Submitted by Stephanie Magaro
Repertoire and Resources Chair for Middle School Voices
Freedom. Change. Equality. Hope. Dreams. These are common themes that we continue to seek to teach to our children in this era. Combining Langston Hughes’ poetry with rich vocal harmonies and a riveting piano accompaniment, Susan LaBarr has just recently published an SAB version of her best-selling work, “Hold Fast to Dreams.” Although most of her works are published for SATB or for treble voices, this particular piece is accessible for developing voices.
Beginning and ending with some unison singing (possible octaves for changed voices), the melodic writing remains simple throughout, although it sounds much more intricate and mature as the phrases go on. The piece will require a piano accompanist with some experience. When I taught this piece to my middle school advanced treble ensemble, we often learned phrases using solfege. This is a key signature (B major) that most of my students had never sung in before, but would work especially well for a middle school choir with a few 8th grade basses in the spring semester! The ranges are reasonable and I love how Susan LaBarr gives the soprano voices the harmony echo in the main section of the piece in the new arrangement for SAB, leaving the Altos and Basses to sing in unison together. The developing baritone voices get to use the lowest notes they might have, they get to sing some (but not solely) harmony, and they get the advantage of lots of unison singing the melody throughout the piece. At the climax of the piece, each voice part is in its “best” vocal range and remains there. If you were to ask my middle school choir what they loved about this piece, surely they would say that they absolutely loved the harmonies in this section.
Published by Santa Barbara Music Publishing, this voicing piece is marked with the level “medium.” The SSA version is also “medium,” while the SATB voicing is “Easy.” LaBarr, being an experienced editor of publishing companies (first Choristers Guild and now Walton Music), knows what she is talking about. For a middle school choir or youth chorale, this piece offers plenty of educational and musical value in rehearsal and performance.