Sevenses - a new song cycle for young choirs

Since I grew up in a world of song, solo and choral, writing for young voices is a real pleasure for me. Sing Ireland have wanted to develop repertoire for children and young singers for use by choirs and in the classroom. I was thrilled to be commissioned by them to compose a twenty-minute cycle, called Sevenses, in seven movements. As a child I played the ball game ‘sevenses’, where you achieve seven different levels of doing something different with the ball in each round. This choral song cycle provides something for at least seven different levels of choral singer, from the very young, up to teenage singers. It also uses all seven of the diatonic modes, so that children become acquainted with them, perhaps before they encounter them in Irish traditional music or in jazz, where they’re very common.

Some of the songs in the cycle use found sounds, like the lid of a wheelie bin or a radiator, a bucket of dry leaves or gravel. That way, it’s possible to create sounds without having access to a great many instruments. Other pieces use body percussion and mouth sounds to create effects like sea sounds, and three movements have piano accompaniment. For any teachers out there, these songs can be used to teach singing in canon, archform, counterpoint, singing in harmony, free time and irregular time signatures, as well as the seven modes. The texts are mainly in English, with some small elements in Irish and translations are provided. 

There are also settings of poetry by W.B. Yeats, Carolyn Wells and Joseph Plunkett. It’s been fabulous to have the support of Sing Ireland, who have already facilitated my giving nationwide workshops to primary schools all over the country (yes, at the same time!), which was really rewarding and exciting! Teaching resources are being developed to assist teachers in using these songs in their classroom teaching. Even though choral singing is not possible during the pandemic, many elements of these songs can be used in school and choral settings to develop musical experiences and skills without singing. Have a look at Sing Ireland’s other activities on

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