Michael Row That Boat Ashore - Variation Two - Junior High

Complexity Level: simple for confident kids, an achievable challenge for new choristers

Parts: SSA and optional B

Genre: spiritual - verse and refrain

Deets: F Minor  4/4

This week's song comes to you a few days late, because on blogging day I was at Uranquinty, a little and magical folk festival a long long way from my wifi. And here's the photo to prove it. Here we are at Greg's Quinty Quoir having pre performance drinks. (Folk festival etiquette demands altos bring a whole bottle!)

Possums - last post I shared Michael Row arranged to be quickneasy for community adult choir. To convert that to a version for junior high kids, I made these adjustments:

1. moved the pitch up a minor third to sit better with young voices.

2. added some syncopation. My experience with young people is they find syncopation easy and natural, which isn't true for many older singers. My guess is that young people get used to these rhythms from pop music. I thought kids would find the song more engaging if it used rhythmic language they have grown up with.

3. Gave the bass line to the altos and added a baritone line. Of course new baritones are keen to differentiate themselves vocally from the girls' lines, but aren't necessarily very secure. So I've largely doubled the baritone and alto lines to support the boys. I've avoided the gap - the few notes under middle C where newly deepened voices can struggle or disappear. Because the baritone line follows the altos most of the time, it isn't harmonically essential, so if your choir doesn't have new baritones the song will be just fine without that line. 

I was at a Kodaly conference a few years back when this amazing presenter talked about how she had adapted various Kodaly teaching songs to suit the musical language of the urban African American kids she taught. For Michael Row, she gets her kids to stomp in an ostinato bar pattern of ti ta ti ta ta. If you've got a bunch of groovy-moovy kids you could add this during the verses, or incorporate it as a drum line.

I haven't added any variety. If you want to mix it up with a solo, or everyone singing a verse in unison or dynamics or something of that ilk - have at it! You'll know what will suit your choir.