Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Music in August - Scott Wheeler's Whiskers and Rhymes

Remember that resolution I made, to go hunting for and finding cool new choral music? Well, here is the first installment! (It is the last day of August, so in order to fulfill the "1-2 times a month" rule I had to get it up today!)

Today's piece is by Scott Wheeler. I first came across his work when the Boston Cecilia performed his one-act opera The Construction of Boston. They also recorded it, and that fabulous recording can be found here. What I most remember from listening to them rehearse and perform that piece was how many countless delightful little melodies were everywhere in the work. I kept wanting to memorize phrases so that I could go around singing them to myself. Wheeler truly writes excellently for the voice, capable of being either naturally conversational or smoothly lyrical.

Those delightful melodies, as well as Wheeler's sense of shifting, elegant harmonies, are also present in today's piece for children's chorus. Thanks to Shannon Canavin for tipping me off to it! It's a setting of five texts by Arnold Lobel (of Frog and Toad and Mouse Tales fame) and Jack Prelutsky. The pieces are fun, but also challenging and musically satisfying. What more could one ask for?

The entire work, which is five movements, is 11-12 minutes. The movements are all for 2-part children's chorus, which occasionally splits into 3 parts. In addition, there's a 4-hand piano part, an optional violin part, and a malleable percussion part. (The score is written for tamborine, hand drum, finger cymbals, maracas, and wood blocks, but also specifies that substitutions and additions are welcome.) The percussion would be a great opportunity to either get non-singing children involved, or to call in the hot-shot percussion player from your local high school. (Doesn't every high school have at least one?) One warning is that the tessitura is rather high for the sopranos, so you need to have already instilled good vocal technique.

If you only want to tackle one movement, I would recommend "The Old Woman," which is the easiest, and also has no violin or percussion. But for most fun, your kids will LOVE "The Bogeyman." (They'll probably love all of them, but that one is the most dramatic - listen until the end!)

But you don't have to take my word for it, as Levar Burton would say - you can listen for yourself! Scott was kind enough to provide recordings of all five movements, and some sample pages from the score. The recordings are up at - click on the link below, and then look for the play-bar on the right-hand side of the page. The performers are the Treble Chorus of New England, under the direction of Marie Stultz, for whom the piece was written.

Whiskers and Rhymes
1.) Opening Rhymes (sample score pages)
2.) The Bogeyman (sample score pages)
3.) The Old Woman (sample score pages)
4.) The Troll
5.) Ending Rhymes

If you want to perform this delightful work, get in contact with Scott Wheeler for a copy of the score. And let me know about the performance!


  1. Anonymous7:07 PM

    Thank you for sharing this info. Scott Wheeler is an inspiring, talented man and I am so pleased to have this connection to his work. Looking forward to listening and sharing it with my students.

  2. Question: how can I send a link to this post to a friend? (Rather than a link to the blog where they then have to scroll to find it?) Maybe this is something everyone on the planet knows, but I have never figured it out. Thanks! -sb

  3. @ Anonymous:

    Glad this was helpful!

  4. @ Sylvia:

    No problem. When you're on the main page, just click on the blue title of the post. That should take you to a page that is just that post, and nothing else.

    Here's the link for this post: