Submitted by Matthew Klenk
ACDA-PA High School R&R Chair
Most of the conversations that I’ve had with fellow high school choral directors in recent weeks have had a common theme - we’re all trying to find the proper way to reset our programs now that most of us are once again able to sing in our classrooms. After an unbelievably difficult year, many of us are facing similar challenges: smaller numbers, inexperienced choristers, uncertainty about upcoming concerts, and a high level of anxiety amongst our students.
In light of these challenges, quite a few of my colleagues have indicated that they’re looking for repertoire that can build confidence among their students, even if their numbers are low or their sections are unbalanced. For that reason, I’d like to highlight a very simple, but effective piece co-written by Jocelyn Hagen and Timothy Takach in 2019 titled “A Path to Each Other”.
The work is essentially a 10-measure canon with a short coda. The canon can be performed in 3-parts, and provides an opportunity for a soloist (or soloists) to introduce the melody before the ensemble enters. The canon format provides flexibility for voicings - directors can group their singers however they’d like to create the sound that best suits their ensemble, and it can be repeated as many times as deemed appropriate. In addition, the text is incredibly appropriate for our current times, especially for teenagers who are returning to school for the first time in months and trying to remember how to interact with one another: “Each word a stone, we can build a wall or a path to each other”.
The highlight of the piece comes at the point where the director decides to end the canon and proceed to the ending. There’s a single measure with a 2-note melody that can be sung as an ostinato using the text “we can build a path”. The performance direction encourages the singers to progressively add new harmonies with every repetition of this measure, and the composers even recommend asking the audience to sing along before finally proceeding to the ending. A performance would last about 3 minutes, and copies can be purchased for just $1.00 each. A perusal score, sample recording, and purchase link can all be found through Graphite Publishing.
For those of us who are trying to rekindle confidence in our students, this piece provides a wonderful opportunity to do something both new and unique, no matter what our ensemble may look like this year. I highly recommend that high school directors give it a try!