Chinese Folk Songs for Middle School Choirs

July 20, 2012 / By: Gillian Teoh

The problem of this thesis was to examine Han Chinese folk songs appropriate for use with a middle school choral curriculum. The sub-problems were the following:  1) What are the characteristics and classifications of Han Chinese folk songs? 2) How is the culture of China reflected in the music? 3) What performance practices are used in the performance of Chinese vocal literature? 4) How can Chinese vocal music be arranged for a middle school with respect to ethnically and musically appropriate choral part-writing and accompaniment?

During the past 50 years, American music educators have increased the diversity of music taught in the classroom due to expanding awareness of other world cultures and their music, as well as a continually growing ethnic diversity in the student population. Though many cultures are underrepresented in current choral publications, their music is no less important than that which is readily available from publishing houses. This thesis focuses on the folk music of China, one of the largest nations in the world, whose music is frequently absent from Western choral repertoire, especially in the middle school choral setting. This thesis provides an analysis of Chinese folk songs arranged for developing singers as well as an original arrangement of a folk song that synthesizes many of the important components necessary for successful middle school choral experiences.

The process of writing this thesis required in-depth research on the characteristics and classifications of Chinese vocal folk music as well as the recommendations of experts on selecting and arranging music for developing singers. The selected music was analyzed for both the criteria of Western choral arrangements as well as the tonal scaffolding of Chinese folk songs.

The results of this study helped the researcher investigate the music and culture of China as well as the important criteria for arranging music for middle school singers. Ultimately, the process of this thesis helped the researcher begin arranging new music for middle school singers. Furthermore, completing the thorough investigation of this type of music helped the director understand the background and history of a world culture and will aide in improving classroom instruction.