Choir members hit the right note at solo and ensemble contest


Macy Mitchell

Choir students practice sight reading during a class rehearsal.

Choir students competed in the UIL Solo and Ensemble competition Feb. 24 and earned 33 first divisions in solos and five first divisions in ensembles.

Approximately 57 choir students competed in the UIL Solo and Ensemble contest at Canyon High School.

“They prepare the solos on their own,” choir director Brandon Farren said. “We don’t walk them through it. We pass out music about a month before, and we gave them access to some music files online. About a week before, they come in and sing for us to touch up little things, but it’s all self prepared.”

The students’ solo and ensemble music options come from the Prescribed Music List (PML). However, students can choose what language and at what speed they wish to sing.

“The music is all in foreign languages,” Farren said. “There were probably only 10 kids who had English. Everyone else had either Italian, German, French or Latin. They learn these languages on their own.”

It’s pretty amazing these kids took the time to prepare.”

— Brandon Farren

Students who choose a piece in another language are expected to learn not just the music but pronunciation as well.

“It’s pretty amazing these kids took the time to prepare,” Farren said. “It’s very difficult which is amazing. It’s not like we hand walk every person through their solo.”

Junior Conner Nall chose the piece “The Vagabond” by Vaughan Williams.

“My solo was in English,” Nall said. “It’s a big, bombastic song. You sing it with a lot of arrogance and pride.”

Each school which attends the competition receives a block of time to perform their solos and ensembles. The students then go in one-by-one or together as an ensemble to sing for a judge.

“They announce their name and the piece they’re performing, and they sing it from memory,” Farren said. “Then, the judge usually gives one or two pointers or comments afterwards.”

Scoring is ranked from a first division to a fifth division. A first division, or a one, is the best rating, and a fifth division, or a five, is the lowest.

Our goal is no threes, and everyone was either a one or a two.”

— Brandon Farren

“I think they all did very well,” Farren said. “Our goal is no threes, and everyone was either a one or a two. We didn’t have a single three.”

Farren said although this contest provides students with many opportunities, it comes with a few disadvantages to the competitors.

“All of our kids are involved in other things like band, athletics, academics and that sort of thing,” Farren said. “It takes a big chunk of time, and it’s just another thing on the plate of busy kids. It’s a big time commitment in addition to a busy schedule, but they all rose to the occasion very well.”

Farren said solo and ensemble gives students a chance to improve their individual singing and focus on their own personal development as a vocalist.

“It’s very individual and very different from choir contests where we go as a group,” Farren said. “It’s a really great growth in individual singing which helps out the choir in the long run. If they’re better as an individual, they’re better as a group.”