenges, this option might be the perfect way for you to spend the next several years. Of course, there are a few considerations:  a) What is the objective for the group? b) What is the quality/quantity of the possible participants from which you may draw? c) Are there others who will assist you in organizing? d) Will the group be welcomed into the choral community as one that will not "take" from other previously organized groups? e) How can the group contribute to the community as "givers" and as a performing ensemble?

Whatever the case for you in the coming year, please keep music in your life. We all need music, and we need each other, especially in tough, uncertain times.

May we all experience joy, expectation, and delight in the coming choral year. All the very best to all of us as we create beautiful music!!

Monday, July 3, 2023

Followers of the Lamb - A Shaker Revival Tune


Gardens in a Shaker Community

I recently completed an arrangement of a Shaker Revival Hymn entitled "Followers of the Lamb." I have grown fond of the Shaker history in many ways, because when I lived in Kentucky, I was only 20 miles or so from Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, commonly referred to by the locals as "Shakertown." The village often hosted music festivals there in the community, and musicians loved to provide entertainment for visitors on weekends as well. I found myself on the campus of Shaker Village quite often, it seemed. 

I enjoyed the fact that Shakers loved to cook and raise their own vegetables. There is a marvelous restaurant at Shaker Village that utilizes all of those fresh vegetables, and they are scrumptious. Those who waited tables were clothed in period dress, and the food was always excellent. It was impossible to  have a meal at Shaker Village without ordering their famous Shaker Lemon Pie. It was sweet beyond belief, but somehow the crust allowed a person to eat an entire slice, regardless of the "lip pucker."

There were often lectures and demonstrations on site, as the Shakers were excellent, creative craftsmen when designing their most famous products...chairs, Shaker boxes, pottery, candles, candle holders, all sorts of woodwork and furniture, cloth pieces, brooms, etc. Fortunately, there is a wonderful gift shop where all things "Shaker" may be purchased. In short, Shaker Village tries to retain an authentic look at the Shaker lifestyle, while also moving forward in creating elegant representations of the period in history during which the Shakers were most prevalent. There seemed to be pride in many elements of the Shaker lifestyle and the products they produced, and it seems that the Board of Directors maintains that sense of uniqueness that draws thousands of visitors and tourists to the Village annually.

Having attended an overnight conference in the Village, I can tell you that "Simplicity" is a major focus of the Shaker community. In my hotel room, I think there was only one electrical outlet to be used for personal electrical gadgets (hairdryer, etc.). The hotel rooms were simple, simple, simple, and that was a bit too simple for my taste. However, it was indeed authentic. I managed my "Shaker life" for one night, and that, too, was a reminder to me that a person can live without perceived conveniences. It was an interesting trip. do you write an arrangement of a Shaker song? Simply? Well....yes....and no. I am amazed at the amount of movement that is indicated by many Shaker songs..."to turn, turn will be our delight," etc. In Followers of the Lamb, the Shaker refrain is "Sing on, dance on, followers of Emmanuel." As I learned in a demonstration at Shakertown, the Shakers made movement and dance a part of their expression of worship as they sang, and they were known for actually shaking in worship when they were moved by the Spirit. The idea of singing, moving, and dancing was a celebration of worship, and they particularly enjoyed worshiping through singing.

As I approached the arrangement, I studied the score of the original Shaker hymn by Sister Clarissa Jacobs (1833-1905), recalling Shaker history, given my information and proximity to Shakertown. The original key is a minor key (as are many other Shaker tunes), and the lyrics begin by asking all singers if they are happy. Basically, they encourage followers of the Lamb to rejoice in the fact that they are followers seeking to "do the right thing."

The original key of my source was e minor. I probably would have begun the arrangement with unison singing, but the range is quite wide, and the lower descent in the melody would have been a challenge for the Tenors. I decided to use the Sopranos and Altos as the melody, using countermelodies with the Tenors and Basses on the first verse. A forthcoming key change would make it possible to write for unison singing later in the key of f minor. It's only a half-step difference, but it still makes it a bit easier for Tenors.

In order to honor the Shaker musical tradition, I tried to keep open sonorities most of the time. The presence of open 4ths and 5ths are characteristic of many Shaker songs.

Countermelodies abound in my arrangement of Followers of the Lamb, and at times, some of the voices change to another function to provide another role (from countermelody to homophony, etc.). 

A descant, preferably to be sung by a small group, appears before the key change, and the unison verse after the key change is where vocal strength is most obvious. All sopranos have an obligato role in the final refrain, in a higher pitch level than it appears earlier in the arrangement. I am trying to keep musical strength in the voices following the strong unison sound enjoyed previously. After playing with imitation for the ending, all voices come together for a strong, fortissimo ending on the word "Emmanuel." As always, the dynamic level should not push the boundary of "beauty." If it becomes "not beautiful," sing a tad softer. Just a reminder.

Enjoy this journey to simplicity to honor a different group of people who are basically extinct today. Theologically, they chose abstinence above "procreation," and as reason might suggest, extinction is eventually inevitable. However, this unique religious group gave us many beautiful Shaker tunes that can be enjoyed by all singing groups today. 

Visit my website or J. W. Pepper  to purchase this worthy Shaker tune, arranged for SATB, SAB, SSA, SSAA, 3-Part Mixed, 2-Part, and Unison.

If you are in a school district that is totally banning reference to religious terms such as "Lamb," etc., feel free to substitute with other acceptable words. 


Friday, June 30, 2023

Was it a Night Like This?

 Dr. Matthew J. Walton

Matt Walton is a Minister for Discipleship, teacher, and writer. He loves to help others think about how the Biblical narrative connects to the stories of their lives. He believes that words and stories matter because they help us perceive life in light of God's promises. Matt has written numerous studies for adolescents and adults pertaining to faith and Biblical texts. He is a graduate of East Texas Baptist University, where he received a B. A. in Speech Communications, and George W. Truett Theological  Seminary, where he earned Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees.

In the midst of the 2020 Pandemic, medical personnel in our church, South Main Baptist church in Houston, Texas, determined that it was safe to meet outside on Christmas Eve/2020. For Houston, the weather was a bit was actually cold on the evening of December 31, 2020. As we were shivering in the cold, Matt prayed a prayer with several references to Was it a Night Like This? He posed several questions that had never connected with me in such a meaningful way before. I had never attended an outdoor Christmas Eve service that I could remember.

Specifically, some of Matt's questions within the prayer were as follows:

--Did Mary shiver in the cold as she brought forth her first-born son?
--Was Joseph filled with fear as he gazed into the night sky?
--Was it a night like this...when hope was born through God's own Son, the promised One?
--Was it a night like this...when joy unfurled in flight, and through the darkness we found light?
--Was it a night like this...when peace became our balm?

When Matt posed the questions, I was drawn into a more realistic view of the holy event in Bethlehem, and his prayer equipped me with new ideas to enjoy, contemplate, and experience Christmas Eve in a more personal way. In addition, Matt did not leave us without purpose in seeking God through worship on Christmas Eve. The prayer's ending implored the Almighty to "Open our eyes to Your light. Open our eyes to Your glory. In the darkness, we see the glory of Your Son."

Those words and the setting of the holy night with new understanding "sang" for me in a unique way. The mood of Was it a Night Like This? remains the traditional "manger mood" of soft, legato music in which a baby might be able to find rest in the midst of a cold winter night. I realize that the climate of Bethlehem might be unknown to me, but the seeking of a miracle remains a journey I choose to take every year with friends and family, making my personal journey a holy one.

In the setting of Was it a Night Like This?, an ethereal introduction sets the mood of mystery, with a few interesting harmonies on important words like "born," "untold," and "foretold." 

In the plea to the Almighty, sonorous chords with a descant and full-chorus are set to Matt's text:

Open our eyes to Your light on this holy night.
Open our eyes to Your glory.
In the darkness, we see glory,
the glory of Your Son on this holy night.

In the final refrain, sopranos are in duet as a descant. If you do not have enough sopranos to divide, either part will be just fine, as the tenors and altos have the melody. Basses are the foundation, sounding like double bass strings.

This octavo is available from my website in SATBSAB, and SSA. If more convenient, you are welcome to go to J. W. Pepper to purchase. The only difference in purchasing from my site is that the Rehearsal Preparation Sheet is complimentary. Either way is fine.

I hope you will give this octavo a listen, and purchase for your church choir, community choir, or any other group where it might be appropriate.


Monday, June 5, 2023

Gershwin, an American Treasure


George Gershwin (1898-1937)

The music of George Gershwin is truly brilliant with its harmonic progressions and internal harmonic movement, as the chords move along in seamless beauty. I never realized the depth of music genius, until I began to work with two compositions (Clap Your Hands/Someone to Watch Over Me). It really is a shame that he passed away at 38 years-of-age from a brain tumor. As I read about Gershwin, I thought about all the music we have in our possession and all the "unwritten music" that was yet to come from his brilliant, creative mind.

As a Jewish person growing up in New York City, he frequently experienced discrimination in all sorts of relationships. Families of friends sometimes restricted friendships and other close relationships. Yet, he somehow managed to create amazing music for us to enjoy for years to come.

George Gershwin found a collaborator in his brother, Ira Gershwin, whom he used as his lyricist for most compositions. George would write the music, then hand it off to Ira, so that he could set the lyrics to the music. 

George (left) and Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)

Another collaborator with George was Kay Swift, a wonderful composer in her own right, who was responsible for arranging many of Gershwin's tunes after his death. You can google "Kay Swift" to read about her relationship with George. She evidently had perfect tonal recall, and because of her we have  many Gershwin tunes to enjoy today.

Kay Swift (1897-1993) and George Gershwin

I have arranged two Gershwin tunes from the musical Oh, Kay! (1926). They have just come into the public domain, and are available for purchase from my website or from J. W. Pepper.  The two tunes are Clap Your Hands and Someone to Watch Over Me. In addition, there are video links on each EROP webpage with general information for both. I'll go a little further into the depth of my arranging in the summaries that follow. These two are among my favorite George Gershwin tunes, and it was total joy to arrange them.

Gershwin created both of these tunes as piano compositions. He had a wonderful ragtime style, and his performance had a drive and energy that had audiences tapping their toes, singing along, dancing in the venues, and creating a general atmosphere of celebration. The ragtime style worked for Clap Your Hands, but Gershwin himself made adjustments for Someone to Watch Over Me. We'll discuss that later.

1) Clap Your Hands - This tune is intended to be a concert opener or closer. It is energetic, jazzy, and it dances and drives to the very end. The effect can be to bring the audience quickly into your performance, or send them home with joy after a great night of music. This is an easy tune to memorize, should you choose to create choreography.

Use a tempo that works best for your group. Younger choirs might find an advantage with a tempo that is a bit slower, as compared with more highly skilled singers. The arrangement is filled with countermelodies and syncopation that serve to create harmony and energy. There is a modulation that leads to increased intensity in a new key. Lastly, a group descant adds even more energy to the arrangement as it completes the final verse. You can use only sopranos, or a combination of tenors and sopranos.....whatever sounds the most impressive. For the ending, voices move gradually from a soft dynamic to "ff" in the final "Hallelujah!" The arrangement is fun, it never stops, and it energizes the audience. Have fun it!

To purchase:
There are six voicings of Clap Your Hands available from Earlene Rentz Online Publications, LLC:  

The same voicings are also available from J. W. Pepper:

I can't wait to hear some of your choirs perform Clap Your Hands! If you record, please send a recording to me via my website Contact information. It would be wonderful to hear your choir singing this arrangement.

To assist you in the teaching process, I have created a short video that might add a bit of insight.

2) Someone to Watch Over Me - In order to assist me in writing this arrangement, I actually found a recording of Gershwin playing Gershwin. I was stunned to hear Gershwin perform Someone to Watch Over Me faster than I ever imagined it performed. As was the norm, Gershwin composed the music before the lyrics were added. The woman who sang the solo in Oh, Kay! tried to sing it at the Gershwin tempo, but it was so fast, she could not connect emotionally with the music and words (Ira Gershwin). As a stage prop to assist her in finding an emotional connection with the music, someone backstage found a doll, and brought it onstage, and she sang to the doll. Though the tempo was slower, and the revealed the overall vulnerability created through the words, Ira Gershwin's lyrics and her interpretation finally combined to create a wonderful performance. George Gershwin agreed with her modifications, and as a result, the first performance of Someone to Watch Over Me was sung to a ® Raggedy Ann Doll at a tempo much like the ones heard today. It seemed that the music and lyrics were a  "mis-match," one reason some composers require lyrics before they set the music. 

In my arrangement, there is a wide range for tempo, so choral directors can select a tempo that "locks in" for their students. In addition, there were several Gershwin piano "licks" in the faster version that I wanted to incorporate into the accompaniment, paying homage to Gershwin's original style, while tastefully including a modified version of them in the latter style. In essence, I tried to combine elements of both styles, providing freedom in tempo and using some identifiable trademarks of Gershwin's own. Check out this video to gain some additional insight.

To purchase:

Earlene Rentz Online Publications, LLC:  SATB, SAB, SSA, 2-Part, Unison 

J. W. Pepper:  SATBSABSSA2-PartUnison


It was great fun to write these two arrangements. I listened to both of them repeatedly, and it was then that I began to appreciate the subtleties and the masterful work of George Gershwin. 

Take a look on You Tube to hear more examples of Gershwin himself performing and discussing these two popular tunes.

Enjoy creating memorable performances of Clap Your Hands and Someone to Watch Over Me, by one of America's greatest musical treasures, George Gershwin.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Rehearsal Preparation Sheets: TTBB


Rehearsal Preparation Sheets for four-voice choral voicings (SATB, SSAA, TTBB) assume a greater level of music knowledge and skill in the singers. The process of Successive Approximations (Simple to Complex) is utilized for the RPS, as possible difficulties in an octavo are identified and addressed.

A brief story as to how I began creating these RPS materials. I was the Middle School Clinician in North Carolina for a Choral Symposium, held the same year of a terrible ice storm that left thousands without electricity. Students were absent from school for weeks. The Coordinator of the event called me to tell me that she had no idea as to how many students might attend (many students were still in school), and also had no idea as to the ability levels of those attending. There would be no "selection" process. Everyone was "in." The only thing they could tell me for sure was that I needed to have all of my middle school singers ready for a concert on Friday morning! 

These RPS materials were an answer to the above situation and effective in getting everyone to the same level at the same time. You might need the same assistance for those inexperienced newcomers to your TTBB ensemble.

During that week in North Carolina, teachers were in attendance at rehearsals, and they requested to have "anything you have ever done like these sheets." At that point, I knew I might be "on to something." I had created a product, and they wanted it. Hearing the choral results of the week (all objectives were accomplished), I began using RPSs in all of my rehearsals, and I "don't leave home without them." They work.

When we think of post-pandemic vocal/choral issues, vocal projection seems come into the discussion. If they were able to sing at all, choral students were somewhat voiceless for two years, shrouded by masks. When the masks came off, we heard "interesting" sounds. Voices had to be shaped into a choral sound after being "muffled by masks." Pandora "opened the box" (so to speak), and all sorts of sounds came flying out. 

When we are conducting Tenor/Bass ensembles, and "that voice" is new to the ears of younger singers, the tendency is to sing hesitantly and quietly. As one choral director said to me, "I can't fix it, if I can't hear it!" Many Irish folk songs encourage robust singing, so I arranged several for TTBB. I usually begin them simply, as I want a strong sound to "wake up" the audience. 

Rehearsal Preparation Sheets are available from  J. W. Pepper, and are listed as "Reproducible PDF" at the bottom of each voicing's webpage. Each RPS teaches the entire octavo, and is 2-3 pages in length. Reference numbers are also provided, so you know exactly the measures being taught. In addition the purchaser is granted permission to make multiple copies for their choir. They appear as follows: 

See the RPS sample below for a TTBB arrangement of "The Rising of the Moon" (song from the 1798 Irish Rebellion). 

Take a look at the structure of this RPS:

Example 1 - The example begins simply with step-wise motion, and all pitches in the melody are located by using steps. Since unison singing would have been too low for Tenors, Basses were assigned the melody, with Tenors in a V/I relationship above the Bass. At one point, the melody in the Bass is passed to the Tenors. The melody then returns to the Basses in a more comfortable range. There are all sorts of rhythmic drills in Measures 7-12.

Example 2 - Example 1 concentrates in teaching rhythms, and this example introduces 4-Part harmony, where intonation is the focus. 

This sample Rehearsal Preparation Sheet is abbreviated. 


Here is another example of an RPS for TTBB....."Red is the Rose:"

Example 1 - The melodic movement is first introduced straight (without dotted rhythms). Dotted rhythms are added in Measure 4. Four-part harmony is introduced in Measure 7. In Measure 8, the four-part harmony is there, but not yet "in rhythm." Vertical harmonies are the focus.

Example 2 - There are some "tight" harmonies within chords. Until they are performed in tune, simple rhythms are best. The fermata gives singers time to get the chord in tune.


Four-part RPS materials assume that students are quite skilled in their knowledge of choral notation. If that is not the case, those students will have practice materials for homework. The great thing about using RPS materials is that everyone can get to the same level at the same time. By the end of the RPS, concepts have been taught, and everyone should be ready to make music together in the repertoire!


Happy 2023!

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Rehearsal Preparation Sheets: SSAA


Earlene Rentz

SSAA choirs are the most advanced of our Soprano/Alto ensembles, and we assume singers are more skilled in choral concepts than younger choirs. Therefore, in a Rehearsal Preparation Sheet for SSAA, the movement from "simple to complex" happens quickly within the Successive Approximation format. The sequence of learning moves along!

Here's how Rehearsal Preparation Sheets came about:

I was the Middle School Clinician in North Carolina for a Choral Symposium, held the same year of a terrible ice storm that left thousands without electricity. Students were absent from school for weeks. The Coordinator of the event called me to tell me that she had no idea as to how many students might attend, and also had no idea as to their ability levels. There would be no "selection" process. Everyone was "in." The only thing they could tell me for sure was that I needed to have all of my middle school singers ready for a concert on Friday morning! 

I had to find a solution quickly. Everyone had to be at the same level by Friday morning. I remembered seeing my friend Gayle Box work with her middle school students with rehearsal sheets, so I built my process on Gayle's idea. I added several facets to the design, and I taught the entire octavo, with referenced measure numbers. I employed a process I learned in doctoral school at Florida State University: "Successive Approximations" (Simple to Complex). I labeled these materials Rehearsal Preparation Sheets. The sequence would pinpoint their skill levels, and they would learn the repertoire at the same time.

During that week in North Carolina, teachers visited my rehearsals, and they requested that I speak to the group about creating Rehearsal Preparation Sheets. Teachers approached me, and wanted "anything you have ever done like these sheets." That is how I knew that I might be "on to something." I had created a product, and they wanted it. Hearing the choral results of the week (all objectives were accomplished), I began using RPSs in all of my rehearsals; and to this day, if I am conducting a rehearsal, I "don't leave home without them." 

J. W. Pepper currently has an RPS for every piece of music from Earlene Rentz Online Publications that appears on the Pepper website (250+). They are 2-3 pages in length, and provide solutions for musical challenges in repertoire before students open the music. They also may be used as sightreading materials.  Choral directors are given permission to make multiple copies for their choirs. 

Examples of Rehearsal Preparation Sheets appear on my BLOG for several different voicings: Unison, 2-Part, 3-Part Mixed, SSA, SAB, SSAA, TB, TTB, TBB, and TTBB. You will find them listed on the J. W. Pepper website as "Reproducible PDF" files. The image below shows how they will appear on the J. W. Pepper site:


Take a look at this well-known Anton Bruckner composition, arranged for SSAA:

Example 1 - This RPS in C Major begins in unison, then quickly branches out into three-part harmony. The Alto serves as the foundation for the chord progressions (repeated "C"). The example is homophonic, and altered pitches are located, using step-wise movement. Several changes are taking place melodically in the SI/SII. Longer durations in the Alto gives our ear a foundation. 


An SSAA arrangement of Robert Schumann's art song "Die Lotosblume:"

Example 1 - Starts simply in unison, concentrating on step-wise movement. Altered pitches and harmonies are located by using steps. 

Example 2 - Soprano and Alto 4-Part harmony is found by moving in steps. Altered pitches are sung with longer note durations to give students time to hear the sonorities.


These are abbreviated examples of these two arrangements. Visit J. W. Pepper to purchase RPS sheets for repertoire preparation and/or sightreading practice. 

All the best for a very happy, prosperous, healthy, joyous 2023! Enjoy singing!

Happy New Year!!

Rehearsal Preparation Sheets - SATB Voicing


Earlene Rentz

Rehearsal Preparation Sheets for SATB Voicings are constructed with understood assumptions that SATB choral members likely have more developed choral music skills than those who sing repertoire with fewer voice parts. 

A brief story as to how I began creating these RPS materials. I was the Middle School Clinician in North Carolina for a Choral Symposium, held the same year of a terrible ice storm that left thousands without electricity. Students were absent from school for weeks. The Coordinator of the event called me to tell me that she had no idea as to how many students might attend (many students were still in school), and also had no idea as to the ability levels of those attending. There would be no "selection" process. Everyone was "in." The only thing they could tell me for sure was that I needed to have all of my middle school singers ready for a concert on Friday morning! 

I had to find a solution quickly that would bring about success. Everyone had to be at the same level by Friday morning. I remembered seeing my friend Gayle Box work with her middle school students in Texas with rehearsal sheets, so I built my process on Gayle's idea. I added several facets to the design, and I taught the entire octavo, with referenced measure numbers. I employed a process I learned in doctoral school at Florida State University: "Successive Approximations" (Simple to Complex). I labeled these materials Rehearsal Preparation Sheets. They would let me know the skill abilities of the group and the plan for the week. They would also teach the repertoire and save time in rehearsal.

During that week in North Carolina, teachers were in attendance in rehearsals, and they requested that I speak to the group about my process in creating the RPS materials. Teachers approached me, and wanted "anything you have ever done like these sheets." That is how I knew that I might be "on to something." I had created a product, and they wanted it. Hearing the choral results of the week (all objectives were accomplished), I began using RPSs in all of my rehearsals, and to this day, if I am conducting a rehearsal, I "don't leave home without them." 


Rehearsal Preparation Sheets are available on J. W. Pepper for all 250+ octavos from Earlene Rentz Online Publications. They are 2-3 pages in length, and they teach the entire octavo, addressing any perceived melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic "pitfalls." Permission is granted to make multiple copies for the purchaser's choir. The RPS materials are also great for practicing sightreading, improving music literacy. They are identified on J. W. Pepper by the "Reproducible PDF" label at the bottom of the webpage. They appear as in the image below:

The following are examples of "title pages" of SATB Rehearsal Preparation Sheets. Assumptions are made as to attained choral skills. Feel free to repeat examples, should there be those in your ensemble who aren't quite "there" yet.

Example 1 - The harmonies of this Anton Bruckner composition are the subject of this example. C Major is the key, and Bruckner departs at times to create other sonorities. However, by using step-wise motion, those unique harmonies can be found. The longer durations (half notes) allow students to hear the vertical sonorities.


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Example 1 - There are many "cascading" phrases that move in step-wise motion. Singers move in and out of the cascading passages, creating choral suspensions that create and release tension in harmonic movement, creating the "interest" of the arrangement. 

Example 2 - The refrain for "America the Beautiful" is presented in its basic form, with only a few step-wise passages. The homophonic texture creates simplicity for singers. The "hymn-like" appearance is familiar to singers, eliminating discomfort with shorter note durations.


Example 1 - "Simple to Complex" - Initially, the melody is taught with quarter/half notes (augmentation). The next presentation consists of 8th notes (shorter values). Then, the pick-up 8th note (most difficult) is added last in Measure 8.

Example 2 - Students learn the second half of the first phrase and the following phrase. C Major is the emphasis, and altered pitches are found by returning to augmentation. The dotted rhythm is then added. Again....simple to complex.


I hope you will give these resources a try. They are designed as resources I would have found helpful in my 23 years in classroom and church choral situations.