Music ensemble directors the world over are now, or have already, started the process of setting up performances for their groups. It is a bit of a joke among ensemble directors that our holiday season starts around September, prepping music and scores for December shows. That's just what we do. For me, selecting the right songs for performance events is the most difficult step in the process, mainly because I want to choose music that my students can learn from, enjoy singing, and be proud to show off to family and friends. Some directors reject the idea of making their performances 'entertaining.' To this, I say that we cannot ignore the truth - people attend our events because they enjoy them and are...entertained. Why not PLAN for the entertainment factor? We have to plan our shows, not only for our students, but also for our audience. For me, one way to do this is to set up themed events. Why? It gives the audience an idea of what to expect when they get there. If I say that the show is "Music From the Movies," I have already established a connection between me, my performers, and the audience. As an ensemble director, having a theme also makes it a little easier to choose my repertoire from one event to another. This is me scrolling though music on JWPepper...
Already having a theme in mind allows me to zero in on a much smaller set of songs. Besides, I am a textbook introvert who thinks deeply about every decision 100 times over. This is one way I allow myself to not be overwhelmed with too many options.
To help us all prepare for our programs, I am sharing a listing of 20 concert themes that all together don't suck. They are categorized by season with a few general year-round options thrown in as well. Using a theme does not mean that every single song performed in the program is all in on the theme. The theme might only be reflected in one set, but make sure it is the best one so you get lots of this...
I challenge us all to think a little outside the box while also remembering that our shows serve as a large part of our community engagement. With that said, I will spare you all a soapbox moment and simply say this: from the perspective of diversity, programs hosted in the winter months should be as inclusive as possible. A Christmas concert, or even Christmas Around the World concert, is not considered diverse or inclusive. Doing these types of events will only, really, truly connect with people who celebrate Christmas (read here: Christians). I am NOT saying avoid Christmas or Christian tunes because they DO make up a large portion of important, relevant choral repertoire, but please know thy audience...and know thy school district policies!
Now, click and snag my CONCERT THEMES THAT DON'T SUCK freebie! Share in the comments some additional thoughts and ideas that have worked for you so we can all have awesome concerts that don't suck!
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